San Diego Convention Center
The convention center on the waterfront in downtown San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

The San Diego City Council voted Monday to direct the city attorney’s office to draft two ballot measures to go before voters next March, including a hotel tax hike that would fund a convention center expansion, homeless services and infrastructure improvements.

The tax increase proposed by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer would raise the city’s transient occupancy tax from 10.5 % to as high as 15.75% in certain areas of the city, which would reap an estimated $5.9 billion over 42 years.

The funding would allow the city to purchase a parcel of land adjacent to the convention center that is currently owned by Fifth Avenue Landing. Once it purchases the land, the city would expand the convention center by roughly 400,000 square feet, from roughly 800,000 square feet to about 1.2 million square feet.

The land cost is expected to be roughly $30 million, part of an estimated allocation of $3.5 billion for the purchase and convention center upkeep and marketing. Roughly $1.8 billion of the initiative’s remaining revenue would fund the city’s homeless services and shelters, while $551 million would be allocated for repairs to the city’s network of roads.

The council voted 5-4 to direct the city attorney to draft the measure’s text, which will be considered at a future meeting. City Council members Barbara Bry, Chris Ward, Monica Montgomery and Vivian Moreno voted against the action.

The council unanimously voted for the city attorney to draft a measure authored by City Councilman Scott Sherman that would shift the responsibility for the city auditor appointment process from the mayor’s office to the council’s Audit Committee. Currently, the mayor appoints a city auditor candidate to serve a 10-year term.

Under the proposed initiative, the Audit Committee would recruit and choose three candidates for the city auditor position. The council would then choose one of the three candidates to serve as the city auditor for a pair of five-year terms.

The council will consider both measures at a future meeting once they have been fully drafted. The council must approve both measures by Dec. 6 to place them on the March 3, 2020, ballot, as intended.

— City News Service