Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Thursday San Diego’s economy depends on voter approval of Measure C, which would tax hotel guests to expand the convention center and pay for other city services.
“In two weeks, the future of San Diego’s economy will be in the hands of voters,” said Faulconer at a press conference outside the Manchester Grand Hyatt downtown.
Measure C would increase the Transient Occupancy Tax paid by hotel guests to generate funds to expand the convention center, provide homeless services and repair roads.
“Tourists — not San Diegans — will pay to fix the things residents care about,” Faulconer said. “Vote ‘yes’ on C to ensure residents pay no new taxes and tourists pick up the tab.”
The tax is widely supported by the local hotel and tourism industry. David Glanzer, chief communications and strategy officer for Comic-Con International, said the iconic pop-culture convention has had to limit attendance in recent years because the convention center hasn’t changed.
He said modernizing and expanding the center would help not just Comic-Con, but many other local businesses. “This is our home town, and we want to see our city succeed,” he said.
Convention Center Board Member Carol Kim called Measure C the “last, best chance” to expand the center and create what she estimated would be thousands of new middle-class jobs. The alternative, she said, is to lose more and more convention business to competing cities.
“The decision voters make in 12 days will define our city for decades to com,” she said. “We can say ‘no,’ and choose to stagnate.”
Opponents of the measure acknowledge that San Diegans won’t pay the tax increase, but say elected officials can’t be trusted to use the new money wisely.
Moments after Thursday’s press conference ended, Congressional candidate Carl DeMaio set up a podium and spoke briefly in opposition.
“We’ve been told by career politicians that we should trust them with a massive tax hike,” said DeMaio, who is running to represent the 50th District in East County.
Asked why San Diegans should object to taxing hotel guests, he said politicians shouldn’t be given a “blank check” with anyone’s money. He also objected to the possible use of union labor to expand the aging convention center, and said the homeless services that would be funded don’t include a sufficiently strong law-enforcement element.
If Measure C is approved by voters, it would be the first increase in the Transient Occupancy Tax in 26 years. The tax paid by overnight hotel guests would rise from 10.5% to between 11.75% and 13.75%, depending on a hotel’s location.