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San Diego Mayor Proposes Raising Hotel Tax To Fund Convention Center Expansion On The Bay


The San Diego Convention Center expansion on the waterfront is back in play, with Mayor Kevin Faulconer planning to ask voters in November to approve a ballot initiative to raise the hotel tax to 3%. Hotel tax revenue would generate $900M over 40 years to not only fund the $630M plan to modernize and expand the convention center, but also create dedicated funding streams for street repairs and reducing homelessness — $10M annually for each project, allowing the city to borrow $150M in bonds to fix streets and $140M to create housing for the homeless, according to the City of San Diego.

This project had been abandoned when a judge in 2014 ruled in favor of a lawsuit brought by local attorney Corey Booker alleging the plan to finance it with a hotelier-approved room tax hike was unconstitutional. The project was revived after a Superior Court ruling cleared the way for the project, upholding the 2013 Coastal Commission approval of the expansion.

But the project still has hurdles. Besides Briggs’ promise to appeal the judge’s ruling, it faces opposition from homeless advocates and hotel developer Robert Green, who gained rights to the site’s land lease when the city gave it up. He plans to build a $300M convention center hotel, Fifth Avenue Landing, there.

Green's project has the blessing of the Port of San Diego and is undergoing environmental and Coastal Commission review. His attorney has threatened legal action if the city continues to pursue expansion of the convention center on this site, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Activists who have been pushing the city to dedicate more money to house the city’s homeless population view the money promised for the homeless and street repairs as a gimmick to win public support for the stalled convention center project.

The council will consider the ballot measure proposal in May or June. It would require a two-thirds majority vote to pass the hotel tax hike.