Measure would tax visitors to expand convention center, help homeless

SAN DIEGO — A citizens initiative launched in San Diego Monday would raise revenue to modernize and expand the downtown convention center to drive economic growth and jobs, as well as generate significant funding to alleviate homelessness and repair roads, according to local tourism and labor leaders.

Proponents say the Yes! For a Better San Diego measure, which would increase the tax paid by overnight visitors to San Diego, would pump more than $40 billion into the local economy and create nearly 7,000 permanent jobs.

Backers of the measure say it would generate $2 billion for homelessness programs and services, front-loading more than $140 million in the first five years to address the crisis, and would also dedicate more than $600 million for road and infrastructure repair.

The visitor tax would rise by 1.25 percent for lodging facilities on the periphery of the city to 3.25 percent for those located in the downtown area.

“This tax would be paid exclusively by visitors, but would have a tremendous impact on the local economy and the lives of San Diegans, which is why the hotel and tourism industry is proud to support the measure,” said Mike McDowell, president and CEO of the Lodging Industry Association.

Failure to expand the convention center means San Diego would lose out on billions of new dollars and thousands of good paying jobs, said San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Vice President the COO Jaymie Bradford.

Homelessness advocates Father Joe Carroll of Father Joe’s Villages and Bob McElroy of the Alpha Project also endorsed the measure, citing its commitment and ingenuity in addressing the homelessness crisis.

“This measure provides an unprecedented level of funding to address homelessness,” Carroll said. “It will change the lives of thousands of men, women and children living on the streets and will help to prevent homelessness in the future.”

The San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, representing more than 200,000 working families, also endorsed the measure.

The launch kicks off a signature gathering campaign aimed at getting the measure on the November ballot.