🗳️ 2018 Primary Election Guide

Signature campaign begins for convention center expansion initiative

SAN DIEGO — The organizers of a proposed ballot measure that would raise money for the downtown convention center and homelessness programs plan launched their signature-gathering effort Monday.

The Yes! For a Better San Diego campaign proposes a 42-year increase in the city’s visitor tax that they say would generate $3.78 billion to expand and update the convention center, $2.02 billion for homelessness services and $604 million for street repairs over the life of the measure.

They must gather 71,000 signatures for the issue to appear on the November ballot, an effort that the campaign plans to launch Monday morning at a news conference with Deacon Jim Vargas, the president of Father Joe’s Villages.

If approved by voters, the measure would increase the visitor tax on hotel bills by 1.25 percent to 3.25 percent. Hotels closest to the convention center would see the largest hike.

During the first years of the tax increase, 59 percent of revenues would go toward the convention center and 41 percent to homelessness programs. Between 2025 and 2061, 59 percent would go toward the center, 31 percent to homelessness programs and 10 percent to city street repairs.

Supporters include hospitality industry leaders, Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Father Joe Carroll of Father Joe’s Villages, Bob McElroy of the Alpha Project and the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council. They say the measure would offer long-term solutions to some of the city’s most vexing problems.

The campaign says the upgrades to — and expansion of — the convention center would generate $40 billion in economic activity over the life of the measure and create about 7,000 jobs.

The City Council is considering another ballot question proposed by Councilman David Alvarez that would earmark existing hotel tax revenue exclusively for homelessness prevention and housing programs.