Mayor rushes to save convention center expansion initiative

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SAN DIEGO – The San Diego City Council will hold a special meeting Thursday to consider an initiative for the November ballot that would raise the hotel tax to fund convention center expansion, homelessness services and street repairs.

A nearly identical citizens’ initiative appeared headed to voters until Wednesday, when the city clerk’s office reported that a random sampling of the campaign’s more than 114,000 signatures fell short of the required threshold to place the issue on the ballot. A signature-by-signature count will begin but likely won’t finish nearly in time for the Friday ballot deadline.

Faulconer, who had supported the Yes! for a Better San Diego citizens’ proposal, pivoted Wednesday upon hearing of the failed signature-gathering effort and asked the council to consider approving for the ballot his own similar initiative during its Thursday meeting.

“San Diegans are demanding that action be taken to reduce homelessness, repair more roads and keep our economy growing,” he said in a statement. “While I am disappointed the citizens’ initiative to tackle these matters will not appear before voters this fall, I will not be deterred from making sure these urgent issues are addressed and will ask the City Council on Thursday to place a measure on the November ballot.”

That would likely raise the initiative’s required success threshold from a simple majority to two-thirds voter approval.

The proposed initiative would raise the city’s 12.5 percent hotel tax to 13.75 to 15.75 percent depending on the location of each hotel.

The 42-year tax increase was expected to generate $6.4 billion, including nearly $3.8 billion for the convention center.

An estimated $147 million would have gone to homelessness services and housing funding over the tax increase’s first five years. An additional $604 million would have gone to road repairs.

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