The continuing debate over what the waterfront should look like in San Diego and the tourism industry’s role in it showed up often in what our readers were talking about this week. Here we highlight five comments on it:
Let’s face it; tourism is a major contributor to most city budgets. Since the 1950’s [cities] used TOT to pay for city services including fire and police, pave roads and much more. Without TOT, the standard of living in San Diego would not be the same. Hoteliers originally agreed to the concept of TOT as a way to reinvest in their community by promoting tourism. The problem is that TOT became a part of the general fund with no designation of how it would be spent. Over the past five years general funds around the state began to shrink making it difficult for cities to reinvest back into tourism. In 2007, hoteliers recognized this and decided to take action. The decision for hotelier to self assess themselves wasn’t an easy one. Communities around the state were happy to see an industry stand up and take action at a time when cities were struggling to find funds to pay for basic services, the hotel industry said, we’ve got a plan to secure a steady stream of income for our industry to promote this city that won’t eat into the tax payers’ general fund. Five years later, there are Tourism Districts all over the State. The theory was that, “all boats rise with the tide.” Guess what… it’s working. Hotel occupancies are up and more people are visiting. Could that have happened without Tourism Districts?
Frankly, I went into this story thinking that I was going to have to address the canal issue since it’s gotten a lot of attention. To catch people up, Panama plans to finish widening its canal in 2014, which is a lot sooner than many expected. It’s a big deal because with a wider channel, big ships will be able to bypass West Coast ports and go straight to the Gulf or the East Coast. Los Angeles and Long Beach are scrambling to make upgrades, which is driving lots of their capital spending.
But everyone I interviewed for this story said that San Diego didn’t have much, if anything, to worry about because of the expanded canal. The ships that now go to San Diego already can fit through the canal. This again goes back to the comparisons between Los Angeles and Long Beach and San Diego. Those ports deal with the kinds of large container ships that soon will have more options on where to go. San Diego doesn’t.
In short, if Dole wanted to ship its bananas directly to New Orleans it could do it now. A wider canal isn’t going to change that.
The legislation made it possible to have a ballot measure and it was the voters of tidelands cities who approved the creation of a Unified Port District. The City of San Diego actually opposed the measure as did some of the other four cities. When I was Executive Director of the San Diego Port Tenants Association I used to say that the Port Commissioners hated the idea of actually having to run a port and would just as soon fill in the bay and convert it to golf courses and hotel sites. Despite the higher-paying jobs of industrial waterfront compared to tourist waterfront, the trend has continued to be the Miamization of the waterfront and Manchester is not alone in his desire. I’m sure he has some supporters among Barrio Logan Community Plan advocates seeking to reduce waterfront industrial uses and impacts. And no doubt officials in some Port cities would like to gain control over their waterfront and revenues (and maybe get to stop sending money to Imperial Beach which has no bayfront land but still gets Port money).
Unfortunately, there is no cap on taxpayer (General Fund) contribution. Should the Convention Center Facilities District fail to generate enough revenue, taxpayers will be on the hook.
Carl DeMaio had proposed an elaborate arrangement for the Tourism Marketing District to backfill the General Fund, should there be any shortfall. However, the district plan adopted by the city council this week prohibits the use of those funds for construction of facilities.
Bottom line: taxpayers will be footing the bill for financing of the project in case hoteliers do not perform as per to their claims.
I thought the UT was supposed to be a regional newspaper, but it seems obvious that is only interested in Downtown San Diego. There has been no discussion with or securing any support from National City for this scheme. If the owners of the UT want to move things that they find undesirable from the Downtown San Diego area, then I would invite them to move them to the neighborhood that they live in. But forget about National City, it’s not anybody’s dumping ground.
What do you think? Submit a suggestion to Fix San Diego.
Dagny Salas is the web editor at Voice of San Diego. You can contact her directly at email@example.com or 619.550.5669.
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