Reader DW wants to know:

When the San Diego city council adopted the Balboa Park Master Plan in 1990, it also adopted a one cent increase in the local TOT tax, and specifically earmarked that money to pay for maintenance and enhancements to Balboa Park and Mission Bay. The master plan called for $5 million of those funds to be [spent] building a new underground central parking garage behind the Organ Pavilion in the park by 1995. We know that never happened because the funds for the parking garage were diverted by the mayor and city council to help pay for the new downtown ballpark,another subsidy for billionaire John Moores.

What became of the millions of additional funds the 1 cent TOT tax increase produced over the last [16] years? How much of those funds were also diverted away from park maintenance, creating the bad situation we have today, with the big park institutions lobbying to privatize Balboa Park operations and maintenance and taking over control of the park?

Now, the best I can tell there is no legal earmark for that money to be spent on Balboa Park. Here’s how the council policy on TOT (the hotel-room tax) breaks down the funding requirements:

As stated in Municipal Code Sections 35.0128 – 35.0133:

1. Four cents must be used solely for the purpose of promoting the City.
2. One cent can be used for any purpose the City Council may direct.
3. Five and one-half cents is deposited in the General Fund for general government purposes as the City Council may provide in accordance with the Charter of the City of San Diego and the City Council’s appropriation ordinance.

(Click here for a full copy of the applicable Municipal Code section.)

That’s not to say that there wasn’t at one point or that the promise cited by DW wasn’t made. I didn’t live here in 1990. Anyone else remember these promises being made? Please click on my name below and let me know.

The way it is, about one-half of each cent of TOT money goes to the Balboa Park/Mission Bay Improvement Fund. Here’s the city’s breakdown:

If you’re curious, here’s the history of the TOT increases:



O-9033 – June 9, 1964 – 4%
O-9767 – April 1, 1968 – 5%
O-11077 – June 5, 1973 – 6%
O-16286 – Jan. 1, 1985 – 7%
O-17108 – Aug. 1, 1988 – 8%
O-17154 – June 1, 1989 – 9%
O-18078 – Aug. 1, 1994 – 10.5%


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