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As Republican legislators prepared to vote during all-night budget hearings on the last-minute bill that would lift San Diego’s downtown redevelopment cap, an analysis from the party’s caucus told them what it believed the bill was about.

It gave a blunt assessment of what the money would be used for: San Diego’s downtown redevelopment agency needed to sequester $6 billion more in property tax revenues, the analysis said, to expand the city’s Convention Center, build parks, make improvements to a transit corridor and build a new football stadium for the Chargers.

Assemblyman Chuck DeVore glanced at the analysis and decided he didn’t want tax dollars to subsidize the NFL.

“I’m looking at this going, ‘For God’s sakes,’” said DeVore, an Irvine Republican who spoke out against the bill.

The analysis puts in writing what has been known about the law from the beginning: The bill makes big buildings possible.

Contrast the analysis with a fact sheet developed by local Republican Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, the bill’s architect. Since the bill passed, Fletcher has emphasized the bill was about job creation. The legislation will create an estimated 110,000 temporary and permanent jobs.

The bill is not about big buildings unless San Diego’s City Council wants it to be, Fletcher said. They will decide what, if anything, the city does with its newfound cash.

“The projects will not be determined by some aide in Sacramento, but by the council and the public,” Fletcher said.

Under redevelopment, the city captures a larger share of property taxes that would have flowed to the county government, school district and the entire city in general. The city then invests that money, called “tax increment,” back into a blighted neighborhood and subsidizes development.

It’s unclear if other city neighborhoods, San Diego County or the state will gain or lose from the law. Other city neighborhoods are the most likely to benefit and the state is the least. If local education agencies lose tax dollars, the state must pay them back out of its budget.

The bill, the Republican analysis said, “will likely eventually result in a very major revenue loss to the state.”

“This could easily be tens of millions to hundreds of millions of dollars per year depending on how much of the tax increment is redirected,” the analysis said.

Fletcher didn’t disagree with that part of the analysis. He said it made the point he’d been trying to stress all along: San Diego’s property tax dollars should stay in San Diego.

“The rest of the state should be upset the San Diego delegation stood up for San Diego,” Fletcher said. “I say it’s about time.”

San Diego area legislators all voted in favor of the bill, except for La Mesa Republican Assemblyman Joel Anderson, who opposed, and San Diego Democratic Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña, who abstained. Democratic legislators relied on a much tamer analysis that didn’t list anticipated projects nor predict calamitous state revenue losses.

The bill needed a two-thirds majority in the state assembly and senate to pass. The Assembly voted 58-8 and the Senate voted 28-5 both in favor.

Please contact Liam Dillon directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/dillonliam.

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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