As the city of San Diego’s day-to-day budget gap has festered over the past decade, downtown redevelopment dollars have taken on a heavier burden, freeing up more money to pay for police, fire and other services at the cost of funding downtown development.
Tuesday, four City Council members — Kevin Faulconer, Todd Gloria, Carl DeMaio and Marti Emerald — requested the city’s downtown redevelopment agency, the Centre City Development Corp., pick up the $9.2 million annual bond payment for a previous expansion of the Convention Center. Doing so would relieve the city’s strained day-to-day operating budget of the responsibility.
“While no one questions the economic benefit of the Convention Center, many have questioned whether the Convention Center should be supported by the city’s General Fund — which traditionally supports neighborhood services such as police, fire, libraries, parks, streets, etc.,” a memo from the four council members reads.
The council members are relying on a new legal opinion from City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. Goldsmith argues the city can use redevelopment dollars, which can only be used for certain costs, for the Convention Center bond payments if the council finds the expanded center benefits redevelopment activities downtown.
Prior to Goldsmith’s opinion, it was unclear if CCDC dollars could be used to pay Convention Center bonds legally because the Convention Center is outside the downtown redevelopment area. Mayor Jerry Sanders also has opposed using these funds previously because it would hinder long-term investment.
I have asked the Mayor’s Office for comment and will update this post if I receive one.
Eighteen months ago, the agency began paying city’s Petco Park bond debt. Past concerns that taking money from CCDC would hamper downtown redevelopment have lessened as the city’s financial problems have worsened and since the agency received access to billions in additional tax revenue after the passage of a state law in October.
San Diego faces a $70 million-plus deficit next year and the four council members have asked if the city could recoup some of this year’s bond payment to help, too.
DeMaio said in a release that he expected a council majority would support the proposal, but state open meeting laws precluded more than four council members from signing onto the memo.