Hoteliers’ plan to extend a 2 percent charge on guests at San Diego hotels still has the blessing of City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.

Goldsmith had asked City Council for a timeout two weeks ago to review a claim from the hotel workers’ union that the charge needs voter approval. The issue goes before the council again Tuesday morning.

“There was nothing in there that was of any significance to what we’re doing,” Goldsmith said of the hotel workers’ letter. “Our opinion hasn’t changed.”

Since 2008, the city has authorized a 2 percent charge on most hotel guests, which hoteliers use to promote tourism.

They want a 40-year extension of the charge, which comes on top of the city’s regular 10.5 percent hotel-room tax. The extension is expected to generate more than $1 billion in tax revenues for tourism promotion over its lifespan. It requires the approval of both City Council and a majority of hoteliers to take effect. Goldsmith and the hoteliers say the extension doesn’t need voter approval.

The hotel workers argue that because of Prop. 26, a statewide ballot measure passed last November that tightened the definition of tax hikes that require voter approval, a public vote is necessary.

But Goldsmith said the hotel workers’ claim is premature. After Tuesday’s vote, the council still has to approve a plan for spending the money and hoteliers themselves will have to vote on the extension.

Goldsmith added he’s releasing an updated legal opinion to the council, and I’ll post it when I receive it. [Update: Here’s the memo.] He also said he’s reviewing if the district could indemnify the city in case of a legal challenge.

In an initial hearing, the council voted 7-1 in favor of the extension.

For more on how these issues tie into plans to expand the city’s Convention Center and a new Chargers stadium check out my roundup on all the recent news.


Speaking of my roundup, local labor leader Lorena Gonzalez took issue with the headline to my piece: “Chargers, Hotels and Unions: They All Want Tourists’ Money.”

Unlike hoteliers, who want the money for tourism promotion and to expand the Convention Center, and the Chargers, who want the money to build a new stadium, unions aren’t arguing to raise the hotel-room tax, she said.

The hotel workers’ issue is that if the cost to stay in a San Diego hotel goes up, the increased tax revenue should go directly to the city’s day-to-day operating budget.

“hoteliers want tourists $; union doesn’t think they should have it w/o a vote,” Gonzalez said on Twitter Sunday night. “That’s accurate. But not a SD narrative, I know”

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for He covers San Diego City Hall, the 2012 mayor’s race and big building projects. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5663.

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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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