San Diego’s hotel workers union is upping the ante in the fight over the Convention Center expansion.

The union plans to file a lawsuit against the city seeking a public vote to raise hotel-room taxes. The financial plans for the $520 million project rely on a 1 percent to 3 percent hotel-room tax hike to finance the majority of the expansion.

California law requires a vote on a tax increase by the affected party. Boosters say the hoteliers are the right people to decide that, even though the tax will eventually be paid by the visiting public. The union contends the state constitution requires the public to decide.

The expansion was going to end up in a judge’s hands anyway.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and outside legal experts planned to take the financial scheme to court for approval because of uncertainty surrounding the need for a public vote. Goldsmith said he recently put out a statement emphasizing that ambiguity because he was concerned expansion boosters were overstating the financing’s legality. Goldsmith also said court approval could take a year or more. The hotel workers union refers to Goldsmith’s statement often in its suit.

This lawsuit continues the battle between the city’s hoteliers and organized labor over the expansion. Hoteliers want greater control over the Convention Center’s operations in exchange for their vote to hike taxes on their guests. Labor fears that arrangement would lead to less union work. Legal challenge has been one way local unions have increased their leverage.

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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