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It’s proving pretty difficult to find out who supports various tax increases to pay for subsidized housing.

San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Jerry Sanders has said opponents of a City Council passed increase of the affordable housing fee offered more than 20 alternatives – that’s mostly right.

Six of those alternatives required a tax or fee increase that would need to be approved by two-thirds of city voters.

Since many of the groups looking to overturn the fee hike typically oppose tax increases, we’ve been trying to nail down which of them support each of those ideas.

Sanders proposed a sales tax increase as mayor to help balance the budget (it failed), and has unique perspective on just how hard it is to get that approval.

But, he said it wouldn’t make sense for coalition members to indulge questions on which of the 20 alternatives they support. Doing so would mean negotiating against itself, he said.

And, he said support for alternatives could dissipate if efforts to overturn the fee increase aren’t successful:

VOSD: I want to start with some of the alternatives you mentioned as offers made to the Council to avoid the linkage fee hike.  For instance, do you support increasing the transient occupancy tax to pay for affordable housing?

Sanders: I can’t say what I support or what I don’t until we actually get a reaction from Council. What we’re doing — and what you’re asking me to do — is we’re negotiating against ourselves, which doesn’t make any sense at all.

Once we get some willingness with the Council to negotiate and talk to us, which they haven’t been willing to do over the past, then we could actually run these things through committees and see what actually makes some sense and what doesn’t, and what we’ll support and what we won’t.

The City Council, you brought to them a smaller fee hike last year, which was apparently turned down. Given that each of these things requires 66 percent voter approval, what is something the City Council could offer that would be as easy as simply getting a majority vote of the Council?

Let me talk about that a little. No. 1, they just took the easiest thing they could find, which I don’t think shows leadership at all. The second thing is, we don’t believe that’s even a legal tax under Prop. 26, and it’s been overturned in other jurisdictions so, it’s very easy to pick just one group and then decide you’re going to tax them. I think that taxing the job generators — and I think (small business owner) Mark Olsen said it best — he feels like he’s being punished for creating jobs. I just don’t think that makes any sense at all.

People keep calling the Council’s decision to raise the fee “politically expedient.” What’s wrong with pursuing the legislative options that are viable, based on what elected representatives are willing to support?

They’re finding out that’s not exactly the case. It was politically expedient, it just wasn’t the right thing to do.

What’s wrong with pursuing the legislative options that seem most viable? Isn’t pursuing policies that are achievable just a reasonable thing for people who support those policies to do?

No, I think if you put together a group of people, a coalition, and say, “Let’s come up with alternatives, let’s discuss all this,” and they come up with 20 of them, and then your chairs basically said, “We’re not going to talk about those,” and they take the one that’s easiest to do from their perspective and take it forward, it doesn’t make any sense to me in terms of leadership, in terms of anything. They knew there was going to be a big reaction, they were just hoping it wouldn’t be as big as it’s been.

Come June, when this is resolved in one way or another, do you think the Jobs Coalition will stay together to pursue alternatives?

I think the Jobs Coalition will stay together so they can work on the issue, because this is an issue that I don’t think is well thought out, and I think the Jobs Coalition will feel like they have their backs against the wall and will need to pursue solutions in the future.

Affordable housing folks have always said it’ll require a lot of solutions to make a difference. An infrastructure bond that includes affordable housing, does that inclusion become less likely if somehow the linkage fee increase remains?

Yeah. I think it’s going to become very difficult to sell to membership and the public that we’ve already given once, and now we’re going to go out and give again. I think we’ll have a healthy discussion on the infrastructure bond in general, but I think it makes a difference.


That means there’s one more member of the Jobs Coalition whose position we don’t know when it comes to the list of alternatives the coalition has said it supports.

What we do know now is that the coalition’s support for an infrastructure bond that includes affordable housing may depend on whether it first defeats the affordable housing fee increase.

Andrew Keatts

I'm Andrew Keatts, a managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at

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