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San Diegans will soon decide if the city should impose a hotel tax increase to build a dual Chargers stadium-convention center.
Without a new stadium, the city risks losing the Chargers, which have been in San Diego since 1961.
But the massive new development would change the landscape of East Village where it is being proposed.
Advocates for and against the convadium project debated the issue Saturday during Politifest. Chargers adviser and land-use consultant Marcela Escobar-Eck, Jason Riggs of the San Diego Stadium Coalition and Thomas Powell of Save Our Bolts spoke about the importance of moving out of the 49-year-old Qualcomm Stadium.
They said the proposal for an increase of the transient occupancy tax, known as Measure C on the November ballot, would bring in $1.15 billion of the $1.8 billion needed for the convadium. They made clear the measure would require no new taxes on San Diego citizens but rather, for tourists.
“We have the chance to do something that’s visionary and important and really shapes the city’s future,” said Riggs, a lifelong San Diegan.
City Councilman Chris Cate, architect Rob Quigley and former Economic Development Corp. CEO Julie Meier-Wright, argued against the measure, saying that creating a new stadium would be disruptive to downtown San Diego and that the hotel tax was not the most effective way to build a new stadium for the Chargers.
They also emphasized the danger of residents being left with the bill if tourists do not bring in the expected revenue, which could force the city to seek new sources of revenue.
“The risk that is associated with the city in this measure is too immense,” Cate said.
Quigley was most focused on neighborhood impacts, such as noise and the potential for digital advertising outside the stadium.
“You can make as much noise as you want until two in the morning, then you have to quiet down,” he said. “Would you want to live anywhere close to something like that?”
Meier-Wright followed by revealing that if the tax hike were to be increased from 12.5 percent to 16.5 percent, San Diego would then have the 16th highest hotel tax in the country.
“When was the last time you made a traveling decision based on the hotel tax of a particular city?” Riggs responded.
Powell questioned Cate’s prior involvement with Mayor Kevin Faulconer and discussions Faulconer had with the Chargers about the proposition. Cate responded by saying that it was OK if Powell wanted to criticism him, just as the Chargers have been doing for the last three months.
Afterward, Riggs promoted the plan for making Mission Valley, the current location of Qualcomm Stadium, to become a recreational-use lot for SDSU.
“The campus is obviously out of room to expand,” Riggs said. “An (Major League Soccer/SDSU) Aztecs stadium has been proposed recently. These are things that can happen in Mission Valley once Qualcomm is moved off of that site.”
Near the end of the debate, Meier-Wright discussed how if the convadium were to be built, the city would have to spend a minimum of $75 million on parking alone.
Escobar-Eck said that in downtown San Diego, there are thousands of available parking spaces on the weekends.
Quigley reiterated how such a plan would be devastating to East Village.
“If you put the stadium here, the infrastructure just can’t handle that input of traffic,” he said. “It becomes undesirable, and when downtown becomes undesirable, we just lost 40 years of effort that we’ve done internally downtown.”
At the conclusion of the debate, both sides discussed the possibility of the Chargers moving to Los Angles if Measure C is not passed.
“My hope is that if it fails, the day after, the Chargers [will] come back and negotiate what is the right course of action to build a stadium, that is in the best interest of all parties,” Cate said.