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The City Council could declare next Tuesday that hotel-tax hike Measure C passed with a simple majority a year after it fell short of the two-thirds threshold typically required for tax increases for a specific purpose.
Last March, the citizens initiative to fund a Convention Center expansion, homeless initiatives and road repairs pulled in about 65 percent of the vote. Since then, multiple courts elsewhere in the state have concluded that citizens’ measures only require a simple majority to pass. Meanwhile, a global pandemic has devastated San Diego’s tourism economy.
Now, following a February letter from Measure C supporters, Mayor Todd Gloria is urging the City Council to assert that Measure C passed.
“In light of the recent legal precedent, the City Council should declare that Measure C was approved by voters and that we should pursue obtaining a court determination to ensure we can proceed with its implementation,” Gloria wrote in a statement. “A majority of San Diegans voted to expand the Convention Center, repair our streets and finally have a dedicated funding source for homeless services and shelter; it’s our duty to implement their will and make San Diego a better place for all of us.”
If the City Council decides the tax increase passed, visitors won’t immediately see increased charges on their hotel bills.
Jessica Lawrence, Gloria’s director of policy, wrote in a report submitted to the City Council that the city won’t increase taxes or take other steps to implement Measure C unless the city receives a “favorable trial court judgment or outcome in the lawsuit.”
A court ruling, if the city pursues one, is likely months away.
A resolution teed up for the City Council to declare Measure C passed indicates that the mayor is hoping Council members give city attorneys direction to proceed with legal action during the closed session before the public City Council meeting next Tuesday.
If the City Council decides to officially revive Measure C, expect debates about the state of the tourism industry and the Convention Center, which is now serving as a migrant shelter. The Measure C campaign sold the tax hike on the notion that expanding the Convention Center would have a profound impact on both the regional economy and the city budget, and that tourism tax collections would continue to rise as they have in the past. During the pandemic, tourism tax collections have tanked and the future of the convention industry is uncertain.