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City of San Diego urged to revive failed hotel tax hike

Posted at 5:21 PM, Oct 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-29 22:36:47-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A coalition of some of San Diego's biggest business and labor groups wants the city to enact Measure C, the hotel-tax increase that did not generate the necessary support during the March primary.

The measure would have raised the city's hotel tax by as much as 3.25% to pay for expanding the convention center, adding services for the homeless, and funding road repair. The measure failed to get the two-thirds vote California law requires for many tax increases.

"Sixty-five percent of the people voted for it, that's an overwhelming majority of the voters," said Betsy Brennan, CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership, a member of the coalition. "To me that speaks to the need and the desire for people to want to support this measure."

The measure may, however, have new life. Two recent court cases involving Upland and San Francisco are giving supporters hope that Measure C can be enacted with a 50-percent plus one majority. It's because Measure C was a citizens' initiative, and there is now a legal precedent that tax increases that got to the ballot through signature drives can pass with a simple majority.

“Measure C was overwhelmingly supported by San Diego voters in March, and we believe the will of the people — both the voters and the citizens who placed Measure C on the ballot — should be enacted," said a statement from the coalition, attributed to executives from the Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Authority and San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council. "Reducing homelessness, repairing roads and investing in our local economy are just as important as it was in March, if not more so. We believe in this cause and will continue to pursue Measure C’s implementation.”

The coalition says it will continue to pursue Measure C's implementation. That could involve suing the city over the measure. The City Council itself could take action but discussed it behind closed doors last week without taking any action.

Others, however, say enacting Measure C would send the wrong message to voters, who entered the polls March 3 understanding the proposition needs a two-thirds vote.

"There are people out there who say my vote doesn't matter. Changing the goalposts after the election would prove that to be true," said Christopher Rice Wilson, associate director at Alliance San Diego, a community empowerment organization that did not take a position on Measure C.

The final vote on Measure C was 239,024 in favor, versus 127,349 opposed.