Proposed tourist tax hike would expand convention center

Posted at 4:45 PM, Jan 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-08 20:35:09-05

A group of tourism and business leaders, and homeless advocates are pushing a multi-billion dollar plan to expand the convention center, add homeless services, and fix the city's potholes.

The coalition unveiled the proposal Monday to kick off a signature drive toward the November ballot.

San Diegans currently pay 10.5 percent per night in hotel taxes, plus a 2 percent tourism marketing surcharge in some hotels. The proposal would raise the per-night hotel tax by 3.25 percent in hotels closest to the convention center\, 2.25 percent farther away, and 1.25 percent on the periphery of the city. 

Lynn Minor, an electrician with IBEW Local 130, stood with the group because she wants to see more solid jobs created with the convention center expansion, like the one she has.

"I had my career set," she said. "I don't have to worry about health care anymore. I got my 401(k), I got my pension."

But some local businesses say raising the tax on tourists could cost them.

Lisa Barrera, a shift leader at downtown's San Diego Trading Company souvenir shop, said the more visitors pay in taxes, the less they have for mementos like tee-shirts and beach bags.

"When they're shopping they're looking for a good deal to save their pockets because they're going to be doing other stuff down here," she said. 

Minor said she supports the measure despite the concerns because an expanded convention center would bring more events, and therefore more customers, to town.

Supporters need some 71,000 signatures to qualify it for the November ballot. It's still unclear whether it would need a simple or two-thirds majority, given a recent California Supreme Court decision. 

Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who proposed a similar tourist tax hike last year, released a statement showing support for the plan.