Latest on convention center expansion after initiative rejected by city council

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — The San Diego City Council Thursday rejected an initiative for the November ballot that would have raised the hotel tax to fund convention center expansion, homelessness services and street repairs.

A nearly identical citizens’ initiative appeared headed to voters until Wednesday, when the city clerk’s office reported that a random sampling of the campaign’s more than 114,000 signatures fell short of the required threshold to place the issue on the ballot. A signature-by-signature count will begin but likely won’t finish nearly in time for the Friday ballot deadline.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who had supported the Yes! for a Better San Diego citizens’ proposal, pivoted Wednesday upon hearing of the failed signature-gathering effort and asked the council to consider approving for the ballot his own similar initiative during its Thursday meeting.

Laura Fink, of the Yes! for a Better San Diego campaign, released a statement Thursday afternoon.

“Our citizens’ coalition is disappointed that our initiative was not able to qualify for the November 2018 ballot,” Fink said. “We remain optimistic that our measure will qualify for a future ballot, and the will of the 114,000 San Diegans who signed our petition will be heard.

“We are proud of the work of our bi-partisan coalition of business and labor, homeless advocates and community leaders to alleviate homelessness, create jobs and repair our neighborhood streets,” Fink said. “We remain committed to these issues that are so critical to San Diego’s future.”

The council didn’t actually vote on the initiative Thursday. Before that would have happened, they voted 4-4 on waiving the policy by which the council approves measures for the ballot, which was required to move the proposal forward on such short notice.

Councilmembers Barbara Bry, David Alvarez, Georgette Gomez and Myrtle Cole voted against waiving the policy while councilmembers Mark Kersey, Lorie Zapf, Chris Cate and Scott Sherman voted in favor. Councilman Chris Ward wasn’t present for the vote.

Cole, the council president, said she voted no “given there has not been time for public review and input.”

Approving the initiative likely would have raised its required success threshold from a simple majority to two-thirds voter approval.

The proposed initiative would have raised the city’s 12.5 percent hotel tax to 13.75 to 15.75 percent depending on the location of each hotel.

The 42-year tax increase was expected to generate $5.9 billion.

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