San Diego residents begin hotel tax signature drive

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – 11/23/2015 – A signature drive got underway Monday for a June 2016 ballot measure to increase the hotel room tax visitors pay.

The initiative would increase that tax by 5 percent, or 5 cents on the dollar.

It’s goal is to generate millions of new dollars that would go into the city’s general fund and could be used for city services.

Organizers said this is a chance for the people to be heard. They also said money used from the tax could also go towards a downtown stadium if the Mission Valley plan fails.

11/19/2015 – A signature drive will begin Friday for a June 2016 ballot measure to increase the hotel room tax visitors pay by 5 percent, or 5 cents to the dollar.

It’s goals are to generate millions of new dollars for city services and it lets the voters determine how this new money is to be spend rather than the downtown special interests, meaning the hoteliers.

It’s called "The Citizens Plans for the Responsible Management of Major Tourism and Entertainment Resources," an attempt to reform how this major revenue source is to be spent.

Those funds have been largely controlled by downtown hoteliers who defeated similar proposals in recent years, including a self-imposed room tax a court declared illegal and killed a stadium plan for downtown.

"Our signature plan gives San Diegans a seat at the public policy table, a seat for over a decade that’s been occupied by a select few," said Donna Frye, whose name is on the initiative.

She said the increase keeps San Diego competitive. San Francisco, Anaheim and Seattle all have higher hotel taxes and it requires a simple majority vote.

"Our plan increases by 5 cents for every hotel dollar, the amount of money that can be used for general fund purposes such as deferred maintenance, and our aging infrastructure," Frye said.

It would generate $18 million to the city’s general fund and $36 million to promote San Diego.

And it’s environmentally conscious.

"It preserves our natural resources by protecting public access to San Diego Bay by relocating the proposed Convention Center expansion away from the water front," said Livia Borak. "The citizens plan accounts not only for the environment but for the community in general protecting our resources is at the heart of this initiative."

The plan takes no position on a stadium location.

"It allows either a downtown or Mission Valley stadium location, but does not commit any public funding," Frye said.

"It requires those who benefit from Convention Center expansion to pay their own way no more taxpayer abuse," said Theresa Quiroz.

67,000 valid signatures are needed to put this on the ballot. The signature gatherers want to collect about 100,000 just to be safe, at a cost approaching $500,000.

Frye said the public has been left out of the process since 2007.

"The citizens plan finally gives us, the voters, the opportunity to enact our own change," she said.

Those signatures have to be gathered by January to make the June ballot. If not June, then November.

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