by Michael J. Shapiro | August 10, 2018
The San Diego City Council did not heed Mayor Kevin Faulconer's pleas last evening and voted against adding a hotel-tax measure to the November ballot that, if passed, would have funded the city's convention center expansion. The tax would also have helped pay for homelessness initiatives and road repairs. A complex agreement hammered out in June by the council and the Board of Port Commissioners hinged on that measure passing; now it will not even be on the ballot. 
"Four members of the city council failed our city by denying the public's right to vote," Mayor Faulconer tweeted last evening. "They had the chance to do the right thing but put politics over progress. The voices of tens of thousands of citizens and a bipartisan coalition of civic leaders fell on deaf ears at today's city council hearing."
The vote to place the measure on the ballot occurred at the urging of the mayor, after a citizens' initiative failed to collect enough valid signatures to make the ballot. Yesterday's vote was essentially a refusal by the council to break with policy and heed the mayor's request.
"The councilmembers' procedural complaints are hollow comfort to the veteran living on the street or the family struggling to make ends meet," Faulconer added. "The city council talks a big game about making our city better, but when the time came for action, all we heard were excuses."
The center's expansion has faced a series of legal and financial obstacles since 2012, and a variety of proposals have been considered in attempts to make the project a reality. As the failure of this latest measure to make the ballot nullifies the June agreement, the owners of the land in question - Fifth Avenue Landing - might decide to proceed with a major hotel development on the plot, as they previously proposed. The future of the convention center expansion remains in limbo.
"While all of us here are disappointed that the current funding initiative will not be on the ballot this November, we will continue to work on a solution to meet the needs of additional space," said Clifford "Rip" Rippetoe, president and CEO of the San Diego Convention Center, in a statement. "We know that additional, contiguous space meets our customers' needs, brings more visitors to San Diego, adds tax revenue and increases economic impact for the region. Today's outcome is not a 'No,' it's just 'Not Now.'
"Our team will continue to deliver on our promise of providing our clients outstanding customer service in one of the top destinations in the United States," added Rippetoe. "We are working on a master plan to update and modernize our existing facility. And while this expansion effort is delayed, I will not stop championing for the needs of our customers and our community."