San Diego Council Nixes Special Vote for Convention Center Expansion Funding

The long-debated expansion of the San Diego Convention Center won't be given the go-ahead any time soon. The San Diego City Council rejected a proposal yesterday that would have established a special vote this November on a hotel-tax increase to fund not just the convention-center project, but also street repair and programs to help the homeless. 

"The council members have publicly endorsed the expansion, so the vote yesterday was not a 'no' but a 'not yet' in the context of a special election," clarified Clifford "Rip" Rippetoe, president and CEO of the San Diego Convention Center Corp. "We will continue to work with our civic leaders and stakeholders to find a solution to the much-needed, long-awaited expansion of our convention center."   

The special-election measure was spearheaded by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. Factors cited by the San Diego Union-Tribune for the council's rejection include the estimated $5 million cost of a special election, the fact the city doesn't control the land for the proposed expansion, and polling that suggests the measure would not have won the required two-thirds voter approval. 

The proposal called for a 1 percent to 3 percent increase in the city's hotel tax (currently 10.5 percent), and would have varied depending on a hotel's proximity to the convention center.

"We respect the vote and the process taken by San Diego City Council, and we appreciate Mayor Faulconer's efforts to achieve an expansion," said Rippetoe. "In the meantime, we will continue to serve as the premier gathering place for our clients and customers who tell us they want to keep coming back to San Diego to host meetings and conventions. Their events help us in generating a billion dollars of economic impact and tens of millions of dollars in direct general-fund tax revenue."

A similar measure might make its way onto the ballot for the scheduled election in November 2018. The construction plan, as it currently stands, calls for expanding the 816,000-square-foot facility to more than 1.2 million square feet at a cost of $630 million to $685 million, according to the Union-Tribune.