Citizens’ Plan, Chargers Initiative Make the November Ballot

SAN DIEGO – The San Diego City Council voted to put the Chargers downtown stadium initiative and the Citizens’ Plan initiative on the November ballot.

By a unanimous vote of 9-0, the council passed both the Chargers Initiative (now Measure C) and the Citizens’ Plan for Tourism Reform (now Measure D).

Councilmember Chris Cate, who has been an outspoken critic of the plan, assigned himself to write the argument against the ballot initiative.

The mayor’s office along with the Independent Budget Analyst were to have a report prepared for the financial risks or gains for the two initiatives but a member of his staff said it has been delayed by at least two weeks. The mayor has not taken a public position on either initiative.

The Chargers Initiative, or Measure C, would raise the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) to 16.5% and clear the way for a new Chargers stadium and Convention Center expansion downtown. Councilmember Mark Kersey said, ”I think the biggest deficiency with this plan is the lack of focus on infrastructure and its impacts downtown.” Kersey noted the traditional concerns for traffic, calling the plan “short-sighted.”

Councilmember Lori Zapf called the Chargers plan “a bad land-use decision and not good policy for downtown.”

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith cautioned Mr. Kersey and Zapf that any comments regarding the “merits or deficiencies” of the two plans are inappropriate since this hearing was only to put the initiatives on the ballot.

The Citizens’ Plan, or Measure D, would raise the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) to 15.5% and clear the way for a non-contiguous expansion of the Convention Center. It would also allow for higher education expansion opportunities and parkland uses in Mission Valley.

The Citizens’ Plan would also allow the Chargers to stay either in Mission Valley or relocate Downtown. But either way, they have to be willing to pay their own way. It means coming up with another $100 to $150 million for the stadium share of a combined facility and more for a stand alone stadium.

The signer of the Citizens’ Plan, Donna Frye, told the council, “A public vote is important because the last three times the tourist tax was to be increased, the public did not get a right to vote.” Frye continued, “That money from the Citizens’ Plan, a minimum of $18 million annually, goes into the city’s general fund and is not earmarked. It does not tie the council’s hands relative to spending.”

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith has raised legal concerns with the Citizens’ Plan. Goldsmith told the council, “It is possible to challenge a measure before placing a measure on the ballot. We are not recommending that, as courts have noted they want the voters’ intentions to be heard first before any possible legal action would take place.”

Councilmember Scott Sherman said, “I don’t want to stop the will of the voters, so I think we should go along and let the voters decide in the end.” Sherman, who has been an outspoken critic of the plan, assigned himself to write the argument against the ballot initiative.