San Diego City Council Kills Convention Center Measure “Fiasco”

San Diego, CA. – “We are at a crossroads. We can accept the status quo or we can act.”~ Mayor Kevin Faulconer

In an extraordinary Special City Council Meeting, Mayor Kevin Faulconer told Councilmembers that Yes! For a Better San Diego, the initiative that failed to meet the Registrar of Voters random sample signature requirement, “is supported by one of the most diverse groups in the city’s history.”

The Registrar is now recounting the signatures, a process expected to be completed in September. If the initiative has the requisite number of valid signatures, it will likely go on the ballot in November 2020.

Proponents say Yes! For a Better San Diego represents the long-sought solution for homelessness, road repairs and expanding the convention center. “The road has not been pretty. This is too important to let anything stand in the way of putting this on the ballot,” Faulconer told the council,  “Your issues with the substance of this proposal have been removed. There is nothing more democratic than letting voters make the decision.”

The failure of the initiative to meet the signature threshold, as required by all citizens initiatives, put it on perilous ground, making a political agreement vital.

It didn’t come.

Vocal Opponents

Council chambers were packed with supporters and opponents of the decision to put the measure on the ballot despite its signature challenges.

Former City Councilmember Donna Frye:

“you shouldn’t put this on the ballot. If you vote to waive your own rules, you are limiting the right of access to the public. You are eliminating the publics right for any meaningful input into the measure. Process and rules matter, treating people equally matters, thank you for your time.”

Attorney Cory Briggs:

“If you hadn’t noticed, the legal advice you are receiving is essentially felony malpractice. You do this today, you’re gonna get sued for disenfranchising all those people that signed the initiative.”

Alliance San Diego Executive Director Andrea Guerrero:

“How an initiative gets to the ballot matters. The mayor, failing to heed the advice of his council one year ago, is at it once again. This has to be a public process and it is not.”

In Support

Rip Rippetoe CVE San Diego Convention Center:

“This ballot measure creates funding, jobs, meets our customer needs and is paid for by visitors. The tourism industry generates a lot of business, but our customers say they want more space. And while there is a glut of space nationally, we don’t have a glut in San Diego, so we have a lot we can still do.”

Tom Lemmon, Labor Council Building Trades

“What a shit show. We worked so hard to get this initiative on the ballot but it doesn’t change anything about the initiative. The initiative puts an opportunity to learn trades, create a career path in construction, and addresses homeless in a substantial and substantive way. That’s why we’re here today.”

City Council Vote

“It’s been a fiasco getting to this point.”~Councilman Scott Sherman

The Council vote broke 4-4 and along political lines. Republicans voted for the measure, Democrats against with Councilmember Chris Ward on vacation.

Most of the concerns for those who voted against the proposal focused on the importance of process and council policies and how putting this measure on the ballot would set a dangerous precedent.

Councilmember Barbara Bry noted:

“This is really a very disappointing day. The council has well established policies and procedures, if we make an exception today we lose the trust of our residents.”

Councilman David Alvarez had pointed comments:

“Process does matter. People decided to go into a closed room and were so confident that this would pass. Let’s stop holding neighborhoods hostage to the convention center desires.”

The Fifth Avenue Cost

Last June, city and port leaders agreed to buy out a hotel developer for more than $33 million.

Port tenants Ray Carpenter and Art Engel, who teamed with developer Robert Green on a proposed hotel project on the five-acre parcel, held the lease with the port. The payment was to acquire land critical for the San Diego Convention Center expansion plan.

Under the agreement, Fifth Avenue Landing received an upfront payment of $5 million.

Importantly, if the citizens’ initiative were to fail, Carpenter and Engel would keep the $5 million and be allowed to continue pursuing their project. A hotel and hostel combo.

If the initiative failed, the city would also be obligated to repay the port the $5 million, plus interest.

Stay tuned.