San Diego City Council Moves Convention Center Expansion To March Ballot

San Diego, Calif.- By a vote of 5-4, the San Diego City Council is moving forward with efforts to place the convention center expansion measure on the 2020 March primary ballot, moving it from the 2020 November General ballot.

The next step is for an ordinance to be drafted and then voted on by the council at an upcoming meeting.

The decision blows a hole in the 2016 voter approved Measure L, which stipulated all citizens initiatives should be placed on November General election ballots.

Measure L had aligned the City of San Diego with the State of California which passed a similar measure in 2011. State officials have never challenged the bill.

Labor, Business Make Their Push

The campaign “Yes For a Better San Diego” led the coalition to move the measure to March.

Labor, business and political leaders spoke at the council hearing favoring the move.

Labor Council Leader Keith Maddox told the council, “The city spends well over 36 million on homeless. Today we can start the path to raise the homeless over 2 billion for homeless issues. The March primary is expected to be larger turnout than November general election. So the time for excuses to kick the can down the road is over.”

Representatives from the San Diego Chamber of Commerce noted,  “Job creation, streets and infrastructure, homeless solution. These are the issues we need to solve. We ask you make homelessness a top priority by placing this on the March 2020 ballot.”

Political Consequences?

Assemblymember and Mayoral candidate Todd Gloria, who supported Measure L in 2016, asked the council to move the measure to March. Gloria said, “Hope you place this on the March ballot, you don’t need an emergency do this, but our homeless emergency is clear. We have an emergency. Your ability to create an opportunity to solve this issue is cherished and I hope you seize upon this.”

Councilmember and Mayoral candidate Barbara Bry voted no on moving the measure to March.

Bry raised concerns with the outstanding legal ramifications related to whether a 50%+1 or two-thirds vote will be needed for passage of the measure. The City Attorney’s office noted the City Charter states two-thirds, but maintained if legal challenges are raised, the courts will have to make the call. Bry stated, “We may have the legal discretion to put this on the March ballot, but this measure is primarily about expanding the convention center,” Bry continued, “This ballot is already going to the voters in November and I can’t find a compelling reason to move it to March.”

Councilman Chris Ward who is running for Assembly and voted no on moving the measure to March,  raised an interesting point that could be used in a campaign opposing the measure. Ward said, “It is odd that supporters of moving the measure to the March primary have unofficially kicked off their campaign by disrespecting the very folks whose votes they need.”

It’s not clear when the vote on the ordinance will occur, but it’s not expected any of the Councilmembers votes will change.

Following the vote, Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who has tried multiple times to expand the convention center issued the following statement:

Image Courtesy: San Diego Convention Center