Attempt to Block Convention Center Expansion Denied

Tax plan will be tested in court if and when it passes, attorney says

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The proposed convention center expansion plan took a step backwards.

    A hotel tax that will potentially be used to fund the Convention Center expansion will not be blocked from a vote after a judge's ruling on Wednesday.

    A local hotel and hospitality workers' union asked a San Diego Superior Court judge for an injunction that would have blocked the tax.

    However the judge responded Wednesday with a definitive no.

    San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said earlier this month that he plans to file a validation lawsuit against the city. He said he's unsure if the hotel tax proposed to pay for a bulk of the expansion is legal, according to a statement

    The proceedings for that lawsuit would happen after the hoteliers vote on the plan, though. The injunction requested by the union would block the vote completely. 

    “This lawsuit was unnecessary,” Goldsmith said in a statement announcing the judge's decision.

    “If the tax is approved," he continued, "the City will initiate validation proceedings and everyone will have the right to be heard on the law in favor and against. That’s what the validation process is designed to do. It saves time and expense of multiple lawsuits and results in a judgment that is reliable.”

    The issue Goldsmith was concerned aboutwas whether the proposed hotel tax should also be approved by two-thirds of voters, in addition to hoteliers, as the state's constitution mandates.

    "The California Constitution requires that taxes be approved by a two-thirds vote of the qualified electorate," Goldsmith stated. "To be clear, this is a tax. But, this tax would not be submitted to all voters in the City."

    Validation action was voted on by San Diego City Council members in November. Heller said On Feb. 2 that this is a "long process," and a date for the validation hearing has not yet been set.

    In the meantime, Goldsmith suggested that a financing plan could just be presented to the general electorate for a vote -- that would be a sure way to avoid any violation of the constitution, he said.

    "Legally there is nothing wrong with going forward, as long as a validation lawsuit is filed," Goldsmith stated. "But we should do so with our eyes open."

    Calls requesting a comment from the union on the ruling were not immediately returned.