San Diego hotel owners have taken a giant step toward a controversial money-raising scheme to help finance an expansion of the Convention Center.
In a city-authorized private election, 92 percent of the "weighted votes" involving some 200 hotels went in favor of room-tax hikes ranging from 1 to 3 percent.
The extra charges to guests would raise more than a billion dollars over 30 years -- roughly 75 percent of the expansion project's construction and bond costs.
"The vote is not only good for hotels and the visitors industry," said Mayor Jerry Sanders. "It's better news for our economy. This expansion will create 11,000 jobs -- 4,000 construction jobs and 7,000 permanent jobs."
The harborside expansion proposal, featuring a rooftop park, is aimed at persuading Comic-Con to extend its annual use of the Convention Center beyond the current contract which ends in 2015. And, at attracting much larger meetings than the current space accommodates.
The hotel-tax funding scheme is modeled after one in San Jose, which has not drawn legal challenges.
But citing concerns about its validity, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith plans to file a test case in court.
Labor leaders have their own concerns, about the construction and permanent jobs.
"We need to make sure that the jobs are going to continue to be local jobs, good-paying middle-class jobs," said Lorena Gonzalez, CEO of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council. "We need to address a situation in the tourism industry, as we grow our tourism industry, of low-paying service-level jobs that don't offer sick days, that don't offer health care, don't offer a living wage."
A City Council vote to certify the election results is expected in early May, followed by the filing of that court case to validate the funding setup's legality.
If the project eventually goes forward, costs would be subsidized by a $3 million annual contribution from the San Diego Unified Port District over a 20-year period, and up to $3.5 million a year from the city of San Diego, over 30 years.
The hotel industry’s tourism marketing district is expected to provide above-and-beyond financial resources.
Click here to watch mayoral candidates debate the topic at Monday night's debate.
We'll examine these issues in depth on our next edition of "Politically Speaking", Sunday morning at 9 on NBC 7.