The Mayor and his supporters need more than 90,000 signatures to put their proposal on next year's ballot.
Their main selling point is a promise of more than $1.5 billion in long-term taxpayer savings.
The mayor's plan offers sweeping changes in the retirement plans for city employees and end to "guaranteed lifetime pensions" for most workers. Instead, they'll get a 401(K) plan that's common in the private sector and a return to social security.
The city would pay a percentage of both, like most employers do. But police, fire and other public safety workers would be exempt. They would keep their guaranteed pensions.
The mayor -- himself a former cop -- says police and firefighters deserve a more generous plan because they risk their lives on the job and would take jobs in other cities if San Diego cuts their retirement pay.
"Then we're sending people that are not qualified to your door, whether it's burning, or you need assistance, and that's just not fair to San Diegans," said Mayor Sanders.
"City employees of all classification should be treated equally and they shouldn't receive any better benefits than the rest of the taxpayers footing the bill," said Councilmember Carl Demaio.
DeMaio is pushing his own ballot measure, also for the June 2012 election. It would end those guaranteed, lifetime pensions for all city employees.
DeMaio says police and fire fighters will not leave San Diego, because other cities are in equally bad financial shape.