Initiative Aimed at Higher Hotel Taxes May Impact Stadium, Convention Issues

For all the fighting over a new Chargers stadium and bigger convention center, no ready solutions have come to light.

But on Thursday, backers of a petition drive to raise the city's hotel taxes promoted it as the game-changer that's needed.

San Diegans will soon be approached by signature gatherers for a proposed ballot measure called "The Citizens Initiative."

It's the brainchild of controversial attorney Cory Briggs -- who stayed out of camera range as a popular former councilwoman took the lead on the issue.

"It allows either a downtown or Mission Valley stadium location but does not commit any public funding,” Donna Frye told reporters during a morning news conference overlooking San Diego Bay. “That will require a separate public vote."

Frye said the measure would generate upwards of $18 million a year in taxes paid by hotel guests that would go to the city's general fund and give hotel owners incentives to expand the convention center with an annex off the waterfront in nearby East Village.

So far, hotel owners and their Tourism Marketing District aren't taking a position on the proposal.

Raising room taxes is always controversial, but the measure's top rate of 15.5 cents on the dollar would be the same as the rate in Los Angeles -- and below those in San Francisco and Anaheim.

It'll take petition signatures from 75,000 San Diego voters by a January deadline to qualify the initiative for the June ballot.

“Now the big thing to watch is whether the city attorney will determine that it only needs 50.1 percent of the vote, or whether he will determine that it needs 66.7 percent of the vote,” said Voice of San Diego Editor Scott Lewis. “Because if he determines it needs two-thirds of the vote, it'll be very hard to pass. Anything with two-thirds is very hard to pass."

On behalf of the Chargers, the team’s special counsel Mark Fabiani weighed in with this observation: "We'd be encouraged by any development, such as the Briggs initiative, that will help break the stranglehold of the hoteliers over City."

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