Like I said about 2 weeks ago, this was San Diego's Hail Mary.
Without further ado, let's get into some of the details of this Citizen's Initiative, and see what it means for San Diego.
My Takeaways on the Initiative
- The idea here is to hike the Transient Occupancy tax (TOT) from 10.5% to 15.5%. The money is not slated for any specific purpose, and will go into the General Fund. As the Initiative points out, this raises the amount of money generated to a level which is relatively even with (although lower) than other cities on the west coast.
- There are provisions which allow hoteliers to "self-assess" with the intent of funding improvements to tourism-related facilities, and to fund an off-site convention center expansion.
- However, the intent of this Initiative is to utterly kill any attempt at a contiguous Convention Center expansion along the waterfront. In multiple places, the Initiative specifically prohibits any use of "self-assessments" to fund any kind of construction activity remotely related to contiguous Convention Center expansion.
- The Initiative creates a new "Downtown Convention and Entertainment Overlay Zone," bounded by Imperial Avenue to the South, K Street to the North, Park Avenue on the West, and 17th Street on the East. This zoning change authorizes convention center and exhibition facilities, professional, semi-professional, recreational, and collegiate sports facilities, and any structures, facilities, or infrastructure, which includes these uses, including "a single structure or facility that combines one or more authorized uses" (emphasis added). This is the provision that eliminates the need for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the "Convadium."
- The Initiative provides for the continued use of the Qualcomm site in Mission Valley for a stadium, if the City and Chargers agreed to build a new stadium there. However, in the event the Chargers leave Mission Valley, this Initiative basically calls for the City to sell the site to San Diego State, UC San Diego, and San Diego Community Colleges, as well as the San Diego River Conservancy. The idea is clearly to provide additional open park space along the San Diego River, with a lower-density campus extension for a local college.
What This Initiative Does Not Do
To be clear, this Initiative does not, in and of itself, authorize the Convadium, or authorize the use of public money toward the construction of the Convadium. If this Initiative passes, a follow on agreement would be reached between the City & County and the Chargers, probably in November of 2016. The follow on agreement would be a separate piece of legislation (likely a Memorandum of Understanding - as was used for Petco Park).
Additional Note - Updated on 10/22/15
Since we're discussing stadium news, it was announced tonight that Governor Jerry Brown has approved the City's Mission Valley Stadium Plan for fast-tracking of environmental challenges. What this means is that any lawsuits against the project based on the EIR are sent directly to the State Court of Appeals, and a resolution to the lawsuit has to be provided within 270 days (about 9 months). It doesn't prevent any lawsuits from being filed, but it does blunt a regular talking point of Chargers' Special Counsel Mark Fabiani - by design, this certification means the project won't be tied up in courts for years - if it were approved.
As I suggested 2 weeks ago, this is San Diego's Hail Mary. What we got essentially tonight was the play-call coming in from the sideline.
If it works, this is San Diego's Great Compromise. Essentially, the hoteliers are accepting an off-campus Convention Center expansion in exchange for not getting one at all. The Chargers are getting the JMI Convention Center Stadium they've wanted for a few years now. San Diego residents are getting additional money for the General Fund, and potential extra land for expansion of San Diego State and a San Diego River park in Mission Valley.
This was merely the 1st step of many to come. Stay tuned.