Welcome to San Diego: Pay us more for staying here

by Kwok-Wai Hanson

For years, San Diego has been struggling to build a new stadium for its local football team, the San Diego Chargers. With “threats” of leaving San Diego and potentially joining the Los Angeles Rams, San Diegans are confronted with two major stadium-related measures: Measure C and Measure D.

Measure C would increase the local occupancy tax by 6% to build a City-owned downtown professional football stadium and convention project. Measure D would increase San Diego’s hotel occupancy tax by 5%, prohibit the contiguous expansion of the existing convention center, allow Qualcomm Stadium, the current professional football stadium in San Diego, to be sold for educational and park uses.

It may seem like a normal election year in San Diego, but Measure C and D will have a drastic impact on the cities’ tourism industry with both vocal supporters and opponents of the proposed initiatives.

“If Measure C passes, traffic in downtown San Diego would be a nightmare!” declared Gretchen T., a 40-year-old high school teacher from Poway. As a regular visitor of downtown San Diego during the weekend, she is extremely concerned since the stadium would be next to the San Diego Convention Center and Petco Park, San Diego’s professional baseball park. “Finding parking is already a nightmare and building a stadium would only worsen the problem.”

Even fans of the San Diego Chargers are concerned. “I have been a huge fan of the Chargers for 20 years, but the new stadium location is problematic” Joseph T., a 43-year-old coach interjected immediately after his wife finished commenting. “I was deeply disappointed when the Chargers promised an expansion complex to the convention but only released a graphic design of using the field as extra space.”

Currently, the San Diego Convention Center is under ongoing expansion along the harbor to increase capacity for major annual events such as Comic Con. Building a new stadium could provide additional exhibit space. However, it is problematic since it goes contrary to Comic-Con’s request and recommendation: “Comic-Con has stated in the past, and continues to believe: a contiguous, expanded convention center is one that will benefit the city best. It appears this ballot initiative does not favor that scenario.” Furthermore, Comic Con’s objective is threatened by Measure D’s provision to prohibit the contiguous expansion of the convention center.

“Measure D is unconstitutional” declared Peter P., a 50-year-old businessman from San Diego who operates a vendor booth at Comic Con. “There are so many provisions and the California Constitution states a measure or propositions should only contain one issue. Of course, I’m already against it since it blocks plans of expanding the convention center which benefits from being contiguous.”

As a fellow San Diegan who supports the tourism industry in San Diego, both measures would have crippling effects on the hotel industry and the San Diego convention center. Since I won’t be in San Diego during the election, the fate of Measure C and D rest in the hands of my fellow San Diegans. However, I, too, am vocally against Measure C and D but specifically D.

CNBC reported in July 2016 that Comic Con is “big business for the city’s nearly $10 billion tourist industry… SDCC is expected to have a whopping $150 million in economic impact on the region, representing an injection of at least $80 million in direct spending.”

The economic impact of the Comic Con is astounding. Furthermore, the convention has stayed in San Diego since its establishment in 1970. Measure D would deter the expansion of the convention center which would hurt Comic Con and other major events and conventions in San Diego. Though Measure C is beneficial to expanding more space with a new stadium, the hotel tax would dramatically hurt the tourism industry. By increasing taxes, tourists and convention-goers are forced to pay more which could deter future returns. As reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune, “Measure D, a separate ballot measure that would raise the hotel tax to 15.5 percent from its current level of 12.5 percent.” Nonetheless, Measure C will most likely fail since it requires a two-thirds approval. As reported by CBS 8 San Diego, “A poll was taken earlier this week of more than 600 likely voters showed that only 40 percent would cast their ballot for Measure C, with 48 percent definitely against.”

Measure D only requires a simple majority to pass. The San Diego Union-Tribune also recently reported: “Among voters who have already returned a ballot, Measure D trails 48 percent to 40 percent. Those who haven’t yet voted oppose Measure D 35 percent to 30 percent, with 35 percent still undecided.”

San Diegans aren’t too keen on the recommended changes to the tourism industry. With both Measure C and D, major plans to build a new stadium and having significant impacts on the local hotels, recent polling shows San Diegans don’t want a new stadium. With years of planning and delays, San Diego citizens are tired and happy with what’s present.

“Measure D would affect the convention center and its current expansion plan. That, I am against” stated Andrew T., a 19-year-old college student who has attended Comic-Con for the last seven years. “With both measures increasing the hotel tax, we’re essentially telling tourist ‘Welcome to San Diego. Pay us more for staying here. Thank you for visiting!’”

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