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Morning Report: Is the November Ballot Big Enough for Two Homelessness Measures?

Homeless encampments along 17th Street in downtown San Diego. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Supporters of a hotel-tax hike to expand the Convention Center and invest in homeless services and road repairs have decided there’s not enough room for two homelessness measures on the November ballot.

The San Diego Housing Federation, an affordable-housing advocacy group that’s been pushing a separate $900 million housing bond, says the hotel-tax campaign has urged it to postpone its measure until 2020.

Steve Russell, who leads the Housing Federation, says the pressure has been on since an April poll revealed having two measures on the ballot could hurt both efforts.

The Housing Federation isn’t backing down yet. Its measure, aimed at producing 7,500 homes for homeless and low-income San Diegans, is one of more than two dozen ballot proposals set to be discussed at a Wednesday City Council committee hearing.

Russell and other bond measure supporters note that other California communities passed similar housing measures two years ago, setting them up to make the most of state money soon expected to flow to cities and counties.

Meanwhile, backers of the hotel-tax hike argue their citizens’ initiative – which would tax tourists rather than homeowners – has a better shot at pulling in new resources to address the city’s homelessness problem.

An update on the hotel-tax group’s signature-gathering efforts: The business and labor coalition behind the proposed hotel-tax hike is in a rush to turn in signatures to place its measure on the ballot.

The Yes for a Better San Diego campaign last week announced it had collected more than 100,000 signatures and expected to deliver them to the city clerk’s office in mid-June. The campaign will need 71,646 valid signatures to get on the ballot but it’s typical for citywide campaigns to try to collect at least 110,000 signatures.

Campaign finance disclosures show more than $280,000 has poured into the campaign in the last two weeks alone.

Once the campaign turns in signatures and the city clerk does an initial review, the county registrar of voters will likely need 30 days to conduct a random sample of the signatures. That would give the City Council a few weeks to put the measure on the ballot before its early August deadline.

But a more thorough review of signatures would be triggered if the initial review shows 95 to 110 percent of the number of qualified voters needed are found to be valid. The registrar would then have 30 business days for the secondary review – an outcome that could jeopardize the measure’s path to the November ballot.

More hoops for the hotel-tax campaign to jump through: By default, the local Republican Party opposes tax measures.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s team hopes to persuade his party to take a neutral or supportive position on the hotel-tax measure.

But former City Councilman Carl DeMaio sent a Monday email blast urging San Diegans not to sign tax-hike petitions.

DeMaio noted that Democrats and labor groups were backing the tax increase and that the measure would divert nearly $3 billion of the tax increase is “away from the Convention Center in favor of more government spending.”

That $2.8 billion DeMaio is referring to is projected to be spent on homelessness programs and road repairs.

And Last But Not Least …

Board of Port Commissioners

Kevin Faulconer speaks to the Board of Port Commissioners June 12, 2018. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

From Scott Lewis: Both the San Diego City Council and the Board of Port Commissioners approved a $33 million deal to settle a long battle with two men who hold the lease to the Fifth Avenue Landing property — a chunk of land crucial for the expansion of the Convention Center. The partnership led by Ray Carpenter and Art Engel will get $5 million now and the rest if voters approve of a ballot initiative to expand the Convention Center. If not, they keep the $5 million and can pursue building a hotel on the land.

Two City Council members — Georgette Gomez and David Alvarez — voted against the deal. Alvarez argued that part of the agreement, which requires Carpenter and Engel to not oppose the ballot initiative, is illegal. For their part, Port Commissioners had many questions about what happens if the measure gets more than 50 percent of the vote but not two-thirds.

Nobody really knows. There’s one argument the measure could still pass with just a simple majority. But if it is caught up in court, we aren’t sure whether Carpenter and Engel could continue with their hotel plans.

“It’s unclear what the law of the land is today,” said Michael Zucchet, a port commissioner, about whether 50.1 percent would be a successful outcome for the measure. He said the process getting to this deal caused brain damage but was worth it.

Low-Drama Budget Season

The mayor is expected to sign a $1.45 billion city budget Wednesday that bolsters infrastructure spending and includes last-minute adds to increase library security and support the Chicano Park Museum.

This year’s budget process went off with few fireworks or major cuts. City News Service reports that the City Council unanimously approved this year’s final budget after minor tweaks.

The process was far more contentious last year. In 2017, Faulconer vetoed the approved budget and made retaliatory cuts after the City Council failed to support funding for his proposed 2017 hotel-tax measure.

A New Fest Wants to Usher in a New Attitude

From A Ship in the Woods comes a festival in a park.

The arts nonprofit is putting on a new arts and music festival featuring interactive performances, and both local and national musical acts are set to perform, Kinsee Morlan reports in this week’s Culture Report. The nonprofit behind the festival “hopes the event will help raise the city’s profile and help put an end to San Diego’s tendency to trash its own art scene.”

Also in the Culture Report: Four words: carne asada fries festival.

News Roundup

Chris Cate / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Following major 2016 reforms that prevented outright primary victories in city races, Republican City Councilmen Chris Cate and Mark Kersey want to eliminate June primary elections and study ranked-choice voting, which allows voters to rank candidates they prefer rather than simply vote for one. They’re set to discuss their proposal at a committee hearing Wednesday.

  • The city’s getting hit with lawsuit after lawsuit blaming crumbling city sidewalks for injuries and even deaths. (10News)
  • San Diego police have issued a new policy for officers’ dealings with undocumented immigrants in the wake of a state law that limits local law enforcement cooperation with federal authorities. (KPBS)
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and 15 other Democrats are set to visit San Diego next week to get a closer look at the effect of increased immigration enforcement. (Politico)
  • The Lemon Grove City Council is weighing whether to ask voters to consider a half-cent sales tax increase. (Union-Tribune)
  • A 62-year-old woman who babysat for San Diego County Sheriff’s deputy Richard Fisher is the latest to accuse him of assault. Fisher is already facing accusations he groped 13 women. (10News)

The Morning Report was written and compiled by Lisa Halverstadt, and edited by Sara Libby.

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