LOS ANGELES – A group of 27 San Diego business and civic leaders signed a letter asking the mayor to oppose a measure to increase hotel taxes to pay for a new football stadium for the Chargers.
Measure C on the Nov. 8 ballot would increase the hotel tax from 10.5% to 16.5% to help service $1.15 billion in bonds for a stadium-convention center project. The National Football League team would contribute the other $680 million of the estimated $1.8 billion cost.
The 27 signers of the letter published in the San Diego Union Tribune include a San Diego County Convention Center board member, the president of the San Diego County Hotel and Motel Association, various chief executives of companies unrelated to the tourism industry, builders, and architects.
Four independent financial analyses have said the measure is too risky, according to the letter. Those include studies conducted by the San Diego Tourism Marketing District, San Diego County Taxpayers Association, Public Resources Advisory Group and San Diego Office of Independent Budget Analyst, the letter said.
"While they differ in minor ways, we believe that any one of them – and certainly all four of them – warrant opposition to this measure," the letter states. "The city's PRAG report notes the public contribution, including debt service, will be over $2 billion from what they call "a volatile revenue stream."
The county taxpayers' association analysis found that, using conservative estimates on what the hotel tax increase could produce over the 30-year life of the bonds, there would be a $400 million shortfall that would have to be filled by the general fund, said Haney Hong, chief executive officer, San Diego County Taxpayers Association.
"A number of community leaders thought it was important we speak in one voice," Hong said. "A number of people who signed the letter wanted to make sure that the mayor understood the concerns that some of us have."
Hong's organization and others, such as the San Diego Tourism Authority and Hotel-Motel Association, have also come out separately in opposition to the proposal on Friday. The San Diego Convention Center has not taken a position on the measure though one of the signatories was board member Stephen Cushman.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who has long been a supporter of a new stadium, has not taken a position on the initiative and declined to respond to the letter.
In an emailed response, Fred Mass, special advisor to Chargers' chairman Dean Spanos described the letter as an anemic effort produced by a "bunch of former elites to repackage their opposition to enhancing San Diego's stature as a world class city."
"What they did not say is that 110,000 average folks, voters in San Diego, have already expressed their intention to keep their Chargers in San Diego," Maas said. "Voters will have their say in November about who runs this city: them or the self-appointed elites from downtown."