In case you have procrastinated researching the measures on the November 8th 2016 ballot, here’s a rundown of the San Diego City Measures. Note that this guide contains personal political bias, and you should make your own decisions when voting. This is merely to give you a jump start if you’re doing last-minute research.
Special thanks to Kevin for his significant contributions to this guide. Additional input provided by Emma, Katie, and Anthony.
Measure C: Chargers’ Stadium Plan – No
Measure D: The Citizens’ Plan – No
Measure E: Removing City Officials – Yes
Measure F: Job Security for Deputy City Attorneys – Yes
Measure G: Changes to the Citizens’ Review Board – Yes
Measure H: Changes to the City’s Purchasing and Contracting Process – Yes
Measure I: San Diego High’s Balboa Park Location – Yes
Measure J: Money for Mission Bay and Other Parks – Yes
Measure K: Forcing a November Runoff – Yes
Measure L: Voting on Initiatives and Referendums in November – Yes
Measure M: Raising the Cap on Affordable Housing Units – Yes
Measure N: Taxing Marijuana Businesses – Yes
Measure C: Downtown Stadium Initiative
Measure C is officially titled “Downtown Stadium Initiative,” but you may have also heard it called the Chargers’ Initiative or the Convadium.
It would obligate the city to acquire the land and build a downtown combo convention center annex and professional football stadium. It would raise the San Diego city hotel-room tax effectively from 12.5 to 16.5 percent. It would also require a $650 million contribution for the stadium portion by a professional football entity. Prop C would change the City’s Downtown Community Plan and land development regulations to exempt the project from existing regulations – for example, allowing more noise and outward facing electronic advertising than otherwise permitted.
This Measure is very favorable to the Chargers because their contribution to the new stadium would be minimal, and could even be raised by seat naming and similar sponsorships. But almost everyone else is against this measure, regardless of whether they’re a football fan.
- Convention organizers – including Comic-Con – are in favor of a contiguous convention center expansion, which this measure would prohibit. Conventions provide year-round income for the city, surrounding hotels, and service industry. Comic-Con alone has an estimated annual economic impact of $140 million.
- Hoteliers are against Measure C because it would significantly raise the Transient Occupancy Tax – a tax paid by hotel visitors – and reduce tourism marketing. Although the Chargers claim a new stadium would bring in additional tourism dollars, the figures they propose are likely overstated.
- It requires the city to sell bonds. These bonds would be repaid with the new hotel tax. But if the hotel tax doesn’t bring in the projected amount, the city is still on the hook to somehow repay those bonds.
- The proposed stadium site would require moving the downtown MTS bus yard, and move the parking spaces that the city is contractually obligated to provide for the Padres. This measure does not account for how these projects would be financed.
Measure D also pertains to a stadium, among other topics. Measures C and D are competing measures, meaning: if they both pass, the one with the most votes moves forward, barring any litigation.
Measure C is bad for San Diego City’s economy, taxpayers, and our tourism industry. I strongly recommend voting No on Measure C.
Measure D: Tourism and Tax Initiative
Measure D is officially called the “Tourism and Tax Initiative” but you might have heard it referred to as the Citizens Plan or the Cory Briggs Plan.
It would increase San Diego’s hotel occupancy tax from 12.5 to 15.5 percent. It would allow hoteliers to optionally create assessment districts for tourism marketing. And it would allow the use of hotel occupancy taxes for a non-contiguous convention center space downtown, but none of the funds could go toward a stadium. It would, however, pave the way for a Downtown stadium, by creating zoning for convention and sports facilities downtown.
If Qualcomm Stadium is vacated, this measure would authorize the city to sell the land for educational and park uses only.
Measure D presents some of the same problems as Measure C. Convention organizers – including Comic-Con – are in favor of a contiguous convention center expansion, which this measure would prohibit. Conventions provide year-round income for the city, surrounding hotels, and service industry. Comic-Con alone has an estimated annual economic impact of $140 million.
And if the Chargers moved forward with a downtown stadium under Measure D, it’s still unclear who would be on the hook for the cost of moving the MTS bus yard and the parking spaces the city is contractually obligated to provide to the Padres.
One of the major drawbacks of Measure D is that it contains a provision that if any single part of it is found legally invalid, the whole measure must be thrown out. Due to its complex nature, there’s a good chance of legal challenges, which means the city could be tied up in litigation for years at a cost of millions of dollars.
One of the main selling points that Measure D supporters give, is that it won’t significantly impact the traffic woes of the Mission Valley area. But there’s nothing in the measure requiring the educational facilities to minimize traffic impact, nor is there any language about possible new dorms requiring that tenants use public transit instead of cars. This measure also doesn’t guarantee that educational institutions will purchase the land, as it expects those institutions will find the funding on their own and will desire to purchase the land in question.
Measures C and D are competing measures, meaning: if they both pass, the one with the most votes moves forward, barring any litigation.
Measure D seems good on the surface, but it covers too many topics and is light on details. If the Chargers don’t move out of Qualcomm, this measure won’t do much, and it will likely face legal challenges regardless. I strongly recommend voting No on Measure D.
Measure E: Removing City Officials
Measure E was drafted in response to a report on the San Diego Charter’s lack of procedure to remove elected officials, other than by voter-initiated recall or resignation. This measure would modify the definition of a vacancy for elected officials to include mental or physical incapacity and felony conviction. It would also provide the City Council with procedures for removing elected officials for malfeasance or dereliction of duties, by allowing them to call for a special removal election, rather than waiting for a recall petition.
This measure was inspired by the Bob Filner predicament, and the realization that having only one route to removing an elected official – with a recall election – is unnecessarily burdensome to the City. I recommend voting Yes on Measure E.
Measure F: Job Security for Deputy City Attorney
This measure would amend the San Diego Charter to reduce the number of years of service necessary before a Deputy City Attorney can only be terminated or suspended for good cause, from the current two years to one year, with certain exceptions listed in the Charter. The good cause provision does not apply to layoffs due to lack of work or lack of funding.
You may be wondering, what is a Deputy City Attorney? Basically, they’re an attorney that represents and handles legal matters for the city. They also provide advice to the City Council on such matters as economic development, finance, public works and services, public safety, land use, and more. Deputy City Attorneys in San Diego also prosecute criminal misdemeanors and infractions committed within city boundaries.
So why is this measure on the ballot? By shortening the probation period from two years to one year, this measure makes it harder for politics to influence the City Attorney’s office, which is a good thing. This measure helps ensure that deputy city attorneys can only be fired for ethical lapses or poor legal work, but not for telling the truth, speaking up to prevent an illegal act, or for giving researched legal opinions.
This measure was proposed and put on the ballot by the City Council. It faces no opposition. I recommend voting Yes on Measure F.
Measure G: Changes to the Citizens’ Review Board
Measure G makes changes to San Diego’s Citizen’s Review Board. The Citizens’ Review Board on Police Practices would be changed to the Community Review Board on Police Practices. The measure also changes some language to make it compatible with San Diego’s new Strong Mayor city council. The most significant change is that the board would be required review all police officer-related shootings and all deaths occurring while someone is in the custody of the San Diego Police Department.
Measure G has no no formal opposition and has bipartisan support in the San Diego City Council. I recommend voting Yes on Measure G.
Measure H: Changes to the City’s Purchasing and Contracting Process
Current City contracting rules are found in the Charter, the San Diego Municipal Code, and Council Policy. Measure H will reduce duplication of the rules across these three sources to ensure clarity of policies.
It removes the requirement that the City place contracts in a “local newspaper” and instead allows them to post the notices online.
It also gives the City Council a little bit more power to find a better contract without having to go back to the voters – for instance, if a current contractor is running over budget or deadlines.
This measure was proposed by City staff and put on the ballot by the City Council. There’s no opposition to this measure. I recommend voting Yes on Measure H.
Measure I: San Diego High’s Balboa Park Location
Measure I authorizes the City Council to lease Balboa Park property, currently occupied by San Diego High School, to the San Diego Unified School District for educational, cultural, recreational, and civic programs and activities, provided that the property is used for a public high school.
San Diego High School was built in Balboa Park before legislation was written forbidding such institutions from being built on park grounds. In 1974,the school was given 50 years to move but plans were never made to actually move the school, and the grace period will expire in 2024.
Measure I allows San Diego High to stay where it is by allowing the land it’s on to be redesignated for school use. Because it would be costly to move the school, and there’s no viable alternative site that could seamlessly continue serving students in the area, I recommend voting Yes on Measure I.
Measure J: Money for Mission Bay and Other Parks
The city owns and leases land surrounding Mission Bay. Through 2039, any Mission Bay Park lease revenues above 20 million dollars goes 75% to Mission Bay Park and 25% to other regional parks. This measure would take 10% of what currently goes to Mission Bay and give that instead to other regional parks. The program would last through 2069. Measure J would also allow the City council to add City-owned parkland to Mission Bay Park’s boundaries and better combine and coordinate construction of Mission Bay Park improvements.
Parks are a valuable resource to maintain, and this measure ensures that the revenue generated around the parks goes back into the parks. It also allows more funding to go to regional parks, such as Balboa Park, for urgently needed repairs.
The City Council placed this measure on the ballot and no opposition has been filed. I recommend voting Yes on Measure J.
Measures K & L
San Diego City Propositions K & L both involve placing measures and runoff elections on the November general election ballot, which traditionally attract more voters than the June primary.
Measure K changes the elections for City Council, City Attorney and Mayor from a winner-take-all contest in the June primary, to a November runoff between the top two vote-getters from each race in June.
Measure L would require citizens’ initiative and referendum measures to be submitted to voters on the next November general election ballot and not at a June primary election, unless the Council chooses to submit the measures earlier.
San Diego’s election laws currently require measures to be placed on the ballot for the next closest election. Measure L is giving the City Council discretion to move measures to the November General Elections, where they will be voted on by a much larger base of voters.
Measure K is not as simple. It does not move elections for City Council, City Attorney and Mayor into November so much as it requires the two candidates with the most votes in the June primary to have a runoff in November. Previously, if a candidate received a majority of the votes in the June election, they were considered the winner and the candidates would not be placed on the November ballot at all.
The only exceptions to this November Runoff Rule would be: if only one candidate qualified for the June election; or if the one qualified candidate was a write-in, as write-ins are only allowed in June primary elections and not November general elections.
The ideal solution is obviously to increase voter participation in the June elections. But given that voter participation rates are unlikely to change, these measures give measures and candidates the benefit of a much larger voter base. It still allows the primaries to influence who will appear on the November ballot, but the final decision will be made when the most voters will turn out to the polls. I recommend voting Yes on Measures K & L.
Measure M: Raising the Cap on Affordable Housing Units
Measure M would increase the maximum number of housing units the City is allowed to develop, construct, or acquire for people with low incomes. The measure doesn’t approve specific housing units, provide any funds, or otherwise change any other requirements that apply. State law requires that voters approve rent-controlled homes, and this measure would allow the City to develop, build, or acquire an additional 38,680 such homes.
Back in 2002, voters approved up to 10,500 homes for low-income people. The city is about 3,000 away from that limit now, and state law requires that voters approve any rent-controlled homes. The City is preemptively asking to raise the cap based on a regional assessment of the number of low-income homes the city is going to need by 2020. The new total cap would be 49,180 units.
This measure will greatly increase the city’s capacity to provide low-income housing, which San Diego desperately needs. The City Council placed this measure on the ballot, and no opposition has been filed. I strongly recommend voting Yes on Measure M.
Measure N: Taxing Marijuana Businesses
Measure N is called the Non-Medical Cannabis Business Tax. If California voters approve Proposition 64 to legalize marijuana in the state, Measure N would allow the City to impose a gross receipts tax on non-medical cannabis businesses. A gross receipts tax basically means the seller – not the consumer – would be taxed, based on the total gross revenues of the company.
Measure N initially sets the tax rate at 5%, with an automatic increase to 8% on July 1, 2019. It also allows the City Council to change the rate up to 15% by ordinance, without a further vote. The tax would be indefinite and the revenue would go to the City’s general fund. The state will levy its own 15% sales tax.
Proponents state that this tax will help with local regulation of the new industry, and that this measure is similar to legislation in other major cities. Measure N has bipartisan support from the City Council. Opponents say the tax will be insufficient to cover the problems associated with marijuana, and that the funds will not be spent on addressing any such problems since they’re going into the general fund. Industry advocates warn that setting the rate too high could make it harder for legitimate businesses to get permits and compete.
The city’s independent budget analyst estimates a 5% tax could raise around $22 million per year, based on Denver’s experience since it started selling recreational marijuana. But that number is dependent on several unknowable variables.
If state voters pass Proposition 64, it makes sense for the city to have in place a way to tax this new business and bring in additional revenue. I recommend voting Yes on Measure N.