“Citizens’ Plan for the Responsible Management of Major Tourism and Entertainment Resources” Released; “Pay Their Own Way” Initiative Updated and Improved

The “Citizens’ Plan for the Responsible Management of Major Tourism and Entertainment Resources” was released today as a precursor to submitting the initiative to the San Diego City Clerk and beginning to collect signatures, as required by law. The initiative was published last week as the “Pay Their Own Way” initiative by proponents Pedro Quiroz, Jr., Richard Lawrence, and former City Councilmember Donna Frye.   Since that time, proponents received input from stakeholders and community members and have refined details of the initiative.

“We appreciate the feedback we received from hundreds of interested residents, and have incorporated many of their suggestions in the revised draft,” said initiative proponent Reverend Richard Lawrence. “It’s clear from the responses we’ve received that the public is frustrated by the city’s failure to more effectively address the management of these resources and appreciates that there is finally a path for resolving them through a public vote,” he said.

“The focus of the initiative is to reform management of our city’s tourism- and entertainment-related resources,” said initiative proponent Donna Frye. “The Pacific Ocean, its bays, its beaches, its rivers and tributaries are irreplaceable natural resources that define the quality of life for city residents and attract tourists who help fuel our local economy,” she said. “The initiative allows the public to vote on creating a more rational, transparent and fair process for management, enhancement and protection of these resources,” she added. “To do this properly we must manage all of these resources as a single, connected ecosystem. This is true both from an environmental perspective and from an economic perspective,” Frye continued. “Visitors and residents share a common value in protecting public access to the Pacific Ocean and all of its resources.”

Currently, the City of San Diego charges hotel guests a 10.5% transient occupancy tax (TOT) on hotel bills. That ranks 101st among cities in the nation. San Diego lags far behind its tourism rivals when it comes to their combined lodging taxes, such as Anaheim (17%), San Francisco (16.25%), and Los Angeles (15.5%).   The Citizens’ Plan will raise San Diego’s TOT to 15.5% for large hotels and 14% for small lodging businesses, generating approximately $90 million annually for the city’s General Fund. The new unencumbered revenues can be used for general public services such as street and sidewalk repair, libraries, parks, beaches, and public safety.

“The initiative provides incentives for hotel owners to assess themselves to pay for the promotion of tourism in San Diego and to invest in facilities that support tourism,” said Rev. Lawrence. “Those who benefit most from tourist-related promotion and facilities ought to pay their fair share,” he said.

Compared to the previously published “Pay Their Own Way” initiative, the revised “Citizens’ Plan” ensures the hotel industry’s surcharge on hotel guests (above the current 10.5% TOT) is permanently eliminated, and the city’s current proposal for the Qualcomm Stadium site receives an exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act to avoid litigation delays if the city decides to follow through on this proposal. The revised Citizens’ Plan also provides an expanded introductory explanation about the need for the initiative, so persons signing the initiative can understand the substantial benefits the city and the public will receive if the initiative is approved.

You can read the Citizens’ Plan here: Notice_of_Intent_TFID_Revised_FINAL_ALL.


San Diego Citizens Initiative Launched to Require Tourists and Tourism Businesses to “Pay Their Own Way”

As Board members of San Diegans for Open Government, we have been proponents and advocates of moral and transparent government and try to keep alive a bold vision of open, responsible and creative uses of public resources.

While working on those basic ideas, we have had to learn about how the City of San Diego’s tourism industry works, how its infrastructure money is collected and spent, and who pays and who benefits.  The whole system appears to us to be redundant, fractured and unbalanced.

Local taxpayers continue to be the people paying, while the politically connected continue to be the ones benefiting from that money.  There are so many conflicting regulations that the city is going in all directions, while the residents have been left out of the decision-making process.

It is just wrong.

We shared our concerns and frustrations with our attorney, Cory Briggs.  We explained that we wanted to set out a ballot initiative that gave voters a chance to have their say on these matters, that rid the public of the redundancies and wasteful spending and dealt with the complex issues of tourism in a coherent way.  In other words, we wanted to create a comprehensive plan for how the city could move forward, improve our tourism industry, provide more income for city services, stop wasteful spending, and give real options for a convention center and football stadium — with the only tax increase being on tourists while keeping us competitive with other cities — and let the voters of San Diego make the final decision for themselves.

Mr. Briggs agreed to help us navigate through the process and he worked tirelessly to create something that met all the goals we set out.

Over time, we continued to meet, think, debate and enlarge our concern by trying to find the best comprehensive solution.

We are thankful that Mr. Briggs was not only able to work with everyone who would have to put this plan into action, but was also able to get their assurances this plan could work.

We at SanDOG have tried to say again and again that we are extraordinarily grateful to have the good fortune to work with such a creative, brilliant and persistent lawyer as Mr. Briggs.

We hope that people will take the time to understand what this initiative would do for our city.  We continue to hope that our work will inspire others to look for solutions that continue to make our city a better place for everyone.

Pedro Quiroz, Jr., and Rev. Richard Lawrence

Read the October 22, 2015 Media Advisory here: 2015-10-22_Media_Advisory.

Read the “Pay Their Own Way” Initiative here: Notice_of_Intent_TFID_FINAL_ADVANCE_RELEASE.