Mayor vetoes move to put new City Hall decision on ballot


City News Service

Mayor Jerry Sanders on Thursday vetoed the City Council’s vote to place a measure on the November ballot asking San Diego voters to approve a new City Hall.

Sanders made the announcement in a memo to City Clerk Liz Maland.

Sanders said the project’s developer, Gerding-Edlen, requested that the measure be pulled from the Nov. 2 ballot because of a lack of funding for a campaign to get it approved.

In a letter to the mayor, Kelly Saito, managing principal of Gerding-Edlen, wrote that :absent the resources necessary to participate in the election debate, we believe it would be a disservice to the city, to the project, and to the public to proceed with an election in November.:

Sanders said a request by the Downtown San Diego Partnership, one of the project’s most ardent supporters, asking him to veto the ballot measure also played a role in his decision.

Earlier Thursday, Shirley Horton, chief executive officer of the Downtown Partnership, sent the mayor a letter stating that the fiscal impacts brought about by the recession make it unlikely San Diego voters will support the $293.5 million project.

“If this ballot measure is not successful, we fear two decades of planning will be lost and so will the opportunity to realize meaningful cost savings,” Horton wrote.

“Therefore, while we remain strongly supportive of this project, we do not feel the November ballot is an appropriate time or place to make this decision, and ask you to consider vetoing the council action which placed this measure on the November ballot.”

Sanders has been touting the need for a new City Hall for the past three years.

He has argued that building a new City Hall will save San Diego money by avoiding significant maintenance expenses at the existing 1960s-era building, and because the city would not have to continue leasing office space for workers at locations around downtown.

Earlier this month, the City Council voted 7-1 to put the project on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Councilman Carl DeMaio casting the dissenting vote, arguing it wasn’t the right time for the project given San Diego’s financial problems. He also questioned the potential savings touted by the mayor.

It’s unclear what the fate of the project is now.

The City Council could vote to override the mayor’s veto and keep the City Hall measure on the November ballot. The council could also opt to approve the project without a public vote.

The proposed project calls for a 19-story, 576,000-square-foot building with a 400-seat council chamber and a 1.25-acre public plaza. It would be built where Golden Hall now stands next to the current City Hall.