Voter surveys show San Diego’s proposed “water quality” tax faces an uphill climb if the City Council follows through with plans to place the tax on the November ballot.
The proposed measure would pay for projects that boost flood prevention and reduce water pollution. It was supported in surveys by between 59 percent and 62 percent of voters — less than the two-thirds support needed for approval.
Supporters say the tax is needed to help pay for $1.8 billion in urgent water quality and stormwater projects, contending taxpayers might pay even more for emergency cleanups if the city doesn’t fix aging pipes and make other upgrades.
The City Council voted 8-1 a year ago to have city officials analyze a possible water quality tax, but the council won’t make a final decision on whether to place the tax on the November ballot until this summer.
City officials announced last week they plan to pursue an “impermeable area” water quality tax instead of a parcel tax that would charge each property a flat rate.
They say an impermeable area tax would be more equitable and is the most common type of water quality tax across the nation.
Property owners would be charged based on how many square feet of their property is covered by driveways, walkways and other pavement that serve as routes for urban pollutants to enter city storm drains and then on to local waterways.
A typical single-family home would pay about $12 a month and $144 a year, while typical commercial and industrial customers would pay an average of $200 a year.
The tax would raise about $85 million per year for stormwater and water quality projects. Because the money would be used for a specific purpose, the approval threshold would be two-thirds of voters instead of a simple majority.
A consultant conducted multiple surveys gauging support for three tax rates per square foot — 4 cents, 4.5 cents and 5 cents.
The 4-cent tax was supported by 66 percent and opposed by 29 percent before those who were surveyed were given sample arguments for and against.
After hearing sample arguments in favor, support rose to 71 percent and opposition dropped to 25 percent. But when those surveyed then heard arguments against, support dropped to 61 percent and opposition rose to 33 percent.
The 5-cent tax was supported by 63 percent and opposed by 28 percent before those who were surveyed were given sample arguments for and against.
After hearing sample arguments in favor, support rose to 69 percent and opposition dropped to 24 percent. But when those surveyed heard arguments against, support dropped to 62 percent and opposition rose to 30 percent.
The margin of error for the 4-cent poll was 5 percent and the margin of error for the 5-cent poll was 3.1 percent.
“I know it’s going to be not the easiest battle,” Councilmember Marni von Wilpert said last week after the survey results were presented to the council’s Environment Committee.
But von Wilpert expressed optimism that an…