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November 8, 2016 — California General Election
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City of San Diego
Measure H Referendum - Majority Approval Required

To learn more about measures, follow the links for each tab in this section. For most screenreaders, you can hit Return or Enter to enter a tab and read the content within.

Election Results


360,127 votes yes (77.09%)

107,047 votes no (22.91%)

Shall the City Charter be amended to: require contracts for public works, goods, services, and consultants to be awarded through a competitive process in accordance with rules adopted by ordinance, remove the position of Purchasing Agent, eliminate the requirement to publish certain notices in printed newspapers, and update other provisions consistent with state law?

What is this proposal?

Pros & Cons — Unbiased explanation with arguments for and against

Information provided by League of Women Voters San Diego

The Proposal

What it would do:



  • Changes awarding contracts from lowest bidder to best bid.

  • Removes the position of Purchasing Agent.

  • Changes publicizing certain notices from newspapers to the City Bulletin online.

  • Updates the purchasing and contracting regulations to comply with state law and current practices.

  • Moves most of the detail from the Charter to the Municipal Code.

Supporters say

  • Requiring lowest bid, rather than best bid, has led to city contracts being awarded to companies who did not have the skills and staffing to do a competent job in a timely manner. This is more expensive in the long run than choosing the right people for the job in the first place.
  • Technological developments have eliminated the need to publicize notices in newspapers in order to spread the word to potential bidders.
  • Moving the details from the Charter (which can be changed only by a vote of the people) to the Municipal Code (which can be changed by the City Council, fairly easily) allows greater flexibility.

Opponents say

  • Greater flexibility might lead to more abuses of power; it may be better for the City Council's purchasing and contracting policies to be bound by the Charter, rather than by a Municipal Code that they have the power to change without a public vote.
  • If companies know that the lowest bid does not necessarily win anymore, all bidders may start to pad their estimates.

Measure Details — Official information about this measure


San Diego City Attorney

This measure would amend the San Diego Charter by repealing and consolidating into one section several provisions related to purchasing and contracting for the City of San Diego. The amendments would require contracts for public works, goods, services, and consultants to be awarded through a competitive process, in accordance with rules adopted by the City Council by ordinance.

If approved, the amendments also would remove from the Charter the position of Purchasing Agent and the designation of an official City newspaper to be used to meet publishing requirements. The amendments also would adopt and apply California’s conflict of interest laws to City contracting. 


San Diego City Attorney

This measure was proposed by City staff involved with the procurement and contracting process, approved by the Council’s Charter Review Committee, and placed on the ballot by the Council. If approved, the Charter amendments would become effective after they are chaptered by the California Secretary of State.

Impartial analysis / Proposal

San Diego City Attorney

This measure would amend sections of the San Diego Charter related to advertising and awarding of contracts, and other requirements for the City of San Diego’s contracting of public works, goods, services, and consultants.

City contracting rules are found in the Charter, the San Diego Municipal Code, and Council Policy. Many requirements in those documents are duplicative. If approved by voters, this measure would repeal and consolidate into one section several Charter provisions regarding purchasing and contracting, requiring that contracts for public works, goods, services, and consultants be competitively bid in compliance with rules adopted by the City Council by ordinance. Charter provisions requiring public works contracts to be awarded to the lowest responsible and reliable bidder would be repealed. Instead, the Municipal Code would be the primary document to provide specific requirements for City contracting.

The measure would continue the exceptions to competitive bidding currently found in the Charter, the Municipal Code, and state law. The Council would be required to adopt an ordinance regarding a competitive process to award consultant contracts, because the existing process is governed by Council Policy that is passed by resolution.

Both the Charter and state law prohibit City officials from having a conflict of interest in City contracting. The wording each law uses is different, however, which could lead to inconsistent results under the Charter and state law. If approved, this measure would amend the Charter to adopt California’s conflict of interest laws for City contracting and allow the City to rely on interpretive opinions from state courts and administrative agencies in determining whether a conflict of interest exists.

The Charter defines the “City official newspaper” as a newspaper with daily circulation under contract to publish the City’s advertising. The Charter and Municipal Code require certain contracts to be advertised in such a newspaper at least ten days before the deadline to submit bids. The Charter also requires notice to be published ten days before the Council’s consideration of contracts over five years in duration. This measure would repeal the Charter requirement to designate and use such a newspaper. Advertising of City contracts would be governed by the Municipal Code, which currently includes the same requirements. California law, the Ralph M. Brown Act, requires the City to provide at least 72 hours’ notice of Council consideration of all contracts, including those over five years in duration, but such notice would not have to be published in a newspaper.

If approved, the measure would not immediately have a significant effect on the City’s purchasing and contracting processes, but would provide the Council with authority to make changes by ordinance, instead of through a public vote. Ordinances changing the City’s contracting processes would be subject to referendum. 

Financial effect

San Diego City Attorney

This measure would repeal and replace sections of the City Charter related to contracting and procurement. These changes are intended to reflect updated processes and remove duplication between the City Charter, the City’s Municipal Code, and the State Government Code.

If this measure is adopted, the City will no longer be required to notice public hearings for contracts exceeding five years in the City’s newspaper of record. Instead, the City will be required to notice these public hearings on the online City Bulletin. This change will reduce the noticing fees paid by the City; in fiscal year 2016, affected noticing fees were approximately $54,000.

Additionally, if this measure is approved, certain contracting and procurement provisions will be removed from the Charter and remain in the City’s Municipal Code. Should these Municipal Code provisions subsequently be amended by City Council ordinance and without a public vote, it is possible that future procurement costs could change.

Published Arguments — Arguments for and against the ballot measure

Arguments FOR


Measure H will update the Charter regarding the City of San Diego’s purchasing and contracting activities to provide simple, easy to understand rules.

This Charter amendment will save the City time and money by:

  • Providing clear restrictions for elected officials and city staffers to avoid any conflict of interest in the purchasing and contracting process. This will prevent any city employee who works on or develops a contract from being able to financially benefit from that contract.
  • Making the rules governing purchasing and contracting the same as state law in order to avoid confusion.
  • Giving city departments greater flexibility in how they procure goods and services to meet the various needs of the city.

By approving these proposed changes to the Charter, city officials will be able to use a best value approach to purchasing and contracting.

These changes will allow the City to avoid the problems that have occurred in the past with some major public works projects that were not completed on time or on budget that were awarded to the lowest bidding contractors.

A “Yes” vote on Measure H will benefit taxpayers by allowing for the timely delivery of quality projects, products and services at a reasonable cost.

Measure H is supported by the Mayor, the City Council, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, the Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters.


Mayor, City of San Diego

Council President, City of San Diego

President, League of Women Voters of San Diego

President, San Diego County Taxpayers Association

President and CEO, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce

— San Diego County Registrar of Voters

Arguments AGAINST


No argument against Measure H was filed in the office of the City Clerk.

— San Diego County Registrar of Voters

Replies to Arguments FOR


— San Diego County Registrar of Voters

Replies to Arguments AGAINST


— San Diego County Registrar of Voters

Who supports or opposes this measure?

Yes on Measure H

Organizations (3)

Elected & Appointed Officials (0)
No on Measure H
Organizations (0)
Elected & Appointed Officials (0)

More information

News (3)

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