San Diego City Council has formally approved the creation of a convention center financing district, through which local hotels would pay the bulk of costs for a proposed $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center.

Council members on Jan. 24 voted 6-2 in favor of the district, deemed crucial to financing the project through a new tax on hotel room bills. The tax must now be approved by a two-thirds majority of the city’s hoteliers, in a vote expected to take place in April.

The tax would apply to San Diego properties with at least 30 rooms. Downtown hotels would add 3 percent to the price of rooms, with 2 percent added at hotels in Mission Valley, Mission Bay and Harbor Island, and 1 percent at all others.

In a statement, Mayor Jerry Sanders called the vote “an important step toward putting thousands of San Diegans to work.” The city projects the expansion will generate 4,000 construction jobs and 7,000 permanent jobs, generating $12.7 million annually in new hotel room taxes when the facility hosts more and larger events.

Officials are working out full financing arrangements, through which the city and Port of San Diego would also contribute to the project’s costs.

— Lou Hirsh