Convention Center Plan To Expand Moves Ahead

San Diego Comic Con

I want to thank @DarkStitch for sharing this story he found! What do you guys think about an expansion? Do you think it’ll help the SDCC crowds or do you think CCI will just sell more passes, making things even worse? Do you think this will keep SDCC in San Diego longer?

Convention Center Plan To Expand Moves Ahead
Source: UT San Diego News

San Diego’s hoteliers will decide in April whether they want to levy a surcharge of up to 3 percent on hotel rooms to finance a $520 million expansion of the convention center, the City Council decided Tuesday.

The City Council action to create a special citywide district that would finance the bulk of the project’s costs with more than $35 million a year in room revenues over 30 years is a pivotal step in determining whether the expansion can advance.

While boosters of the long-debated expansion cheered the move, significant hurdles remain, including a critical vote by the California Coastal Commission and expected lawsuits challenging the city’s ability to move forward without a citywide vote on the tax.

Mayor Jerry Sanders and business and tourism leaders have touted the expansion as an economic engine that will generate thousands of new jobs. They contend it would allow San Diego to retain existing conventions that are outgrowing the center and attract larger ones that would head to rival cities.

The project, which would enlarge San Diego’s waterfront center by nearly a million square feet, including an additional 225,000 square feet of exhibit space and 101,500 square feet of meeting space, could be completed by 2016, barring any major delays, city officials said.

“It’s my understanding we’re in a highly competitive environment where it’s not just our weather that’s going to close the deal on bringing conventions to San Diego and we have to remain competitive,” said Councilman Todd Gloria.

The vote to set in motion the special taxing district was 6-2, with David Alvarez and Marti Emerald in opposition. Emerald, as did some of her colleagues, raised concerns about future liabilities the city’s taxpayers could face if projected revenues to finance the project fall short.

The City Council is being asked to contribute $3.5 million a year, which would come from additional room tax revenues generated by increased business from the center. The San Diego Port District already has agreed to allocate $3 million a year over 20 years. Together, the revenues raised would go to paying off bonds over 30 years.

Major challenges remain, given the promised fight by labor unions who believe the expansion will lead to thousands of low-paying jobs without any guarantees that San Diegans will be hired.

“It’s not acceptable that the city would not ensure that these jobs will stay local, that it won’t move forward without training opportunities,” said Lorena Gonzalez, secretary-treasurer of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council. “We’re subsidizing crappy jobs with no health care or livable wages.”

Unite Here, the union that represents hotel workers, predicted there would be litigation if the city went ahead with the current financing plan, contending that a hotel tax requires a vote of the people. A coalition made up largely of labor unions also contends that the new district requires environmental review.

When hoteliers vote in April, they’ll be asked to approve a variable surcharge that is highest for hotels closest to the center. Downtown hotels will be asked to add 3 percent to guests’ hotel bills; Mission Valley, Mission Bay and Harbor Island properties would be assessed 2 percent; and all others 1 percent. The surcharge would apply to all hotels of 30 rooms or more. A two-thirds majority vote is required to create the new hotel tax.

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