Waterfront SDCC expansion trumps off-site


Remember about 6 months back when we found out there would be a $90,000 study to analyze the pros and cons of various San Diego Convention Center expansion plans? The results are in and they are a complete non-surprise: an expanded center "needs to be on the waterfront." You don't say.

If you haven't been following this years-long saga, it boils down to this: the convention center is too small for San Diego Comic-Con and other conventions, so an expansion plan has been bandied about. Two chief debates have dominated the discourse:

1) whether to actually expand the existing center (the contiguous approach) or to embrace a "campus" approach with additional space built at other locations

2) how to finance the effort

Interested parties include real estate developers, the San Diego Chargers, local hotels, a tenacious attorney named Cory Briggs, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, the California Coastal Commission and others. It's all quite the lesson in how exhausting municipal politics can get. Everyone's pushing their own agenda, with arguments over hotel taxes and water views and the spoils of tourism.

So to break down the latest developments:

  • The study is "unequivocal in its conclusion that an enlarged center on the current bayfront site easily trumps a campus-like facility several blocks to the northeast when it comes to the dividends the city will reap." Easily trumps is a great phrase.
  • The mayor said the report "is persuasive enough that he plans to begin work anew on a bayfront expansion project, with a goal of putting on the ballot a hotel tax increase to finance it as early as next year." Yep, we're sticking with the hotel tax plan. The current litigation over the former hotel tax financing plan "may well be resolved within the next six months."
  • The indefatigable Cory Briggs, who is behind said litigation, has a different take. He "promises continued legal challenges as long as the city attempts to develop the waterfront with added convention facilities." And he predicted smugly (well, the article doesn't say that but I'm interpreting) that his current lawsuits "could take as long as five years to resolve." He then added villainously (more interpretation), "There's no way they can get a two-thirds vote in this town." How very Gotham City of you, Cory Briggs.
  • The campus approach would deliver $61.2 million more in conventioneer spending but the waterfront expansion would deliver 2.5 times that; the city would make back the $428 million cost of the campus approach in 7 years, but would only take 3 years to make back the $410 million cost of the waterfront expansion.

Here's what I took out of all of this: 1) I'm really glad I disappointed my parents by not going to law school because oh my god tedious and 2) I'll probably be too arthritic/deceased/off-planet to go to San Diego Comic-Con by the time this all gets resolved. Maybe this will impact our actual SDCC lives someday but that day won't come any time soon.

So much for those tantalizing proposals of a rooftop park and footbridge. Oh well, we still have the Salt Lake Comic Con lawsuit to keep us entertained. At least that court battle is staying feisty and moving at a somewhat reasonable pace.

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