Another twist in the convention center saga

28 DECEMBER 2015

Remember when the Salt Lake Comic Con lawsuit seemed like it was going to provide drama for eons and the convention center expansion seemed like a sure thing? How times have changed.

A few weeks ago, everyone was alerted as to a petition that promised to "keep Comic-Con in San Diego" but actually was trying to eliminate a contiguous expansion of the convention center. Now things have taken another turn for the dramatic. Fifth Avenue Landing - one of the many players in the expansion drama - sent a letter to the City Council saying they were giving San Diego until 1 March to revive an option to acquire for 13.8 million their leasehold on the 6 acres between the convention center and the bay.

If they don't? Then after 1 March, Fifth Avenue Landing will pursue a major development project involving a hotel of 400 rooms or more.

To put this in very clear terms: the contiguous expansion of the convention center was initially protested because various opponents said it would block water views and encroach on that space behind the convention center. (The hullabaloo about the hotel tax came later.) Now some of those same opponents are saying they're going to build something else on that same space.

Just when you thought this couldn't get anymore complicated.

Incidentally, the convention center is projected to bring in a record number of attendees in 2016. But this particular issue is a bit larger than just the center and includes other waterfront development agendas; I suggest reading the entire article. Overall, it paints a grim picture of how slippery this endeavor has become. (Example: "Incidentally, that consultant is the ubiquitous Charles Black, who negotiated the lease in question as the port's development consultant, then worked for the city on the expansion plan and now works for Carpenter and Engel. When it comes to selling advice in San Diego, it pays to be nimble.")

I don't think any of us wanted a new force with its own agenda rising up in this mess, but it looks like that's what we've got. An expanded convention center seems less likely than ever, at least within the time frame it's needed. What is likely - a move to LA, Anaheim, Vegas or staying in San Diego and suffering through the current limitations - is still a matter of debate.


  1. I think it's evident that a contiguous expansion is now extremely unlikely. Additionally, CCI has made it very clear that the expansion (while it would be welcome) is not required for them to stay in San Diego. In fact, CCI is on record as saying that the only thing that would make them leave San Diego is hotel costs.

    Taking all of this into consideration, it seems like a new hotel in this space would be a good thing. But given the snail's pace at which construction projects move in California, I'm guessing this wouldn't happen before the end of the decade, at the earliest.

    1. I don't think it'll happen soon, if at all. But I cannot envision a hotel in that space that wouldn't seem crammed in.