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City Approves 50-Year Lease With San Diego Civic Theatre

The City Council today gave unanimous final approval to a 50-year lease with the organization that operates the San Diego Civic Theatre.

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The lobby of the San Diego Civic Theatre.

The nonprofit San Diego Theatres Inc. wants to renovate the downtown auditorium and requested a long-term lease so it can begin fundraising. The project is expected to cost at least $30 million.

SDTI has managed the theater since 2003, operating under a series of three-year contracts, according to Jim Barwick, the city's real estate assets director. The current deal was due to expire next month.

Under terms of the new agreement -- which passed without comment on the council's consent agenda -- SDTI will pay the city $3,250 in annual rent to offset city administrative costs, subject to inflation adjustments every five years. Another provision calls for the organization to receive a share of parking revenue derived from its events.

The organization also runs a central plant in the building's basement that provides power and water to the theater, City Administration Building and Golden Hall. Barwick said the city will pay the nonprofit its share of the cost of operating the plant.

Per the agreement, the renovations will have to start within 10 years, after the plans receive City Council approval and city building permits. The development process will also need to conform with the California Environmental Quality Act.

City officials are willing to provide tenants with long-term leases if there are plans to spend large sums of money on upgrades, according to Barwick.

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