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Convention Center Expansion Plan Includes $500K For Park Access

Credit: San Diego Convention Center Corporation

Above: A rendering of the rooftop park on the Convention Center expansion.

As part of the Convention Center expansion plan, city of San Diego will pay $500,000 for ways to help the public reach the waterfront more easily.

A strange moment came at the end of the Coastal Commission meeting Thursday where San Diego's Convention Center expansion was ultimately approved.

Steve Cushman, a San Diego Convention Center board member, took the podium and said he'd been working as a special assistant to Interim Mayor Todd Gloria in negotiations between Coastal Commission and Port staff. He then promised the city of San Diego would spend $500,000 on "additional access features" for a proposed park on the roof of the Convention Center expansion.

Cushman made the offer after Coastal Commissioner Jana Zimmer asked if the project could include an "endowment for environmental education."

The discussion stemmed from an issue that had been debated even before the meeting: a pedestrian bridge from the Gaslamp District to the park. Coastal Commission staff had asked for the bridge because it would direct people to the park, which otherwise might be hard to find since it's on a roof.

Port staff said the bridge, priced at around $40 million, was too expensive, so Zimmer asked for the educational endowment instead.

Cushman said the endowment was not possible, because the $520 million budgeted for the Convention Center expansion has to be spent on the expansion itself. But he offered something else.

"One of the items we had discussed to help activate the park on the top, the city of San Diego is willing to commit one time as a condition of the coastal development permit, we will commit a requirement that the city will reallocate $500,000 of the existing construction budget to additional access features," he said.

Alex Roth, a spokesman for the mayor's office, says that money isn't anything extra — it's part of the existing construction budget.

He said the issue was brought up during negotiations before the hearing with Coastal Commission staff. When Zimmer brought it up during the meeting as a condition for the project's approval, city staff decided to offer the $500,000.

Roth reiterated that the $500,000 is not an educational endowment and is not extra money the city will pay, but is a reallocation from the existing budget to pay for ways to help the public reach the waterfront more easily.

He said he doesn't have any more details about what those ways might be.

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