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Lawsuit Against Convention Center Expansion Expected Soon

A rendering of the proposed Convention Center expansion.

Credit: San Diego Convention Center Corporation

Above: A rendering of the proposed Convention Center expansion.

Although the Convention Center expansion cleared its final regulatory hurdle last week, the project will not be breaking ground anytime soon.

Although the Convention Center expansion cleared its final regulatory hurdle last week, the project will not be breaking ground for at least two years. That's because lawsuits are holding up construction.

Attorney Cory Briggs, the most vocal opponent of the Convention Center expansion, has already filed one lawsuit against the expansion's financing plan. It challenges a hotel room tax increase that would pay for the expansion because the tax was not approved by a public vote. The lawsuit is currently waiting for an appeals court hearing and could go all the way to the California Supreme Court.

Briggs represents the Navy Broadway Complex Coalition, a group concerned about development on San Diego's bayfront. He says he'll file another lawsuit on their behalf in 30 to 60 days challenging the approval of the Convention Center expansion.

"It's about the law," he said. "They broke the law, they have to live with the consequences. If they really cared about jobs and the economy, they would have a Plan B, but the politicians don't want to have a Plan B. They want the plan to have the taxpayers subsidize something that provides no benefit to them."

Steven Johnson, a spokesman for the San Diego Convention Center Corporation, said he's confident the appeals court will support the financing plan.

He said San Diego is already losing conventions because the Convention Center has not expanded. As an example, he cited the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society convention, which outgrew San Diego's space.

"Anything that drags this out further will only continue to hurt us," Johnson said.

Briggs is up against powerful interest groups, including labor, business and city leaders. Johnson said Briggs's lawsuits could delay the project enough that San Diego could lose Comic-Con.

"They lose money because they don't have enough space to sell to exhibitors," he said. "Anybody would think long and hard from a business standpoint about continuing to do something that loses you money."

But Briggs said "Comic-Con is not going anywhere."

"That's a myth," he said, adding that Comic-Con does not need contiguous event space to hold their convention in San Diego.

Briggs said he's not getting paid for his work—he'll only collect money if his clients win.

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