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San Diego Convention Center Expansion Plan In Limbo

Evening Edition

Aired 8/26/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.

City Council Considers Appealing Convention Center Expansion Ruling

GUEST:

Todd Gloria, San Diego City Council President

Transcript

The San Diego City Council voted unanimously Tuesday not to appeal a ruling by a state appeals court that rejected San Diego's plan to finance the project.

Now that means that the city would have to put the current expansion project before voters or find another way to fund it. A third option is to come up with an entirely different expansion plan.

Following the vote, Council President Todd Gloria said he remained "a stalwart supporter of the expansion of our Convention Center" but was done fighting this round.

"While I disagree with the ruling, pursuing further litigation is not likely to achieve results for San Diego," he said in a statement. "The City Council will be a full participant in revised financing plans to ensure a project is completed.”

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said his office has met with various parties, including the San Diego Chargers and members of the hotel industry, to discuss other plans but he emphasized the importance of public input.

"As I take a fresh look at expanding the convention center, I am open to all options," he said in a statement. "These include finding alternative financing for the current plan to expand directly next to the existing convention center as well as exploring a non-contiguous expansion at a different location that could include a new stadium for the Chargers. I continue to believe that any proposed Chargers stadium project should be brought before voters."

The City Council voted 7-0 to not appeal the ruling in a closed special session. Council members Ed Harris and Myrtle Cole were not in attendance. City Council is in recess until Sept. 8.

Earlier this month, a three-justice panel of the state 4th District Court of Appeal struck down a levy on area hotels, which was designed to pay the bulk of the project's $520 million cost. The justices sided with civic watchdog Melvin Shapiro, who called it a tax that should have been approved in a public vote.

The owners of the hotel properties had agreed to assess themselves to pay a share of the cost, because they'd be the ones to benefit from the projected increase in business.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith had said that the city was venturing into an untested area of the law with the funding mechanism, which was previously upheld by San Diego Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager.

The City Council will deliberate in closed session and don't necessarily have to make a decision Tuesday. An open session will be held first so the public can weigh in.

Tourism officials are eager to expand the center out of concerns that the largest of the trade shows are bypassing San Diego for larger facilities. Comic-Con International, the pop culture confab that draws 130,000 attendees to San Diego each year, has been courted by other cities for years.

The current design, if actually built, would give San Diego the largest amount of contiguous floor space on the West Coast — something tourism officials say is essential to attracting the biggest conventions. If those plans fall by the wayside, however, some of the alternatives being floated include the construction of nearby annexes, and possible joint use of a future football stadium for the Chargers.

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