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City Council Sets 50-Year Lease With San Diego Civic Theatre

The City Council today unanimously passed a 50-year lease with the organization that operates the San Diego Civic Theatre.

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

"I'm hopeful we can get something really magnificent down there,'' said Councilman Todd Gloria, whose district will include downtown beginning next week. "The building could use a little TLC; I think we all know that. I know this action today will allow for that.''


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

Under terms of the new agreement, SDTI will pay the city $3,250 in annual rent to offset city administrative costs, subject to inflation adjustments every five years, Barwick said. 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 by 2023, 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.

Faye Wilson of SDTI said plans for the renovation are still being developed but will "knock your socks off.''


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

On Monday the City Council approved a 40-year agreement with the operators of the Bahia Resort Hotel, who also plan a renovation. BH Partnership leases 15 and a half acres of Mission Bay Park from the city.