5 Things to Know about the Convention Center Expansion

5 Things to Know about the Convention Center Expansion

File photo

San Diego's Convention Center

A chorus of political and business leaders has recently rallied around a Convention Center expansion years in the making.

They say a $520 million investment to expand the city’s 24-year-old convention center will bring an economic boost to the city in the form of more conventions and hotel visitors. They plan to bolster the current facility on Harbor Drive with another 225,000 square feet of exhibit space and additional ballrooms and meeting spaces.

Their plans also include a five-acre park on the roof of the revamped center and an additional hotel tower.

But the expansion faces a crossroads next month. The state Coastal Commission will either approve the Convention Center project or force supporters back to the drawing board.

It’s also unclear whether the plan to fund the project will survive additional court reviews.

Here’s a look at some of the key issues.

Who wants to expand the Convention Center and why?

A broad coalition of politicians supports the expansion. Backers include a majority of the San Diego City Council, Assemblywomen Toni Atkins and Lorena Gonzalez and many more. Local business groups, including the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the San Diego Economic Development Corp., are also vocal supporters.

They argue the expansion is key to securing conventions that have said the current space isn’t large enough to accommodate them.

Supporters insist the expansion is crucial to keeping Comic-Con, one of the city’s largest annual conventions.

They claim the expansion will draw millions to San Diego in coming decades and ensure the city remains a top convention destination.

Not everyone agrees. The Chargers have been the most public opponent of the project. Union leaders previously spoke out against it but former Mayor Jerry Sanders managed to corral their support in his final days in office.

Who’s paying for it?

• Hotel visitors: They’ll pay an extra 1 percent to 3 percent on top of their hotel bills. Those staying closer to the Convention Center will pay more than than visitors staying outside downtown. This tax, similar to the city’s funding formula for the Tourism Marketing District, is expected to raise more than $1 billion over the next three decades.

• The Port District: The port, which oversees tidelands including the location of the Convention Center expansion, has promised to commit $60 million over the next 20 years.

• The city’s day-to-day budget: The city pledged $105 million, or $3.5 million annually, over 30 years. This annual contribution will come from the city’s operations fund, which also supports public safety, libraries and other city services.

What’s the deal with the Coastal Commission vote?

The expansion involves development along the ocean, so the state agency charged with overseeing access and land use along California’s coastal areas must sign off.

That means a formal vote by the 12-member Coastal Commission, which is set to discuss the Convention Center expansion at its meeting in San Diego the second week of October. (The three-day meeting spans from Oct. 9 through Oct. 11 and city officials have yet to hear which day the Convention Center will be discussed.)

Coastal Commission staffers have spent recent weeks studying the city’s proposal and conferring with port and city officials on potential last-minute changes to their blueprint. Next week, they’ll submit a report with their view of whether the Convention Center expansion should go forward.

That report will likely focus on whether the expansion would allow sufficient public access to the oceanfront park behind the Convention Center and views of the coastline.

The appointed Coastal Commission will consider staffers’ recommendations before they vote on whether to allow the project to go forward.

What about the Chargers?

The Chargers have long been critical of the current blueprint to expand the Convention Center, citing issues with both the hotel tax structure and the waterfront location. Meanwhile, they’ve been on the lookout for a new facility to replace the aging Qualcomm Stadium.

The NFL team formalized its opposition to the expansion late last month by submitting an alternative plan to the Coastal Commission.

“From a development perspective, the plan before the commission fails to capitalize on San Diego’s greatest assets and literally cuts downtown off from its waterfront,” Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani wrote in an Aug. 30 letter to the Coastal Commission.

Fabiani suggested Convention Center backers could save money and avoid coastal impacts by building a multipurpose facility that, of course, includes a football stadium east of Tailgate Park in East Village. That’s about a half mile from the Convention Center.

Convention Center backers weren’t swayed. Steven Johnson, a consultant working for the Convention Center Corp., said Sanders’ citizen task force dismissed Tailgate Park as a potential expansion location in 2009.

Indeed, the group’s final report concluded the site wouldn’t work because it’s blocks away from the current Convention Center on Harbor Drive and it’s also home to an earthquake fault line. The group considered six different configurations but none was ideal.

That may not be enough to convince the Coastal Commission.

“The fact that (the Chargers are) offering an alternative that they’re suggesting has fewer coastal impacts is certainly relevant,” said Diana Lilly, a Coastal Commission planner.

Does Coastal Commission approval mean the project goes forward?

Not necessarily.

More than a year ago, the city filed a lawsuit to determine whether its plan to tax hotel guests to help fund the Convention Center expansion is legal. (Hoteliers approved the increase in a private vote conducted by the city.)

At the time, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith acknowledged he wasn’t certain the scheme would hold up in court, and attorney Cory Briggs of San Diegans for Open Government and activist Mel Shapiro joined the suit due to concerns the city approved a tax without a public vote.

In March, Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager ruled that the scheme is legal but Briggs and Shapiro have appealed.

This week, Briggs estimated the appeal process would likely continue until the end of next year. If the case moves onto the California Supreme Court, it could stretch out until 2015.

Proponents of the expansion hope to break ground on the facility at the end of next year.

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Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at lisa@vosd.org or 619.325.0528.

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108 comments
Cindy Conger
Cindy Conger subscriber

Do you really think "millions more" Tourists are going to want to deal with 'getting around' SD with Lindbergh Field's inadequate 'connections' to the rest of San Diego County?  The traffic will increase, accordingly with Our bus systems down to the bare necessities...even less-they cut the Only line to the end of the Peninsula-with a 2000 member university, and 3000 students right On the main line.  No 'direct' connection to the Trolley. Tourists usually come for more than just a single convention (or you might want to 'make it easy' for them to come, spend their vacation money on several things, and leave?).

Doesn't anyone think the Rest of the City's amenties might be of interest? Our Casino's, SeaWorld, Julian, Our Universities, our Missions (de Acala), Aquariums, Torry Pines' & other golf courses, our south bay water park, Mexico?  You all want 'millions more tourists' rental cars Jamming up our Freeways?  While Lindbergh Field takes care of 'minimum Cargo needs?' 

Then, you want to Give Baja, Mexico (the Las Americas supposedly brings in "$1 Billion" or more), the entire 'booty' for landing fees with a 'Cross border Cargo Bridge?'  With $5,000 the price for a 747 (that's a minimum-Cargo goes by Weight) and a 3 million population bringing at Least 20,000 'cargo flights' annually, that's $100 Million/yr.  we'll be 'giving away' to Mexico, along with all the Air Travel?  Wow, get rid of the Only Stable Revenue Source for a Region...to a Foreign Country.  Who's idea is this? 

Again, more pollution in Cargo Trucks to go throughout our County (instead of LAX/Ontario), from Rodriguez to all points of SD County?  Where are the environmentalists? One Cargo flight (with the cleanest 'burning' fuel) takes out of the Air, 28 double-truck Diesels. 

Cindy Conger
Cindy Conger subscriber

Where's the 'interest' of the public here?  I heard rumor that the beach parking lots were going to go to pay lots?

Bob Nelson
Bob Nelson

The quality of the critique, commentary and inquiry is terrific, which makes a statement both about Voice and its readers. The thoughtful questions are especially encouraging. Many answers can be found in the summary report of the 2009 Citizens Task Force on the Convention Center. At the home page (http://www.conventioncentertaskforce.org) one can also find links to all of the detailed reports that were used to frame the debates, from multiple economic studies from different analysts to the alternative sites studied, including the six possible configurations looked at for the "Tailgate Park" site touted by the Chargers. BTW, the report cover has a very outdated graphic of early renderings, and the current design detail is best seen at http://www.conventioncenterexpansion.com/Home.aspx San Diego Convention Center Expansion > Homehttp://www.conventioncenterexpansion.com/Home.aspxMayor's Task Force on the San Diego Convention Center Expansion Projecthttp://www.conventioncentertaskforce.orgSince opening in 1989, the San Diego Convention Center has generated over $17 billion in economic impact by hosting over 4,000 events that utilized more than 10 million hotel room nights.

Bob Nelson
Bob Nelson subscribermember

The quality of the critique, commentary and inquiry is terrific, which makes a statement both about Voice and its readers. The thoughtful questions are especially encouraging. Many answers can be found in the summary report of the 2009 Citizens Task Force on the Convention Center. At the home page (http://www.conventioncentertaskforce.org) one can also find links to all of the detailed reports that were used to frame the debates, from multiple economic studies from different analysts to the alternative sites studied, including the six possible configurations looked at for the "Tailgate Park" site touted by the Chargers. BTW, the report cover has a very outdated graphic of early renderings, and the current design detail is best seen at http://www.conventioncenterexpansion.com/Home.aspx San Diego Convention Center Expansion > Homehttp://www.conventioncenterexpansion.com/Home.aspxMayor's Task Force on the San Diego Convention Center Expansion Projecthttp://www.conventioncentertaskforce.orgSince opening in 1989, the San Diego Convention Center has generated over $17 billion in economic impact by hosting over 4,000 events that utilized more than 10 million hotel room nights.

Augmented Ballot
Augmented Ballot

Good discussion all around, but I see one question that's very important to add. Is a contiguous expansion possible that serves San Diegans as a city-wide resource better than what is proposed? I've been picking at the question of falling cost estimates because I suspect that the $1B or even $750M estimates reflect what the Convention Center originally sought: to build contiguously but with better waterfront access, improved integration with downtown, and other public amenities. Then the end of redevelopment and political expediency called for a lower price tag. I suspect the expansion was thus slimmed down in size and to only the bare conventioneer essentials, with more costly waterfront access and improvements replaced with the rooftop mullet. Now, low-cost may the right plan for this project. There's an argument to be made. I think the counter argument is that even at $550M, this is still one of the costliest projects in the city's history and if we're to go forward we ought to be adding to the city fabric in broader ways. Let's not squander the site -- one of very few on the harbor with any real public access -- because we only want to pay enough to not really do it right. We've done that in too many local projects. The convention center trumpets the expansion as "a new urban playground", which is indeed what it should be. Extending the visual wall, eliminating nearly all but a boardwalk's worth of ground-level public space, and providing no additional connection across Harbor Drive and the train tracks is almost certain to fail at creating that. We need to be realistic about finance. Here's where I'd start: there's no private money going into the project, despite hundreds of millions in new revenue that will go to the adjacent hotels. That's not to say that the project as funded can't be a net gain for the city based on TOT and local spending. But a better deal for San Diegans is possible. If the adjacent hotels (via a local BID) cover a share of the cost, the expansion can be built the way it should be. http://voiceofsandiego.org/2011/01/23/how-much-is-an-expanded-convention-center-worth/ http://conventioncenterexpansion.com/Default.aspx?tabid=119 http://voiceofsandiego.org/2011/12/04/three-hotels-win-big-from-convention-expansion/

Augmented Ballot
Augmented Ballot subscriber

Good discussion all around, but I see one question that's very important to add. Is a contiguous expansion possible that serves San Diegans as a city-wide resource better than what is proposed? I've been picking at the question of falling cost estimates because I suspect that the $1B or even $750M estimates reflect what the Convention Center originally sought: to build contiguously but with better waterfront access, improved integration with downtown, and other public amenities. Then the end of redevelopment and political expediency called for a lower price tag. I suspect the expansion was thus slimmed down in size and to only the bare conventioneer essentials, with more costly waterfront access and improvements replaced with the rooftop mullet. Now, low-cost may the right plan for this project. There's an argument to be made. I think the counter argument is that even at $550M, this is still one of the costliest projects in the city's history and if we're to go forward we ought to be adding to the city fabric in broader ways. Let's not squander the site -- one of very few on the harbor with any real public access -- because we only want to pay enough to not really do it right. We've done that in too many local projects. The convention center trumpets the expansion as "a new urban playground", which is indeed what it should be. Extending the visual wall, eliminating nearly all but a boardwalk's worth of ground-level public space, and providing no additional connection across Harbor Drive and the train tracks is almost certain to fail at creating that. We need to be realistic about finance. Here's where I'd start: there's no private money going into the project, despite hundreds of millions in new revenue that will go to the adjacent hotels. That's not to say that the project as funded can't be a net gain for the city based on TOT and local spending. But a better deal for San Diegans is possible. If the adjacent hotels (via a local BID) cover a share of the cost, the expansion can be built the way it should be. http://voiceofsandiego.org/2011/01/23/how-much-is-an-expanded-convention-center-worth/ http://conventioncenterexpansion.com/Default.aspx?tabid=119 http://voiceofsandiego.org/2011/12/04/three-hotels-win-big-from-convention-expansion/

Randy Dotinga
Randy Dotinga

I could see the value of a rooftop-type park in a dense urban city (like the High Line or whatever it's called in NYC). But what tourists are going to head to a big rooftop park at the Convention Center when they have so many better options nearby? Who's going to say: "Hey gang, let's get our picnic baskets, the baby and the dog and go up this escalator! Oh boy! Uh-oh. I think our frisbee went over the fence and landed on a urologist here for the urology conference." Seriously, though: Has this kind of rooftop park worked anywhere that's similar?

Randy Dotinga
Randy Dotinga memberauthor

I could see the value of a rooftop-type park in a dense urban city (like the High Line or whatever it's called in NYC). But what tourists are going to head to a big rooftop park at the Convention Center when they have so many better options nearby? Who's going to say: "Hey gang, let's get our picnic baskets, the baby and the dog and go up this escalator! Oh boy! Uh-oh. I think our frisbee went over the fence and landed on a urologist here for the urology conference." Seriously, though: Has this kind of rooftop park worked anywhere that's similar?

Augmented Ballot
Augmented Ballot

To Mr. Nelson or any in a position to answer: What is the explanation for the cost estimate dropping from $1B in 2009 down to $520M by the end of 2011?

Augmented Ballot
Augmented Ballot subscriber

To Mr. Nelson or any in a position to answer: What is the explanation for the cost estimate dropping from $1B in 2009 down to $520M by the end of 2011?

Erik Bruvold
Erik Bruvold

I also have no dog in the hunt. As it was explained to me, the biggest advantages of having space that is contiguous reflects the opportunity to have 2 (or more) conventions "double booked" in the convention center. To understand this we have to allow the convention center expansion proponents some assumptions that seemed reasonable when described to me. First, you really can't have a successful national conventions a number of weeks during the year. Holidays are the principal reason. So nothing, for example, during Xmas week, or thanksgiving, or new years, or Easter or labor/memorial day or 4th of July, etc. etc. etc. Attendees just will not come. As described to me, once you go through this exercise you are down to about 30 prime weeks a year and another 12 or so weeks which sorta work but not really. Second, you have to build into whatever convention you are talking about at least 1 extra day on back end for "load out" (tearing down the exhibits) and 2 extra days on the front end. So a 4 day convention is, in fact, a 7 day booking. Overlapping the load in/load out just doesn't work because no one wants to hold a key note address or kick off their floor show at the same time that attendees are hearing moving vans back up in the other part of the hall. But having a bigger contiguous hall gives them enough buffer to overcome this problem. They center they can start loading in the floor of the next convention while the existing group is finishing up...indeed, do a load in on one half while they load out the other. That provides them the 'space" they need, when they need it so as to book those 30 prime weeks as much as possible - and not lose business because they can accommodate the needs of the would be show because of the load out from the prior week. So the question to ask is NOT whether the bigger center will allow them to compete for more mega-conventions. The right question is whether, by having a bigger contiguous center, they can double book/overlap more conventions in the most sought after weeks and maximize bookings/rooom nights in the 30 or so weeks that conventions are concentrated. If that is there goal, it makes complete sense why a booker wouldn't want the site across the street - because their meeting rooms and the hall are separated (and that matters because for most of these conventions the trade show booth renters are subsidizing the stuff going on for the attendees in the meeting rooms upstairs). And no, the convention center has done a REALLY poor job in explaining their business model and the business model of meeting organizers so the public thinks this is only about "mega shows" like comicon and thus doesn't "get" why you can't put the knee doctors trade shows over at the football stadium why the knee doctors meetings are over at the original and make it actually work.

Erik Bruvold
Erik Bruvold subscribermember

I also have no dog in the hunt. As it was explained to me, the biggest advantages of having space that is contiguous reflects the opportunity to have 2 (or more) conventions "double booked" in the convention center. To understand this we have to allow the convention center expansion proponents some assumptions that seemed reasonable when described to me. First, you really can't have a successful national conventions a number of weeks during the year. Holidays are the principal reason. So nothing, for example, during Xmas week, or thanksgiving, or new years, or Easter or labor/memorial day or 4th of July, etc. etc. etc. Attendees just will not come. As described to me, once you go through this exercise you are down to about 30 prime weeks a year and another 12 or so weeks which sorta work but not really. Second, you have to build into whatever convention you are talking about at least 1 extra day on back end for "load out" (tearing down the exhibits) and 2 extra days on the front end. So a 4 day convention is, in fact, a 7 day booking. Overlapping the load in/load out just doesn't work because no one wants to hold a key note address or kick off their floor show at the same time that attendees are hearing moving vans back up in the other part of the hall. But having a bigger contiguous hall gives them enough buffer to overcome this problem. They center they can start loading in the floor of the next convention while the existing group is finishing up...indeed, do a load in on one half while they load out the other. That provides them the 'space" they need, when they need it so as to book those 30 prime weeks as much as possible - and not lose business because they can accommodate the needs of the would be show because of the load out from the prior week. So the question to ask is NOT whether the bigger center will allow them to compete for more mega-conventions. The right question is whether, by having a bigger contiguous center, they can double book/overlap more conventions in the most sought after weeks and maximize bookings/rooom nights in the 30 or so weeks that conventions are concentrated. If that is there goal, it makes complete sense why a booker wouldn't want the site across the street - because their meeting rooms and the hall are separated (and that matters because for most of these conventions the trade show booth renters are subsidizing the stuff going on for the attendees in the meeting rooms upstairs). And no, the convention center has done a REALLY poor job in explaining their business model and the business model of meeting organizers so the public thinks this is only about "mega shows" like comicon and thus doesn't "get" why you can't put the knee doctors trade shows over at the football stadium why the knee doctors meetings are over at the original and make it actually work.

Joshua Brant
Joshua Brant

The existing "park" that would be partially covered is a glorified front lawn for the Hilton. A roof top park would provide MORE green space, and MORE public shoreline space. Creating MORE grassed waterfront space downtown would seem like a worthy endeavor. I do not agree that a roof top park would be inconvenient and discourage use. By the way, do you know how far the Hilton lawn currently is from public parking? It's not uber accessible now. Just because it's not at grade level doesn't mean people will not enjoy it. In addition to the elevated shoreline places in the city I previously mentioned, just a few blocks away is Altitude Sky Lounge, which made a list of the highest grossing locals downtown even though it's not at street level. Really downtown in general requires a bit more effort to access than most other parts of San Diego, but people still come. The "view corridor" issue is a none issue. There's not really much of a view corridor to lose and the expansion will be mostly behind the existing building. A roof top park would provide a far better view than the current space, and more area to enjoy the view. To me it's counterintuitive to try to preserve a forgotten hotel lawn literally in the corner of downtown, when the alternative is a unique local amenity and attraction which provides MORE public space on the downtown waterfront. Ironic that the dissents talk about limited vision. I live off of 32nd street and I take Harbor Drive southward probably more than most, and I can tell you that the view corridor you claim is being taken away is already gone. Harbor Dr. Is not a scenic route it's better characterized as a service road. The roof top park is a significant net gain for the public versus the small portion of very, very limited "view corridor" between the convention center and the Hilton.

Judith Swink
Judith Swink

No, elevated doesn't automatically mean 'bad' but there's a huge difference between geographical features that provide everyone wide open views and a structure that would be constructed to obliterate a park immediately adjacent to the water then substitute a 'park' high on a roof that would require anyone wishing to enjoy it to climb a steep stairway or take an elevator - and not be available to the public at all times because convention center activities could be given priority access at various times. Even worse, the park that would be obliterated was created as mitigation for the Hilton Hotel construction. Since when can a required mitigation be eliminated for the benefit of business interests? The Coastal Commission staff report makes clear that it isn't simply the loss of the ground-level park that's at issue but also the substantial reduction of the remaining view corridor ( which provides a sense of openness) from Harbor Drive & downtown. The Marriott expansion, approved by the Coastal Commission last year with modifications regarding protecting & enhancing public access required, also attempted to further narrow a previously required view corridor between that hotel and the Hyatt. The Coastal Commission required the Marriott to pull back on its proposed expansion into the public's view corridor. The game is whittle away here then whittle away there until there's, effectively, little public waterfront visible from Harbor Dr. along the South Embarcadero.

Joshua Brant
Joshua Brant

I agree that planning for the waterfront space should be done very thoughtfully and carefully, but it might be an exaggeration to say that this site is one of very few on the harbor with any real public access. That area is within a very short distance to Embarcadero Marina Park South, Embarcadero Marina Park North, Crosby Street Park, Ruocco Park, plus right across from Coronado Tidelands Park, and Centennial park to name just some of the other harbor areas with public access. On the contrary I would say that the grassy area next to the Hilton is probably utilized less by locals than any other green space on the downtown portion of the harbor. The current proposed site for contiguous convention center expansion would actually increase the waterfront green space on the harbor, albeit elevated. But elevated doesn't necessarily mean bad. San Diegans enjoy elevated waterfront locations like Cabrillo Nat. Monument, Sunset Cliffs and Torrey Pines for example.

Joshua Brant
Joshua Brant subscriber

The existing "park" that would be partially covered is a glorified front lawn for the Hilton. A roof top park would provide MORE green space, and MORE public shoreline space. Creating MORE grassed waterfront space downtown would seem like a worthy endeavor. I do not agree that a roof top park would be inconvenient and discourage use. By the way, do you know how far the Hilton lawn currently is from public parking? It's not uber accessible now. Just because it's not at grade level doesn't mean people will not enjoy it. In addition to the elevated shoreline places in the city I previously mentioned, just a few blocks away is Altitude Sky Lounge, which made a list of the highest grossing locals downtown even though it's not at street level. Really downtown in general requires a bit more effort to access than most other parts of San Diego, but people still come. The "view corridor" issue is a none issue. There's not really much of a view corridor to lose and the expansion will be mostly behind the existing building. A roof top park would provide a far better view than the current space, and more area to enjoy the view. To me it's counterintuitive to try to preserve a forgotten hotel lawn literally in the corner of downtown, when the alternative is a unique local amenity and attraction which provides MORE public space on the downtown waterfront. Ironic that the dissents talk about limited vision. I live off of 32nd street and I take Harbor Drive southward probably more than most, and I can tell you that the view corridor you claim is being taken away is already gone. Harbor Dr. Is not a scenic route it's better characterized as a service road. The roof top park is a significant net gain for the public versus the small portion of very, very limited "view corridor" between the convention center and the Hilton.

Judith Swink
Judith Swink subscriber

No, elevated doesn't automatically mean 'bad' but there's a huge difference between geographical features that provide everyone wide open views and a structure that would be constructed to obliterate a park immediately adjacent to the water then substitute a 'park' high on a roof that would require anyone wishing to enjoy it to climb a steep stairway or take an elevator - and not be available to the public at all times because convention center activities could be given priority access at various times. Even worse, the park that would be obliterated was created as mitigation for the Hilton Hotel construction. Since when can a required mitigation be eliminated for the benefit of business interests? The Coastal Commission staff report makes clear that it isn't simply the loss of the ground-level park that's at issue but also the substantial reduction of the remaining view corridor ( which provides a sense of openness) from Harbor Drive & downtown. The Marriott expansion, approved by the Coastal Commission last year with modifications regarding protecting & enhancing public access required, also attempted to further narrow a previously required view corridor between that hotel and the Hyatt. The Coastal Commission required the Marriott to pull back on its proposed expansion into the public's view corridor. The game is whittle away here then whittle away there until there's, effectively, little public waterfront visible from Harbor Dr. along the South Embarcadero.

Joshua Brant
Joshua Brant subscriber

I agree that planning for the waterfront space should be done very thoughtfully and carefully, but it might be an exaggeration to say that this site is one of very few on the harbor with any real public access. That area is within a very short distance to Embarcadero Marina Park South, Embarcadero Marina Park North, Crosby Street Park, Ruocco Park, plus right across from Coronado Tidelands Park, and Centennial park to name just some of the other harbor areas with public access. On the contrary I would say that the grassy area next to the Hilton is probably utilized less by locals than any other green space on the downtown portion of the harbor. The current proposed site for contiguous convention center expansion would actually increase the waterfront green space on the harbor, albeit elevated. But elevated doesn't necessarily mean bad. San Diegans enjoy elevated waterfront locations like Cabrillo Nat. Monument, Sunset Cliffs and Torrey Pines for example.

Judith Swink
Judith Swink subscriber

Excellent points, Randy, thank you.

Cory Briggs
Cory Briggs

Augmented Ballot: Not that you asked me, but. . . . I'm not sure that I understand exactly the points you're asking about. My understand is that the expansion/construction costs are $520 million (based on estimates a couple of years ago) and the total cost with financing (i.e., interest etc.) is in excess of $1 billion. I am not aware of any significant decrease in any costs. I'd love to know whether Bob or any other expansion-booster has information to the contrary.

Cory Briggs
Cory Briggs subscribermember

Augmented Ballot: Not that you asked me, but. . . . I'm not sure that I understand exactly the points you're asking about. My understand is that the expansion/construction costs are $520 million (based on estimates a couple of years ago) and the total cost with financing (i.e., interest etc.) is in excess of $1 billion. I am not aware of any significant decrease in any costs. I'd love to know whether Bob or any other expansion-booster has information to the contrary.

Erik Bruvold
Erik Bruvold

Don - the fact that Moscone operates in non-contiguous space is a BIT of a red herring. First, Moscone West is "caty-corner" from the existing space. While attendees would have to move outside to attend, we are not talking less than a couple hundred feet. Second, SF itself is moving forward to address the non-contiguous space issue. http://www.tsnn.com/news-blogs/san-franciscos-moscone-center-gets-expansion-go-ahead San Francisco's Moscone Center Gets Expansion Go Aheadhttp://www.tsnn.com/news-blogs/san-franciscos-moscone-center-gets-expansion-go-aheadExpansion plans for San Francisco's Moscone Center received a major boost, with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors recently approving the creation of the Moscone Expansion District, which will provide the majority of funding for the expansion of ...

Don Wood
Don Wood

How many conventions have taken place during that time in the very busy Moscone Center in San Francisco - which is non-contiguous?

Erik Bruvold
Erik Bruvold

Cory - the fairest way (and no, I am not going to do that on my dime) ;-) would be to go through the convention center bookings of big shows (say 7,500 hotel rooms and up) and see if those groups, over the priot 10 years, have ever booked into non-contiguous convention centers. It would be an exercise in "revealed preferences". Not perfect but probably given what is being debated the best way. If, in the past, they have been fine with it then there is less downside risk. If you can't find instances of it, then even if they tell some surveyor one thing, their past behavior is saying another. To do that one would need a good list of said non-contiguous sites, a good list of the "big shows" and the time to search for past convention materials/call the offices and get the information. Least that is how I would do it.

Erik Bruvold
Erik Bruvold

Josh - go through it. I can't find overlapping days for any convention greater than 5K. Maybe your eyes are better that mine. What I find, which makes sense, is some small events - 1000 to 3000 overlapping. But that isn't at all hard to imagine - they may not even both be on the convention center floor but in the ballrooms.

Erik Bruvold
Erik Bruvold

Josh - I don't have time to go over it all. here is their 18 month calendar http://www.visitsandiego.com/eventscalendar/do18months.cfm At least as I glance over it there actually are not that many 5000+ conventions which overlap. But I haven't gone much past the first couple of months.San Diego Convention Center: 18 Months Calendar of Events - trade shows, exhibits, community events, corporate conferenceshttp://www.visitsandiego.com/eventscalendar/do18months.cfmEvents scheduled at the San Diego Convention Center, 111 West Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101

Joshua Brant
Joshua Brant

I worked a year at the convention center installing trade shows starting in the middle of my senior year of high school, and I can not honestly say that I knew or that I could remember the macro logistics in putting up and tearing down the shows. But a quick glance at the calendar on the convention center website will show you that overlapping shows already happen. It's not a crazy idea.

Erik Bruvold
Erik Bruvold

Re: B. Not really. If you are loading in a convention you really CAN"T have a big convention in the other half. Having been a worker bee grunts twice on such things it really is an industrial scale construction effort to put in a trade show. You can't have meetings a wall away.

Joshua Brant
Joshua Brant

A) The correct question is not would a non-contiguous plan serve MORE needs, it's would the non-contiguous expansion BEST serve needs. If a non-contiguous stadium is the best answer for expanded convention needs, then there are trolley stops at the current convention center and at Qualcomm stadium. Problem solved. B) This wasn't really a complete statement or a question, but I am not buying that you can't book multiple shows at the same time because I'd guess that it regularly happens already C) Who is on the hook? According to the article, Hotel Tax, the Port, and the City.

Erik Bruvold
Erik Bruvold

In the end the thought process for taxpayers is probably..... A) Would a non-contiguous site serve more needs? Probably. Get a new stadium, don't build on the bay, possibly cheaper B) But a LOT more risk because it just isn't at ALL clear that most conventions would want to split. You definitely can't "double book" successfully and, absent a few, no meeting planner is going to want to try to want to try to make these work. C) And then the question would be who would be on the hook if the bookings don't materialize? Cory? Chargers? Taxpayers. Question C seems pretty easy to answer. Arguably we could debate about whether or not to build it at all. But I think that if you concede that getting more heads in beds is good for the city budget (at 10.5% a pop) you need to build a center that works with the way the meeting planning/convention center business is structured.

Erik Bruvold
Erik Bruvold

Cory - Your a lawyer. You know you have to know the right question to ask. That was NOT the question that was posed to AECOM. http://www.conventioncenterexpansion.com/Portals/0/Final%20AECOM%20Report%2011-15-2010.pdf Page 21 gets at the limited number of weeks that are involved. Page 24 and 25 get at the reasons. Honestly, poor methodology since "lack of space" and "bad dates" actually overlap as reasons. They should have tested both and made sure that this lost business for "lack of space" wasn't a function of "lack of ALL the space" because of double booking. Page 28 also gets at this. Frankly I am confused how you read the AECOM study and reach the conclusions which you are. It seems on its face to say building across the street is a poor choice compared to building on the side.

Cory Briggs
Cory Briggs

Erik: What was explained to you is not what AECOM--the people paid by the city and the port to justify the expansion--reported. Only one event needs contiguity; a whopping 98% did not say they need it. So the 2% tail is wagging the 98% dog. I have zero doubt that you have been told a number of things to justify the expansion. I have every doubt that on the whole what you were told is inaccurate.

Erik Bruvold
Erik Bruvold subscribermember

Don - the fact that Moscone operates in non-contiguous space is a BIT of a red herring. First, Moscone West is "caty-corner" from the existing space. While attendees would have to move outside to attend, we are not talking less than a couple hundred feet. Second, SF itself is moving forward to address the non-contiguous space issue. http://www.tsnn.com/news-blogs/san-franciscos-moscone-center-gets-expansion-go-ahead San Francisco's Moscone Center Gets Expansion Go Aheadhttp://www.tsnn.com/news-blogs/san-franciscos-moscone-center-gets-expansion-go-aheadExpansion plans for San Francisco's Moscone Center received a major boost, with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors recently approving the creation of the Moscone Expansion District, which will provide the majority of funding for the expansion of ...

Don Wood
Don Wood subscriber

How many conventions have taken place during that time in the very busy Moscone Center in San Francisco - which is non-contiguous?

Erik Bruvold
Erik Bruvold subscribermember

Cory - the fairest way (and no, I am not going to do that on my dime) ;-) would be to go through the convention center bookings of big shows (say 7,500 hotel rooms and up) and see if those groups, over the priot 10 years, have ever booked into non-contiguous convention centers. It would be an exercise in "revealed preferences". Not perfect but probably given what is being debated the best way. If, in the past, they have been fine with it then there is less downside risk. If you can't find instances of it, then even if they tell some surveyor one thing, their past behavior is saying another. To do that one would need a good list of said non-contiguous sites, a good list of the "big shows" and the time to search for past convention materials/call the offices and get the information. Least that is how I would do it.

Erik Bruvold
Erik Bruvold subscribermember

Josh - go through it. I can't find overlapping days for any convention greater than 5K. Maybe your eyes are better that mine. What I find, which makes sense, is some small events - 1000 to 3000 overlapping. But that isn't at all hard to imagine - they may not even both be on the convention center floor but in the ballrooms.

Erik Bruvold
Erik Bruvold subscribermember

Josh - I don't have time to go over it all. here is their 18 month calendar http://www.visitsandiego.com/eventscalendar/do18months.cfm At least as I glance over it there actually are not that many 5000+ conventions which overlap. But I haven't gone much past the first couple of months.San Diego Convention Center: 18 Months Calendar of Events - trade shows, exhibits, community events, corporate conferenceshttp://www.visitsandiego.com/eventscalendar/do18months.cfmEvents scheduled at the San Diego Convention Center, 111 West Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101

Joshua Brant
Joshua Brant subscriber

I worked a year at the convention center installing trade shows starting in the middle of my senior year of high school, and I can not honestly say that I knew or that I could remember the macro logistics in putting up and tearing down the shows. But a quick glance at the calendar on the convention center website will show you that overlapping shows already happen. It's not a crazy idea.

Erik Bruvold
Erik Bruvold subscribermember

Re: B. Not really. If you are loading in a convention you really CAN"T have a big convention in the other half. Having been a worker bee grunts twice on such things it really is an industrial scale construction effort to put in a trade show. You can't have meetings a wall away.

Joshua Brant
Joshua Brant subscriber

A) The correct question is not would a non-contiguous plan serve MORE needs, it's would the non-contiguous expansion BEST serve needs. If a non-contiguous stadium is the best answer for expanded convention needs, then there are trolley stops at the current convention center and at Qualcomm stadium. Problem solved. B) This wasn't really a complete statement or a question, but I am not buying that you can't book multiple shows at the same time because I'd guess that it regularly happens already C) Who is on the hook? According to the article, Hotel Tax, the Port, and the City.

Erik Bruvold
Erik Bruvold subscribermember

In the end the thought process for taxpayers is probably..... A) Would a non-contiguous site serve more needs? Probably. Get a new stadium, don't build on the bay, possibly cheaper B) But a LOT more risk because it just isn't at ALL clear that most conventions would want to split. You definitely can't "double book" successfully and, absent a few, no meeting planner is going to want to try to want to try to make these work. C) And then the question would be who would be on the hook if the bookings don't materialize? Cory? Chargers? Taxpayers. Question C seems pretty easy to answer. Arguably we could debate about whether or not to build it at all. But I think that if you concede that getting more heads in beds is good for the city budget (at 10.5% a pop) you need to build a center that works with the way the meeting planning/convention center business is structured.

Erik Bruvold
Erik Bruvold subscribermember

Cory - Your a lawyer. You know you have to know the right question to ask. That was NOT the question that was posed to AECOM. http://www.conventioncenterexpansion.com/Portals/0/Final%20AECOM%20Report%2011-15-2010.pdf Page 21 gets at the limited number of weeks that are involved. Page 24 and 25 get at the reasons. Honestly, poor methodology since "lack of space" and "bad dates" actually overlap as reasons. They should have tested both and made sure that this lost business for "lack of space" wasn't a function of "lack of ALL the space" because of double booking. Page 28 also gets at this. Frankly I am confused how you read the AECOM study and reach the conclusions which you are. It seems on its face to say building across the street is a poor choice compared to building on the side.

Cory Briggs
Cory Briggs subscribermember

Erik: What was explained to you is not what AECOM--the people paid by the city and the port to justify the expansion--reported. Only one event needs contiguity; a whopping 98% did not say they need it. So the 2% tail is wagging the 98% dog. I have zero doubt that you have been told a number of things to justify the expansion. I have every doubt that on the whole what you were told is inaccurate.

Augmented Ballot
Augmented Ballot

Going from VoSD reporting, the project was reported to be $1B, then $750M, then $700M, then $550M, finally $520M. I think those are all construction costs, but can't say for sure. The reporting indicates that the size was reduced and, I believe, the pedestrian bridge at 4th Ave eliminated. (The bridge is relevant but accounts for $45M only, IIRC.) If the difference was smaller, I'd find some reduced size and other cost savings a reasonable explanation. That may still be all there is to it, but at -30% or more it seems worth understanding in a little more detail. Breaking Down a Billion-Dollar Expansionhttp://voiceofsandiego.org/2009/09/11/breaking-down-a-billion-dollar-expansion-2/Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009 | Last September, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders stood next to a representative from Comic-Con at a press conference dressed in a suit and tie, as the mayor usually does for such occasions. Given the crusade Sanders was about ...How Much Is an Expanded Convention Center Worth?http://voiceofsandiego.org/2011/01/23/how-much-is-an-expanded-convention-center-worth/Seventeen months ago, this was the big question facing a possible expansion of San Diego's Convention Center: Who is going to pay for it? Seventeen months later, the question remains just as unanswered as it did then. But now there's a new twist.

Augmented Ballot
Augmented Ballot subscriber

Going from VoSD reporting, the project was reported to be $1B, then $750M, then $700M, then $550M, finally $520M. I think those are all construction costs, but can't say for sure. The reporting indicates that the size was reduced and, I believe, the pedestrian bridge at 4th Ave eliminated. (The bridge is relevant but accounts for $45M only, IIRC.) If the difference was smaller, I'd find some reduced size and other cost savings a reasonable explanation. That may still be all there is to it, but at -30% or more it seems worth understanding in a little more detail. Breaking Down a Billion-Dollar Expansionhttp://voiceofsandiego.org/2009/09/11/breaking-down-a-billion-dollar-expansion-2/Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009 | Last September, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders stood next to a representative from Comic-Con at a press conference dressed in a suit and tie, as the mayor usually does for such occasions. Given the crusade Sanders was about ...How Much Is an Expanded Convention Center Worth?http://voiceofsandiego.org/2011/01/23/how-much-is-an-expanded-convention-center-worth/Seventeen months ago, this was the big question facing a possible expansion of San Diego's Convention Center: Who is going to pay for it? Seventeen months later, the question remains just as unanswered as it did then. But now there's a new twist.

Joshua Brant
Joshua Brant

By saying "not that many" you are agreeing that it happens. So back to your thought process point B, I don't accept your statement that "you definitely can't 'double book' successfully and, absent a few, no meeting planner is going to want to try to want to try to make these work" As of now I'm thinking it's an option until someone unlike myself or yourself that actually knows the answer to that question tells me otherwise.

Cory Briggs
Cory Briggs

Joshua: The hotels would not have to kick in any additional money if there's a shortfall; all they do is collect taxes from guests and send it to the city, and the hotels are under no obligation to ensure that the city and port receive a minimum revenue for the expansion. Being public agencies, the port and the city would have to come up with the money--that is to say, with TAXPAYER money--in the event of a shortfall.

Cory Briggs
Cory Briggs

A) I think the relevant question is whether the reasonably anticipated foreseeable needs are BETTER served by a contiguous or non-contiguous expansion. But that question cannot be answered until both have been given thorough scrutiny. B) Your question's close to hitting the point but not quite there. AECOM did not explicitly ask how many additional events would NOT COME in the case of a non-contiguous expansion, so we have to draw inferences from the responses in the report. The responses identify only one of 50 additional events that needs a contiguous expansion. The best evidence we have so far--i.e., there might be better evidence but the city and port didn't seek it--is that 49 of 50 future events didn't regard contiguity as a big-enough issue to mention it when surveyed. C) Right now, taxpayers will have to make up 100% of any shortfall because there is not one dollar of committed private funding in the current plan. The taxpayers bear all of the risk.

Cory Briggs
Cory Briggs

Erik: I reached my conclusions based on the reasons offered in the AECOM report and the conclusions that the contiguous-expansion boosters are using it to support. The report does not provide substantial support for the claim that a contiguous expansion is needed when only 2% of the additional events claim to need contiguous facilities. I agree that the methodology was crappy. That's part of the problem. But the report was written to justify a pre-ordained conclusion, and even then it doesn't do a very good job of that. I think you and I agree about the infirmities in the report for the most part.

Joshua Brant
Joshua Brant subscriber

By saying "not that many" you are agreeing that it happens. So back to your thought process point B, I don't accept your statement that "you definitely can't 'double book' successfully and, absent a few, no meeting planner is going to want to try to want to try to make these work" As of now I'm thinking it's an option until someone unlike myself or yourself that actually knows the answer to that question tells me otherwise.

Cory Briggs
Cory Briggs subscribermember

Joshua: The hotels would not have to kick in any additional money if there's a shortfall; all they do is collect taxes from guests and send it to the city, and the hotels are under no obligation to ensure that the city and port receive a minimum revenue for the expansion. Being public agencies, the port and the city would have to come up with the money--that is to say, with TAXPAYER money--in the event of a shortfall.

Cory Briggs
Cory Briggs subscribermember

A) I think the relevant question is whether the reasonably anticipated foreseeable needs are BETTER served by a contiguous or non-contiguous expansion. But that question cannot be answered until both have been given thorough scrutiny. B) Your question's close to hitting the point but not quite there. AECOM did not explicitly ask how many additional events would NOT COME in the case of a non-contiguous expansion, so we have to draw inferences from the responses in the report. The responses identify only one of 50 additional events that needs a contiguous expansion. The best evidence we have so far--i.e., there might be better evidence but the city and port didn't seek it--is that 49 of 50 future events didn't regard contiguity as a big-enough issue to mention it when surveyed. C) Right now, taxpayers will have to make up 100% of any shortfall because there is not one dollar of committed private funding in the current plan. The taxpayers bear all of the risk.

Cory Briggs
Cory Briggs subscribermember

Erik: I reached my conclusions based on the reasons offered in the AECOM report and the conclusions that the contiguous-expansion boosters are using it to support. The report does not provide substantial support for the claim that a contiguous expansion is needed when only 2% of the additional events claim to need contiguous facilities. I agree that the methodology was crappy. That's part of the problem. But the report was written to justify a pre-ordained conclusion, and even then it doesn't do a very good job of that. I think you and I agree about the infirmities in the report for the most part.