San Diego now controls the land it needs for a proposed $753 million Convention Center expansion after the Unified Port of San Diego approved a $13.5 million lease transfer between a private developer and the San Diego Convention Center Corp.

After five months of protracted negotiations, the completed deal addresses numerous contingency plans should the expansion go forward or not. We wrote about the deal’s terms earlier today.

At a press conference after the vote, city, Convention Center and port district officials all extolled the financial benefits that an expanded center would bring. The argument is that the city can’t book larger conventions and could lose ones it already has — like the wildly popular Comic-Con — unless an expansion happens.

“When we miss out on these conventions we miss out on hotel tax dollars they bring plus the spending and sales tax in our restaurants and shops and business services,” San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders said at a press conference following the port district’s decision.

But this step, like the task force that recommended expansion in August, did not address the elephant in the room: How the city will pay.

Plans for financing come next, Sanders said, along with preparations for the expansion’s approval at the Coastal Commission.

At the press conference, Sanders also addressed the discrepancy between the port district’s $4.7 million appraisal of the property and the $13.5 million the Convention Center Corp. has agreed to pay. (We wrote about that issue on Friday.)

Sanders said the land is going to be used for a different purpose than what the port’s appraisal envisioned, changing the land’s value.

“First of all I’m not an expert in this, but I’m going to try to answer that,” Sanders said. “It’s $4.7 (million) if you’re going to use some uses. But to expand the Convention Center, and the only way you can expand the Convention Center, obviously it becomes more valuable. That’s what we took into account as the Convention Center made the deal to do this.”

Port commissioners voted 6-0 to approve the deal with Commissioner Stephen Padilla, a Chula Vista appointee, absent.

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I’ve been asked to post the port district’s appraisal that I mentioned above and in my blog post on Friday. I would have posted it then, but didn’t have an electronic copy. Here it is.

— LIAM DILLON

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