Image: FalseStatement: The Unified Port of San Diego had the Convention Center’s expansion site “appraised at $4.7 million for its current use as a parking lot,” Union-Tribune reporter Craig Gustafson reported last Wednesday.

Determination: False

Analysis: In fact, the appraisal was based on the site’s approved use for a 250-room hotel. Had it been appraised as a parking lot like Gustafson reported, the estimate likely would have been lower than $4.7 million.

How much the expansion site is actually worth was a sticking point between port and Convention Center officials. The Convention Center took hold of the land after the port approved the buyout of a private developer’s lease for $13.5 million, raising questions whether the city-run nonprofit signed into a bad deal.

In our story about the appraisal, reporter Liam Dillon noted that the port district’s appraisal relied on the property’s current approved use — a 250-room hotel.

We posted the port’s entire appraisal here, and we’ll highlight this excerpt about its scope:

The Port of San Diego master plan indicates a 250-room hotel in the shape of a spinnaker sail can be built on parcel one. We have assumed that the hotel will be furnished and have service levels consistent with a four star hotel, which is in line with the most recent draft memorandum for the site provided by the client.

We also asked port spokesman John Gilmore to double-check the appraisal’s scope. “The Voice was accurate,” he said. “It was based on a 250-room hotel.”

In an e-mail, Gustafson acknowledged the appraisal was based on the hotel, but said he wanted to convey how the site currently looks.

“I was just trying to give readers a picture of what’s there now and what the site has been appraised at,” Gustafson wrote. “The line in my story is accurate, but it doesn’t give the entire picture and, in retrospect, could have been stated better.”

Friday morning on KPBS’ Editor’s Roundtable, Kent Davy, the North County Times’ editor, continued the error. “The appraisal was done based on its use, I believe, as parking structure area,” he said.

For the record, no, it wasn’t.

Update: We’ve clarified our story about the appraisal to clearly indicate that the expansion site has a hotel planned there. The original implied one was there currently.

Update No. 2: The Union-Tribune has since updated its story to add a clarification about the appraisal’s scope. It now reads: “The property has been appraised at $4.7 million for its current use as a parking lot with future approved use as a hotel.”


Summer Polacek was formerly the Development Manager at Voice of San Diego.

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