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San Diego Comic-Con International 2018 / Photo by Kinsee Morlan

Before Comic-Con’s organizers officially canceled this year’s event they sought – and received – concessions from local hoteliers and tourism officials

As the festival’s organizers tried to decide whether to cancel, they reached out to local hotels and the Convention Center to try to get cancellation fees waived. In most cases, their request was granted. The Convention Center waived a $173,000 cancellation fee. Many hotels also agreed to waive cancellation fees, but also asked for extensions to their contracts with Comic-Con. 

As Ashly McGlone reports, “The discussions offer a behind-the-scenes look at the wrangling over logistics and financial concessions tourism authorities sought from hotels as they juggled public health concerns and appeasing the leaders of one of San Diego’s biggest tourism draws.”

Comic-Con secured at least 14,000 rooms for this year’s convention, which was set to take place in July.

Organizers decided to cancel the festival more than a month after health officials declared a global pandemic and after the Padres season had already been indefinitely put on hold. Organizers said the timing of their decision was not related to their requests for concessions from local hotels and the Convention Center. 

Beaches Will Be Open for Sitting on June 2

In talking about tightening and loosening the coronavirus lockdown, officials have continually referred to the metaphor of a dial. They are in the process, they say, of gradually undoing the many social isolation practices that have been put into place. 

The next spot on the dial? Beach sitting. 

For several weeks now San Diego beaches have been open for walking and surfing, but sitting and sunbathing have been strictly verboten. On Tuesday June 2, that ban will be lifted, public health officials announced Thursday.

Historic Day for SDSU, the City and Mission Valley

On Friday the San Diego City Council will consider the full purchase and sale agreement to transfer Mission Valley stadium land to San Diego State University. To construct his proposed city budget for the coming year, Mayor Kevin Faulconer assumed the sale would be complete by July. He is counting on the money from the sale plus the relief from maintaining the old stadium to make ends meet next year. 

But last week, City Attorney Mara Elliott and her deputies warned that the city could face dire consequences if it did not get a more favorable arrangement to accommodate its long-term wastewater infrastructure needs on the site. The city plans to get 30 percent of its water from wastewater recycling – the Pure Water project. But city officials say land in Mission Valley is crucial to that, and SDSU was not allowing enough flexibility for the city to pull it off. 

This led to a marathon negotiation session Wednesday. 

Finally, Wednesday night, Jack McGrory, the former city manager who led the ballot initiative to enable the land transfer and then became a member of the Board of Trustees of the California State University system and a lead negotiator on the actual deal, broke news that there was a breakthrough. 

Elliott confirmed it Thursday. “These protections will safeguard important City projects, like Pure Water, ensure public access to the River Park, minimize our exposure to liability, and prevent avoidable increases in residents’ water and sewer bills,” she wrote on Twitter. She said the negotiations were absolutely necessary, a subtle jab at Councilwoman Barbara Bry who had accused Elliott of trying to scuttle the entire deal with “ridiculous” demands. 

Councilman Mark Kersey said he had gotten a briefing on the compromise and was ready to support it. 

The deal and late compromise will need more hearings, but support from the Council Friday will mark the start of the transfer of the land to SDSU and an end to 17 years of uncertainty about the future of the land since the Chargers began agitating for a new stadium. 

And the Justices Said, Stop Charging for Police Footage

Score one for transparency. In a major ruling Thursday, the California Supreme Court concluded that governments cannot charge the public to prepare police body camera footage for release.  

State laws says the public is responsible for paying costs associated with “data compilation, extraction, or programming.” But the justices determined that none of those things apply when a public agency needs to edit out sensitive parts of police body camera footage.

The case comes out of Hayward, a city in Alameda County.

Since the passage of SB 1421, a major police transparency bill went into effect last year, public agencies have tried charging exorbitant fees on body camera footage. In some cases, they’ve effectively stopped footage from being released.

The Sheriff’s Department sent us a bill for $246,759. KPBS got one for $354,524. After the figures went public, the sheriff backed down.

Getting body camera footage has never been easy. Only in very narrow circumstances can the public get a copy. Instead, the footage has primarily benefited police departments and prosecutors to gather more evidence for criminal cases. 

In Other News

  • Bill Powers, a clean energy advocate, argues that if San Diego is gonna reach its goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2035 it’s gonna need to defend its right to local solar
  • Eighteen months after accepting applications, Chula Vista has not awarded a single pot shop license. City Councilman Steve Padilla vowed to ask “tough questions” of staff in the future and made a cryptic remark at this week’s meeting: “I’m aware of what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s just not something that’s tolerable.” (Union-Tribune) 
  • La Mesa police are reviewing a video that shows the rough arrest of a black man at a trolley station. The man said he was just waiting for a friend. “I’m black as fuck out here,” he added. “That’s what the issue is. It’s all good. I get it.” (NBC San Diego)
  • A San Diego federal judge declined to release more medically vulnerable ICE detainees, citing improved conditions at Otay Mesa Detention Center, where COVID-19 has spread rapidly. (Union-Tribune) 

The Morning Report was written by Will Huntsberry and Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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