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The San Diego Convention Center / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

This week, Voice of San Diego is examining so-called San Diego Specials – a term coined by now-Mayor Todd Gloria to refer to long-running civic conundrums that have festered without resolution as a result of a lack of leadership and vision. Often, these are relatively small-scale challenges that other cities (or even other San Diego communities) have long since solved.

Apart from this series, we’re taking the week to reset and work on long-term projects. The Morning Report will resume its normal form next week.


The long and winding drama that has been the effort to expand the Convention Center has some of the classic hallmarks of a San Diego Special: a task force, end-arounds at a solution that fell short or were undone by the courts, the ability to outlast multiple mayors.

And then there was a twist that no one saw coming: As the pandemic raged, the venue synonymous with San Diego tourism became … a homeless shelter.

There are quite a few reasons the effort to expand the Convention Center has dragged on so many years, and taken so many turns, but one stands above the rest: “There are fundamental laws and policies in place in California that make it hard to build projects like this. Two-thirds of the vote is an extremely difficult threshold for a campaign to reach,” Lewis writes.

The latest effort to expand the facility – a ballot measure that also includes funding for homeless services and road repairs – is still alive (a San Diego Special is nothing if not drawn out). And yet “any certainty they can even start construction is likely two years and several unpredictable court battles away.”

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