City Council ponders next move for San Diego Convention Center expansion

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SAN DIEGO — The future of the San Diego Convention Center and plans for expansion remain up in the air.

In a closed session Thursday, the City Council made no move on whether there will be an appeal following last week’s state court ruling that a levy on hotel guests to help pay for the half-billion dollar expansion is unconstitutional.

convention_center wings“That’s really what was starting to be discussed – and we really can’t discuss a closed session. The only deal was a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on an appeal. We decided let’s get some more information and decide where we’re going to go from there,” said Councilman Scott Sherman.

Supporters of the expansion argue its critical for the local economy to keep big events, like Comic-Con, coming to San Diego. But not everyone’s convinced.

“It’s completely irresponsible to spend more taxpayer dollars on outside attorneys defending the expansion – dollars that should be spent on our crumbling infrastructure,” said Richard Ross during public comment before the council’s closed session.

San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Jerry Sanders called the ruling on the hotel tax ‘a huge blow’ to expansion and believes finding a solution will be difficult.

“Whether it goes to the ballot, different financing method — whatever the mayor comes up with, we’ll be behind him to get that done,” said Sanders.

Sherman said he supports the idea of any tax going to the voters.

“I think the mood for a convention center and making that happen is definitely there. How is it funded? Where does the money come from? How does it get built? Those are the questions that need to be dealt with,” said Sherman.


City Council voted unanimously Thursday to approve a tax incentive to give financial incentives to city employees who bring money-saving ideas to the mayor’s office and to support the city’s bid for the America’s Cup yacht race, while two items slated for a special closed-session meeting remain unresolved.

The council voted 7-0 to approve a 10-year, $1.5-million deal with medical device-maker Illumina to provide tax incentives in exchange for keeping around 300 manufacturing and sales jobs in the city. The agreement unanimously was approved July 21, but required a second vote today.

Thursday’s vote ensures that Illumina, which leases a half-dozen buildings in San Diego totaling about 560,000 square feet, and has more than 1,000 employees, will stay in San Diego at least another 10 years. The company, which makes devices for genetic analysis, was recently named the “Smartest Company in the World” by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Illumina also has manufacturing facilities in Hayward and Singapore and was considering expanding elsewhere, including to nearby Poway and to Memphis, Tennessee, according to the mayor.

The council also voted 7-0 to approve an agreement with the city’s labor unions that will implement a financial incentive initiative for employees who bring money-saving ideas to the mayor’s office.

All seven council members spoke on how important it was to create “managed competition” and give city employees incentive to suggest ideas that would save the city money and resources.

Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said it’s important to “reward their ideas” and Councilwoman Myrtle Cole said “it’s always a positive step to work with our employees.” Councilman David Alvarez said employees are happier when they are given incentive rather than being threatened.

The council also voted 7-0 to approve a resolution in support of hosting the 35th America’s Cup yacht races in San Diego Bay in 2017. San Diego was one of two city’s named as finalists in July, along with Bermuda, to host the America’s Cup, the most prestigious event in yacht racing that has not been held in San Diego since 1995.

“San Diego already has the infrastructure in place for the America’s Cup, and we know what it takes to host this event,” Councilman Ed Harris said. “This breathtaking spectator sport would be a boost to our economy, and we could once again showcase `America’s Finest City’ to the world.”

The council began Thursday’s open session by announcing there was no final decision on any of the four items discussed in their special closed-session meeting, including the legal case regarding the future of the San Diego Convention Center and a legal settlement with a victim in the case of San Diego police Officer Anthony Arevalos, who was convicted of soliciting sexual favors from women during traffic stops.

Also last week, lawyers for the various sides approved a settlement with a woman who testified that former Officer Anthony Arevalos led her into a convenience store restroom after a traffic stop in March 2011 and demanded that she give him her panties and display her breasts. He also placed his finger in her vaginal area, she said.

The woman, identified only as “Jane Doe,” sued both the city and the officer, who was imprisoned on various sex-related charges.

The City Council has approved about a dozen settlements with women connected to the Arevalos case.


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