The upcoming vote of the California Coastal Commission Thursday has thrust the Phase III expansion of the convention center back into the news. While most of the coverage has been fair and accurate, some has focused on a few erroneous claims made by critics (or skeptics) of the expansion.
The current project has evolved since 2009 when then-Mayor Jerry Sanders created a task force to evaluate the market demand for an expanded facility. The task force assessed the feasibility and financing possibilities while conducting widespread outreach through public meetings in every council district. Since then, there have been dozens of public meetings on the project with a wide array of community groups, civic organizations, the general public, the port and the city of San Diego. Because of these meetings, the project itself has improved.
Two websites, one for the Mayor’s Citizens Task Force and the other for the current convention center expansion, contain hundreds of public documents available for anybody to access and review. But regardless of all this public information, questions remain and claims have been made, so I would like to tackle a few of the larger ones that have recently resurfaced.
Claim: The plan underestimates the true cost by more than $35 million, leaving taxpayers on the hook.
When the building opens, it is expected to generate an additional $13 million in tax revenues to the city along with 7,000 permanent new jobs. Even with the $3.5-million contribution from the city of San Diego’s general fund to help pay for the expansion, the city will still receive a minimum of $9.5 million in new tax revenues to fund city services annually. Opponents of the financing plan have made a number of claims that are way off base.