Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009 | Last September, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders stood next to a representative from Comic-Con at a press conference dressed in a suit and tie, as the mayor usually does for such occasions. Given the crusade Sanders was about to undertake, a cape would have been appropriate.
Sanders’ charge was one that even a superhero might have found difficult: to make a case for spending up to $1 billion to expand a Convention Center at a time of national economic recession and severe city budget deficits.
After a speech in which he called the Convention Center, “the goose that lays the golden eggs,” Sanders turned the press conference over to Comic-Con, one such egg. A Comic-Con representative warned that without an expansion one of the world’s largest pop culture extravaganzas could take its $62.5 million a year contribution to San Diego’s economy elsewhere after 2012.
Four months later, Sanders appointed a 17-member task force to examine the demand from groups like Comic-Con for more space in the city’s Convention Center, and evaluate how the city might pay for it.
With The Mayor’s Citizen Task Force On The San Diego Convention Center Project scheduled to produce a recommendation at a Monday meeting, it’s time for a primer on the project and an update on where the city stands.
Questions about the expansion’s impact on waterfront access, environmental concerns and even whether the city should prioritize boosting the visitor and tourism industry are all relevant. But I’m going to focus on the two issues on which the debate has centered: demand for an expanded center and how the city would finance it.