If the mayor wants to build a Convention Center expansion along the waterfront, he’ll have to do it without a new 1,600-room hotel across the street that was supposed to serve as cash cow for the project.

That’s the word from JMI Realty, co-owner of a parcel of property eyed for a new high-rise hotel in San Diego’s East Village near Petco Park.

Officials with the real estate company – part of former Padres owner John Moores’ family of businesses – said in a statement Wednesday they support expanding the Convention Center but have long opposed the coastal site, citing the loss of public access and views.

Instead, they favor a city-owned property known as Tailgate Park a half-mile away. A JMI hotel between the two convention buildings would have provided an aerial footbridge connection, sorely needed hotel rooms and additional meeting space inside.

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Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other public officials doubled down on plans for a coastal expansion last week following a new consultant’s report that compared the two locations. Faulconer announced he would ask voters to approve an increase the city’s hotel room tax in order to pay for the $549 million expansion.

The addition of 1,600 hotel rooms would have helped finance the project and would have boosted the inventory of discounted hotel rooms offered to convention attendees – an issue that’s been a sticking point for big conventions like Comic-Con in recent years.

Though the study, conducted by Conventions, Sports & Leisure International, favored the coastal expansion, its authors said, “The potential headquarter hotel development discussed for the site near Petco Park would be important in order for added SDCC space, under any development option, to achieve market potential.”

The hope was that JMI would still build the hotel on what may be the closest undeveloped parcel in the area. The company has also been fielding offers for condo development on the property, but hasn’t announced a deal. Now that JMI has nixed the hotel, officials will need to come up with another option.

Here is the full JMI Realty statement:

Recent discussions have caused JMIRealty to carefully reassess the prospect of a bay front convention center expansion. We have determined that, as a matter of policy, any expansion that further walls off the bay front is not in the best interest of the City or its residents.

San Diego’s downtown success is inherently connected to its bay front. Time, money and thought have been invested in an effort to balance the residential, tourist and business experiences.

A bay front expansion would abandon these substantial and well-planned investments, unnecessarily compromise public access, diminish the quality of life for San Diego residents, and, ironically, fail to take advantage of our most unique and marketable assets as a convention destination.

JMIRealty will not support or participate in any development that further walls off bay front access.

John Kratzer


JMI Realty supports expanding the Convention Center, but not along the bay front.

    This article relates to: Convention Center, Land Use, Must Reads

    Written by Ashly McGlone

    Ashly is an investigative reporter for Voice of San Diego. She can be reached at ashly.mcglone@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5669.

    SDResident subscriber

    Why is there a need for an aerial footbridge when the city spent $26 million for the foot bridge from the Hilton over the RR tracks?

    Ashly McGlone
    Ashly McGlone

    @SDResident The one proposed would have extended the existing one through the hotel and on to the Tailgate Park campus.

    Matty Azure
    Matty Azure subscriber

    Hey, how 'bout them Padres!?


    J. Moores

    La Playa Heritage
    La Playa Heritage subscribermember

    Inland Oversight Committee v. Greater Ontario Tourism Marketing District (GOTMD). Filed 09/09/2015 was Dismissed.

    "IOC's Notice of Appeal was untimely filed on November 7, 2013, more than 30 days after the Judgement was entered on October 3, 2013."


    Good news that the GOTMD Case is isolated and no longer has State-wide Precedent power for TMD. Hopefully there will be another chance to stop the Illegal collecting of hotel taxes without a public vote.

    David Lundin
    David Lundin

    The Real Estate & Hotel Moguls have formed the circular firing squad.

    With luck, this will prevent further waste of public funds and precious public Bayfront property on an unneeded Convention Center expansion to be financed by taxpayer funds.

    Cory Briggs
    Cory Briggs subscribermember

    It's a bad day for San Diego's hoteliers, the mayor, and the convention center, and a very good day for the public. I never thought I'd see the day when one of their own -- a hotel developer and operator -- stands up and says that the emperor has no clothes. What's even more amazing is that JMI's statement is not based on pragmatism. It's based on principle and public interest (even if also based on profit motive). Now I have to publicly eat a little crow: I was wrong; not every hotelier in town is a dirtbag. 

    The double-wammy today for the hoteliers is that they wasted tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars fighting one of my client's lawsuits in the Riverside appellate court and lost. That client sued over a tourism marketing district in Ontario and Rancho Cucamonga. The cities argued that the appellate court lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal. The hoteliers filed a friend-of-the-court brief and argued that voters and taxpayers couldn't sue to challenge a TMD's constitutionality. This was a proxy fight because that very issue is what's at the heart of one of my other client's lawsuits challenging San Diego's TMD. The appellate court issued a tentative ruling that said it had jurisdiction and then went on to hold that voters and taxpayers could not sue over a TMD's constitutionality, basically adopting every argument that the San Diego hoteliers made. What's more, the court said that the ruling would be given statewide-precedent status. The hoteliers were so happy that their consultants were issuing press releases bragging about the tentative ruling, and they had their lawyers telling the judge in the San Diego case that he would surely have to dismiss it once the tentative ruling became a final statewide precedent. Well, the court heard arguments last month and issued its final ruling today. Not only did the court rescind the statewide-precedent status of its ruling, but it refused to consider any of the hoteliers' arguments and agreed with the cities that there was no appellate jurisdiction. Someone should ask the hoteliers how much money they spent for that wasted effort, and should ask how paying lawyers to fight lawsuits outside San Diego increases the number of tourists who come to San Diego.

    But it's actually hat-trick Wednesday for those of us who believe the hoteliers are out of control. Today citizen activist George Mullen launched a new website called www[dot]hoteliercabal[dot]com.  Apparently he's also had enough of their "carpet bombing" and has decided to do something about it.

    I wonder whether the tide's finally beginning to turn back toward what's good for the public overall rather than what's good for a handful of greedy hoteliers. Maybe enough people are ready to come together to do something good for the city as a whole. Time will tell....

    Joe Jones
    Joe Jones subscriber

    @Cory Briggs C'mon, Corey, you're a smart guy. JMI killed the hotel because, under the bay front plan, it wouldn't be the coveted prime link between the two halves of the expanded Center. If JMI owned the land between the proposed two bay front halves of the Center it'd be all systems go.

    The "public good" is a nice angle, and suits your position, so run with it. But don't expect us to nominate JMI for Corporate Citizen of the Century.

    David Uter
    David Uter

    @Joe Jones @Cory Briggs Briggs a smart guy? Have you seen his cv? I'd limit his intelligence to finding a legal means to extort money from San Diego tax payers. If there was more money in ambulance chasing, that's what he'd be doing. 

    Ron Rudolph
    Ron Rudolph subscriber

    Oh please, as much as I respect the JMI Group, this has nothing to do with Coastal Access, but has everything to do with the use and development of their property at Tailgate Park.  Many studies have shown that the Expansion needs to be contiguous and any one in the business understands why.

    Rick Smith
    Rick Smith subscriber

    @Ron Rudolph I concur.  Although the design studies for the expansion have been preliminary, they block off the bay no more than the existing CC does.

    Cory Briggs
    Cory Briggs subscribermember

    @Rick Smith @Ron Rudolph That's simply false, though perhaps you and I have been looking at different design studies. 

    Existing public space would literally be taken up by a huge building. You can review the drawings given to the Coastal Commission if you want to see how much public space on the waterfront will go away. That's why the convention center was offering to build a park on the roof -- to make up for the lost park on the waterfront.

    Cory Briggs
    Cory Briggs subscribermember

    @Rick Smith @Ron Rudolph Go to http://www[dot]conventioncenterexpansion[dot]com/portals/0/SDCCE_FloorPlans_Brochure2013[dot]pdf. Look at the first page of that document. Everything under the roof on the park and the green roof space area below is now open to the public. Some of what's under the roof on the park is parking and street access and walkways. But the ground level beneath the green roof space is mostly open park space.

    Ron Rudolph
    Ron Rudolph subscriber

    @Cory Briggs @Rick Smith @Ron Rudolph Cory, that is not correct.  Most of the Green Roof space and pedestrian ramp to the rooftop park occurs over the existing loading dock and staging area on Convention Way.  Without looking at the cross section of the existing structure and the Expansion, one cannot fully appreciate the spatial relationship with the existing Center and what you describe as Public Space, which in reality is currently a roadway and parking lot.  The Expansion relocates the roadway and creates a new wharf that is pedestrian friendly as well as provides retail opportunities that don't presently exist.  It completes the public space and fills the void that presently exists between Seaport Village and the Hilton Hotel.  It in fact opens more of the Bay to public interaction.  I would suggest that everyone look at all the documents, not just a few floor plans to determine for themselves what remains accessible to the public.  I think they will be pleasantly surprised, especially the elevated view of the Bay from the Rooftop Park.