On Dec. 8, Ray Carpenter and Art Engel visited the Board of Directors of the San Diego Convention Center Corporation to show off a plan that would finally, clearly, officially and totally kill that board’s decade-long push for an expansion at its current location.
It was the latest chapter in a long drama between the pair of businessmen, the Convention Center’s leaders and the Port of San Diego.
Somehow, some of those leaders believe an expansion could still happen. Maybe a government agency could derail Carpenter and Engel, who were presenting an attractive plan for a large hotel that day.
The Convention Center expansion might be smaller than was dreamt up a few years ago. And maybe the government could just take Carpenter and Engel’s land even while it encourages them to build the hotel.
It’s not really their land. Carpenter and Engel own the lease at Fifth Avenue Landing. It is a golden ticket. The land is coveted and valuable. It will be a major hotel in perhaps the most advantageous place possible.
It would not be the only fortune made on Port land. The partners said their time has come.
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The latest article I read said that FAL plans to go to the port asking for a 66 year lease extension once the get the required permits from the city. They are charging in their suit that the mayor and the convention center corporation are stalling the issuance of those permits because they need the property to expand the convention center on. So unless FAL gets those permits, no lease extension. Wonder how much money it would take the city to buy them out of their lease again? A whole lot I bet. Wonder where Faulconer would get the money to do that? From the taxpayers? I suspect the voters will reject his center expansion tax increase ballot measure.
The existing convention center could be expanded, possibly tripling or quadrupling its floor space, by simply building a deck from the center outward, over Harbor Drive and the train tracks. Street and rail traffic would flow as they now do, but the deck could be built several stories tall, impairing the view of the stadium only slightly (and who would care; nobody in the Stadium looks out at the Bay, and nobody on the water worries about the curving wall of the Stadium). This would also allow the train tracks to be bridged for pedestrian flow, eliminating the game-day crossing of the rail line by pedestrians at surface level. This would not affect the water-side footprint and wouldn't need any coordination with that leased piece of land.
Let Carpenter and Engel build their hotel. I ride my bike on the Embarcadero all the time and any blockage of the waterfront will be minimal. From your illustration of the proposed project, it seems to me it is being built on the vacant lot in front of the Coronado Ferry Landing. Time to move on and put this whole issue to rest. And by the way what do you mean by "the city’s sometimes dysfunctional politics"??? It is eternally dysfunctional.
Scott, you say “Carpenter has leased it since 1980”. You then quote extensively from this lease. Assuming that you have a copy could you please provide a Dropbox link, as you did with the hotel plans. It appears from my research that this lease was never recorded in the County Recorder’s Office. You can clear this matter up by either providing a copy of the unrecorded lease for the public to read in full or by providing the document number at the County Recorder.
@Pat Flannery where did I quote extensively from the lease? I have a copy of the amended, restated and combined lease to the Convention Center Corp when Carpenter and Engel sold it to the CCC. Document No. 56486 with the Unified Port District Clerk.
@Scott Lewis The purpose of a County Recorder is to "give notice to the world". A document once filed there cannot be changed. By filing a document in its own INTERNAL Clerk's Office the Unified Port District frustrates the purpose of the County Recorder. It is like the Voice of San Diego filing its lease with its landlord in its own filing cabinet (not that I don't trust you guys) and giving it a "Document Number".
@Scott Lewis Your report is based on a copy of a fraudulent Carpenter and Engel lease that was created at the same time as it was "sold" to CCC on April 6, 2010. There never was a prior lease!
The Port and Carpenter got away with it because nobody in the media asked to see that prior lease. And you are now compounding it by quoting from a fraudulent lease without looking at what it "amended, restated and combined", when there was nothing to "amend, restate or combine".
I pointed all this out in advance of the April 6, 2010 Port meeting but nobody listened. http://www.blogofsandiego.com/Waterfront.htm#04/05/10
I don't get it. If an expanded convention center "walls off" the bay from the public, why doesn't a big hotel? What will Briggs and crew do about this development?
@Bill Bradshaw Well, there are several elements of the hotel plan that include public access, ground-level retail and it's just not a big building. See the plans (page 6 here): https://www.dropbox.com/s/e66e6msxt77zgt2/Downtown Partnership - FAL Power Point - 2016-10-18.pptx?dl=0
I don't know either way. Just pointing out the argument.
I wonder if there's any room for compromise here? Sure looks like a new vision is possible. This comment explaining their objection to a new expansion plus hotel plan: "They think it’s a clever way to further delay their own hotel until their lease ends".
Do they think it's just a tactic, that's temporary in nature, and that once they're out of the way the forces in favor of convention center expansion would revert back to the original plan? Do they not believe that this new alternative has any merit?
Wouldn't such a hotel be even more lucrative for them, financially, if it were attached to an expanded convention center? Wouldn't they have incentives to see both goals progress forward? They've got leverage with their near-decade's worth of lease time, and the urgent need to expand the convention center. And presumably this new expansion could in theory be less disruptive of the existing convention center's ongoing status? Couldn't it be built without having to shut down major parts of the current center, which is one of the ongoing concerns of the current proposal?
Some key points to keep in mind:
Carpenter and Engel do not own any of this land. These are public tidelands owned by the state of California. The port district does not own the land, but is charged by the state with managing it for the benefit of the public, not the district or any individual leasees. The port should buy out Carpenter and Engel's lease or allow it to expire with no further action. It is too late for the current leaseholders to invest in a new hotel, given the short duration of the lease.
The port has not done any recent studies on hotel saturation on the bayfront. With all the other hotels going up on downtown land controlled by Civic San Diego, hotels are having to offer discounts to fill their rooms. With dozen of additional hotels on the drawing boards, we're likely to hit a tipping point where any new hotels cannot be profitable, even ones built on port tidelands. The existing property is already being used in a manner that limits public access to the bay, and the port should not support any new proposals that would further limit public access to our downtown waterfront. Despite signing off on some initial principles at the beginning of what is supposed to be a comprehensive planning process leading to a proposed comprehensive update of the port master plan, the port district appears committed to just building as many hotels on the property it controls, regardless of economic impacts and loss of public access to our bay. Carpenter and Engel have already made a fortune off their port leases, they don't need anymore.
@Don Wood Don, the status of the land could not be more clear in my story: "The state of California owns the land, and the Port of San Diego is the landlord. Carpenter has leased it since 1980, when he ran marine construction and dredging operations. Engel is his business partner."
@Scott Lewis @Don Wood Scott, I don't think Don was trying to say you didn't report this fact. I think he's asking about it because it's a huge detail that is being given relatively little attention: This is public land! This seems to be much more significant than the potential plans of the current lessees.
Why haven't the City and the Port worked together on this? Clearly they aren't on the same page when it comes to managing this public land. Has the Port commission even taken a position?
@Don Wood The story implies that the current lease includes a clause that if the hotel is built the lease is extended for another 66 years. Not sure what the extension terms are but the TOT going to the City would be huge. Seems to me the City, Port & Convention Center have had years to get their stuff together...and failed. We should give these guys a shot, their track record is certainly superior to the Government.
No disrespect of your reporting Scott. VOSD has done a better job of impartially reporting on this story than the cheerleaders at the UT.
The port commission can't take a position on this because their lease with FAL ties their hands, at least until the lease runs out.
So much "competence", from the Mayor, to the Port Commission, to their advisors and lawyers. All to potentially "LINE" pockets (directly through political contributions or other indirect benefits within the realm of legality), on some long term expectations, on the backs of San Diego Taxpayers.
Incompetence would be another reason for the fiascos, though politicians who do NOT slither in to their elected positions with a cover of slime, are rare.
And by the way; Where is the San Diego Taxpayer Association in all these matters? Covered in so much slime they just can't see that far?
@Chris Brewster I don't know that it's been kept under wraps but probably the biggest change was Carpenter and Engel's decision to talk to me and be more open about what their interest and history was.