Citizens' Plan Is the Only Convention Center Expansion Blueprint That Actually Has a Shot | Voice of San Diego

Opinion

Citizens' Plan Is the Only Convention Center Expansion Blueprint That Actually Has a Shot

The Citizens’ Plan provides a path for financing the expansion – paid for by the hotels that will benefit from it – and building it downtown, where it will have maximum positive impact on continued redevelopment of the East Village.

There’s a disconnect in Ray Ellis’ views on the stadium and the convention center.

Ellis, one of my opponents for San Diego City Council in District 1, got it right in opposing the Chargers initiative to use hotel room tax funds to build a downtown stadium. I oppose spending one dime of public money to build a football stadium, for some of the same reasons Ellis cites, and for several others as well.

Commentary - in-story logoA city that leaves 911 callers on hold for up to 15 minutes, can’t keep up with street repairs, has failed to adequately address homelessness and is losing an average of 13 experienced police officers a month should not be considering a taxpayer subsidy for a billion-dollar-plus stadium.

But I was puzzled by inconsistencies in other parts of Ellis’ commentary. For example, he expressed support for Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s plan to build a new stadium in Mission Valley, but qualified it by opposing the $200 million subsidy Faulconer proposed to help pay for it (although on Oct. 30, 2015, he told Scott Lewis, “I’d consider it”). My position was less ambiguous. I opposed committing any public funds to stadium construction. But notwithstanding the fact that the Chargers and NFL rejected that plan out of hand as unworkable, how exactly did Ellis think the stadium in Mission Valley was going to get built without the public funds proposed by Faulconer? Does he support Scott Sherman’s proposal for intense commercial development in the Qualcomm parking lot to subsidize part of the stadium construction cost? If so, how exactly would he mitigate the traffic impacts on an already congested Mission Valley?

There was a similar disconnect in Ellis’ expression of support for a bayfront expansion of the convention center. He made reference to supporters of this expansion, which coincidentally include some of his biggest campaign donors, but failed to mention there is no plan to finance that expansion, and the odds of it surviving environmental and taxpayer lawsuits is near zero.

I too support expansion of the convention center because of its importance to sustaining our visitor industry, but I want to pursue an expansion plan that actually has a chance of being financed and built. The Citizens’ Plan, supported by San Diegans for Open Government, the League of Conservation Voters, John Moores, Donna Frye and Cory Briggs, provides a path for financing the expansion – paid for by the hotels that will benefit from it – and building it downtown, where it will have maximum positive impact on continued redevelopment of the East Village. Importantly, the Citizens’ Plan also prohibits any public subsidy for a football stadium.

Another advantage of the Citizens’ Plan is that it offers a vision for re-use of the Qualcomm site for university-related development and creation of a river park and trail that could transform Mission Valley. And it would generate at least $18 million per year for the city’s general fund that could be used to begin addressing the city’s huge backlog of neighborhood infrastructure improvements.

Finally, one of my concerns with a downtown stadium is that it would take up valuable real estate that could be used for an expansion of the innovation sector. The life sciences industry alone has an economic impact of $31.8 billion in San Diego. These funds contribute to the tax base we use to fix our streets and sidewalks, reduce traffic, hire first responders, protect our beaches and conserve our water supply. Council District 1 is the innovation hub of our region, but I would like to see these industries that provide good-paying jobs taking root in other parts of the city — particularly downtown and south of Interstate-8.

San Diego politicians have a history of making promises at election time without any real plan for delivering on them. As a businesswoman, I’ve learned that without a sound business plan, good ideas don’t amount to much. As a member of the City Council, I will bring that perspective and experience to City Hall.

Barbara Bry is a high-tech entrepreneur and candidate for San Diego City Council District 1. Bry’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.

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