David Dodd 1:48 a.m., May 18
After more than two hours of deliberation and public comment, the city council has approved Mayor Jerry Sander’s amendment to the convention center’s management agreement, which supporters claim will ultimately create more jobs and ensure the success of the center’s expansion.
Councilmembers received the proposed amendment last Thursday, and voted 7 to 1 during today’s special council session, but not without making some changes of their own.
The mayor proposed three provisions: 1) Assign the sales, marketing and promotion obligations to a third party (in this case ConVis) for events that are booked more than 14 months in advance 2) Define the allocation of annual operating surplus funds 3) The continual use of Centerplate as the exclusive provider of food and beverage for all convention center contracted events.
Additionally, the power of final approval would be up to the mayor’s office and not the city council.
Of the 16 people who spoke against the measure, most of which represented labor and service unions, many questioned the mayor’s haste for approval, referring to the tactic as “shady” and even accusing hotel owners of holding the city hostage by refusing to vote in favor of a hotel tax increase if the mayor’s proposal was not approved.
Fifteen spoke in favor of the measure, including restaurant and hotel owner representatives, as well as regional and local chamber of commerce representatives who all stated that the tourism industry tied to the convention center was vital to their own success but also beneficial for the community at large.
Following the public comments, the council deliberated on the first two issues, as well as who should have final say. The agreement reached was that the San Diego Convention Center Corporation (SDCCC), who all agreed was doing a great job, would maintain control of events booked 18 months, and not 14 months in advance.
Additionally, the annual surplus funds would be split 75/25, with the majority allocated towards deferred convention center maintenance, and the rest for future marketing. The council also decided, that final approval of any third party contracts or changes would remain in the hands of the city council.
Fiscal Budget Analyst, Jeffrey Kawar however, expressed the most concern, citing his office was unable to complete a report because ConVis lacked a business plan that demonstrated how they would do a better job of managing the marketing and sales than the SDCCC, and failed to provide any financial figures or goals.
Kawar outlined ten specific points, many of which District 8’s David Alvarez agreed with and cited as his reason for voting no. Alvarez also questioned whether any of the business owners who spoke in favor of the measure, would vote for such a plan if they were in the council’s position.
Fellow councilmembers Marti Emeral and Todd Gloria agreed, and along with Carl DeMaio, proposed an amendment tasking ConVis to return within 90-days to the Economic Development Committee with specific goals and responses to the concerns of the Independent Budget Analysis team, threatening to pull council support if ConVis failed to return with reasonable projections.