Mayor Kevin Faulconer sent an email yesterday (April 7) promoting his plan for a ballot measure that would raise tourist taxes to provide money for fixing the streets (long overdue) and expanding the convention center (unneeded corporate welfare).
In his third paragraph, Faulconer spewed a whopper: he bemoaned an alleged lack of convention space locally and claimed, "San Diego is losing out on hundreds of millions of dollars every year" as conventions go elsewhere because of our lack of convention center space. Hundreds of millions?
I sent Faulconer's comment to Heywood Sanders, professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and the nation's expert on convention centers. His reply: "They all say the same thing: 'lost business.'"
Sanders authored a 2014 book, Convention Center Follies, that details how cities have grossly overbuilt convention centers, causing prices to fall and centers to lose bushels of money. He wrote a seminal paper on center overbuilding for the Brookings Institution.
Sanders points out that convention centers are so overbuilt that in at least one instance, Los Angeles actually paid a convention to use the facilities. As previously reported, Los Angeles convention officials last year offered a fantastic deal to the American College of Chest Physicians.
If so-called "incentives" were subtracted from the quoted price, the city would be paying the college $24,000 to hold its convention in L.A. Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, and Anaheim are planning expansions. It will be hard for San Diego to compete with these West Coast cities.