Ian Anderson 1:30 p.m., Jan. 17
Coastal Commission staff says "No" on convention center expansion
The commission considers the matter Oct. 10
In a 24-page report, the staff of the California Coastal Commission recommended a "No" vote on the planned $520 million convention center expansion. The commission will take up the matter at a meeting Oct. 10.
" The [proposal] will result in significant impacts to views, visual quality and coastal recreation through the substantial loss of already limited waterfront area and open space," says the staff. "Construction of a building of this size and width so close to the waterfront would be unprecedented in San Diego County because setting back buildings a reasonable distance from the shoreline ensures that the public will have both visual and physical access to the waterfront."
The expansion would eliminate the 1.6 acre landscaped open space and public area adjacent to Harbor Drive, says the staff. The convention center expansion, along with an expansion of the Hilton Hotel, "will significantly reduce the view corridor between the two existing structures," says the staff.
The San Diego Chargers rejoiced at the news. The team wants a combined football stadium/convention center expansion that realistically would be more than 70 percent financed by taxpayers. However, it would be several blocks from the current center, and research and experience indicate that convention attendees want contiguous space. Also, combined football stadia/convention centers have not worked well in other cities such as Indianapolis and Atlanta.
The study does not address the poignant matter: convention centers are vastly overbuilt in the U.S. Convention centers, including San Diego's, are reducing prices by 50 percent and more because there is such a glut of convention center space. Adding on to the convention center -- whether at the current site or in combination with a football stadium -- would be the height of economic folly, according to Heywood Sanders, the professor who is the national expert on convention centers, and is now bringing up to date his seminal 2005 report for the Brookings Institution. It showed how overbuilt convention centers were then. Now the situation is far worse around the nation.