Lawsuit filed against city could delay expansion of San Diego Convention Center

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — Another lawsuit has been filed against the city of San Diego and the Convention Center Corporation that could further delay expansion of the center, a top priority of Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

The suit, filed by 5th Avenue Landing, asks a court to bar the city and the Convention Center Corporation from interfering with its lease to develop 5-acres of land the city needs for expansion.

This has been a 10-year struggle for control of this land. 5th Avenue Landing had the original lease. The city purchased it but defaulted on the payments and the lease reverted back to 5th Avenue Landing.

Now, the city wants that land back.

This 10-year struggle ended after a mediation session with a judge failed to reach a settlement. That prompted the lawsuit, claiming the city has been interfering with a private contract between 5th Avenue Landing and the port.

"They continue to act as though they still have some ownership interest or rights to the property and they’re going to expand the Convention Center on property we’re obligated to build a hotel on," said Vincent Bartolotta, who represents 5th Avenue Landing.

He said 5th Avenue Landing has been cooperative with the city over the years, but interference with a contract is a serious matter.

"We find it quite hurtful that the city could continue to interfere with our legal obligations under our contract with the port," Bartolotta said.

The project is a $300 million hotel, 44 stories high with public plazas, a bayfront promenade, a rooftop garden and open-air cafes. 5th Avenue Landing simply wants to be left alone to fulfill its obligation to build the hotel.

"The city has no legal standing whatsoever to interfere with our obligations," Bartolotta said.

Neither the Mayor’s office nor the Convention Center would comment on pending litigation. When asked why the city is doing this, Bartolotta said, " … who knows?"

"Their attitude is be damned with anything else, we’re gonna do what we want to do and regardless of who gets hurt," Bartolotta said.

When asked if the city has been acting in good faith?

"One of our cause of actions in our complaint is the failure to act in good faith," Bartolotta said.

5th Avenue Landing has spent millions on getting this project to move forward. The city could have to pay a hefty price to buy back the land from 5th Avenue Landing.

An initiative is being put together for next year to fund Convention Center expansion, even though the city doesn’t have control of the land. That too is part of the interference. 

"The city seems to be going to any length it can to try to prevent us from building our project," Bartolotta said. "The city knows that when it signed the rights back to us per the signed agreement that when it did that it did that giving up their rights."

The city does have one powerful card to play, exercising its power of eminent domain.

"They’ve made threats to use that power. They have not done it yet but if they do, we’ll have to deal with that matter as well," Bartolotta said.

The city has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit. 

Categories: Local San Diego News