Poll says Convention Center expansion has support, but does it have the land?

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — A new poll released Tuesday found Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s proposed ballot measure to increase the hotel occupancy tax to fund a Convention Center expansion has a strong chance of getting two-thirds of city voters to support it.

But one piece is missing. The city of San Diego does not control the land needed for the expansion. That land is leased to a private company.

The study by Competitive Edge Research polled 329 city voters in February and March and resulted with a 5 percent margin of error.

The results show 66.5 percent of voters are in favor of the ballot measure and only 27 percent are opposed.

“Its about the package that’s being presented to voters,” Pollster John Neinstedt said. “This package nails a lot of things that they really care about.”

Neinstedt says voters value more space and because the Convention Center is an economic driver, that means more money for repairing roads and more money for homeless programs.

“We’re talking about the three most important issues San Diegan’s have been dealing with for such a long time,” Neinstedt said.

The other critical factor in favor of the measure is that the Hoteliers and the San Diego tourism industry are on board. They were not previously.

“Do they support it, and they do,” Neinstedt said. “And voters look at that and say okay if its good enough for them its good enough for me.”

Neinstedt says jobs and losing convention business to other cities is a factor to consider.

“Some of the research focuses on that to see if that message, if it gets out, will resonate and drive up support.”

Regardless of the support, the land needed for the expansion has become a major dispute between the Mayor’s office and the owners of the 5th Avenue Landing, who sent a letter t o the Mayor in March demanding the city and the Convention Center cease their plans for expansion.

5th Avenue Landing’s development partner, the Robert Green Company, said that was followed by the city’s wanting to work out a deal and co-exist.

“But when we got into the conversations what we were essentially told was we the city and the Convention Center are going to  build our Convention Center exactly the way we designed it,” Robert Green said in April. “We will leave you with a small scrap of land in the corner but that’s what we’re going to do whether you like it or not.”

The city was playing hard ball saying a deal can be worked out as the ballot measure proceedings continue.

“Since then we’ve been invited to several meetings. There has been no proposal, no solution, nothing that is meaningful to us that would stop what we’re doing which is fulfilling our obligations to the port.”

5th Avenue Landing had agreed to sell the lease to the Convention Center seven years ago for $13 million but the city defaulted on the payments and the land reverted back to 5th Avenue.

Under the lease, 5th Avenue is obligated to build a hotel. They are moving forward with its project if a deal isn’t reached with the city. If voters approve expansion this may have to be settled in court. 

Categories: Local San Diego News