Yesterday marked an important milestone in the advancement of the planned San Diego Convention Center expansion project, as it received unanimous approval from the California Coastal Committee.
This is important because approval from the Committee was required in order for the project to proceed, and was the last permit requirement standing in the way of the expansion. It is also important in that, just days ago, the recommendation of the California Coastal Committee staff was to reject the plan if requested revisions were not made, such as the building of a pedestrian bridge from the Convention Center to the Gaslamp Quarter and assorted landscaping and architectural tweaks.
Why would the Committee care about such things? Well, according to its website, the mission of The California Coastal Committee is to “protect, conserve, restore, and enhance environmental and human-based resources of the California coast and ocean for environmentally sustainable and prudent use by current and future generations.” And according to its report, released on September 27, 2013, the expansion plan, “will result in significant impacts to views, visual quality and coastal recreation through the substantial loss of already limited waterfront area and open space.”
In the end, the city rejected the request by the Committee for the bridge, as its price tag would be too costly for the project, and committed $500,000 toward improving the rooftop park, as reported by U-T San Diego’s Lori Weisberg.
So what does this mean for San Diego Comic-Con attendees? Well, for starters, the Convention Center will be a whole lot bigger, adding approximately 225,000 square feet of exhibit space – that’s an additional 35% – and a brand-new 80,000 square foot ballroom. That last item should be of particular interest, as the new ballroom would be 20% larger than Hall H, hopefully bringing some relief to the miles-long lines we’ve all experienced in recent years.
The plan also adds a second tower to the Hilton Bayfront hotel, adding a welcome 500 rooms adjacent to the Convention Center, which should also help alleviate the problems attendees have been experiencing in reserving hotel rooms in the immediate area.
There are still a few steps which need to occur before groundbreaking can begin in late 2014, such as issuing bonds and funding of the Convention Center design. There are also concerns that the hotel room surcharge, even after challenges to the tax had been dismissed in court back in April, would be held up in future appeals. And lastly, any cost overruns “would have to be addressed by the City of San Diego, because the Port of San Diego’s contribution is capped at $60 million over 20 years”, according to the expansion project FAQ.
The entire project is expected to be completed by 2018, which may mean three to four years of heavy construction around the area during SDCC – which could impact the convention in other ways.
[UPDATE] We received an official statement from David Glanzer, Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Comic-Con International, regarding the expansion project:
We are happy the California Coastal Commission unanimously approved expansion of the San Diego Convention Center. As we have long said, we feel this expansion will be of benefit to the city in a number of ways including being able to attract larger conventions as well as being able to hold smaller concurrent conventions and events.
It is no secret that Comic-Con would love to stay in San Diego. However there are still some issues to address, including affordable hotel room rates for our attendees, space usage before the expansion officially opens and other economic and logistical concerns.
We are grateful that the city, the San Diego Convention Center and local hoteliers have worked with us in the past and we look forward to working with them now to address these issues so that we can call San Diego home for more years to come.
Are you excited about the additional space and hotel rooms? Let us know in the comments.