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Port preparing final Convention Center environmental impact report

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Public comments on its initial report are in and the Unified Port of San Diego is now tasked with turning its Environmental Impact Review on the proposed Convention Center expansion into a final proposal.

The Port posted its draft EIR on the San Diego Convention Center Phase III Expansion on May 14. After a mandated 45-day comment period concluded last week, the Port is now responding to and weighing the concerns voiced in 18 letters before producing its final environmental assessment of the project.

The Port hopes to have its final EIR certified by the California Coastal Commission by the end of the year, according to a spokesperson.

Organizations to comment on the 61-megabyte report included CalTrans, the Department of Toxic Substances Control, the Native American Heritage Commission, the city of Coronado, the city of San Diego, the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow, the San Diego Padres, Ballpark Village, the San Diego Archaeological Society and San Diego Association of Governments.

As described in the report, the expansion would add 220,150 square feet of exhibit space to bring the center’s total to 745,850 square feet. It would give the building another 101,500 square feet of meeting space and another 78,470 square feet of ballroom space to bring those totals to 220,200 square feet and 160,170 square feet, respectively. The proposal also includes building a 5-acre rooftop park and an expansion of the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel by a total of 500,000 square feet.

Prior to preparing the report, the Port fielded concerns from the public relating to the project’s effects on issues such as wildlife, water quality, water supply, land use, cultural resources, public access, congestion, parking, noise, gas emissions, hazardous materials, open space, lighting and public views.

The report proposes numerous and lengthy solutions to such concerns. For instance, in response to issues with greenhouse gas emissions, the report specifies 27 possible solutions, including installing stormwater retention and gray water recovery systems, sun shading devices, solar panels, recycling programs, low-water landscaping and sustainability education.

The $520 million expansion is funded through increased property taxes on city hotel owners based on their proximity to the Convention Center after the City Council approved Mayor Jerry Sanders’ plan to give the hotel owners the ability to approve the tax hike in a special election.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, ahead of the Council’s vote, said the plan tested the boundaries of Proposition 13, which requires all tax increases to be approved by two-thirds of voters, by creating a special district within which business owners can approve the tax hike.

Goldsmith has since requested a legal validation ruling from a judge and he said he expects opponents will take any ruling to appeals court in order to establish precedence. A final ruling is expected to take at least a year, according to Goldsmith.

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San Diego Convention Center

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111 West Harbor Dr.
San Diego, CA 92101

San Diego Convention Center Executive(s):

Carol Wallace

  • Chief Executive Officer, President

Tom Mazzocco

  • Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President

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