San Diego Convention Center. Photo by Chris Stone

The San Diego City Council and Port of San Diego commissioners both voted Tuesday to support a three-party settlement agreement to secure long-term control of the land needed to expand the San Diego Convention Center.

The agreement is contingent upon a November ballot measure that, if approved, would raise the hotel room tax from 12.5 percent to as much as 15.75 percent to fund the proposed $850 million convention center expansion.

The settlement agreement between the city, port and Fifth Avenue Landing, which has long held a lease on the waterfront property needed to expand the center, calls for two alternatives depending on the vote.

If it passes, the port will purchase Fifth Avenue Landing’s lease on the land for $33.2 million, which requires a nonrefundable $5 million downpayment ahead of the November election.

The city would then, using hotel tax proceeds, purchase the lease from the port for $28 million through 2042. Transactions would be made in three installments over the course of 2019.

If the citizens’ initiative fails, the port won’t purchase Fifth Avenue Landing’s lease, and the city will be on the hook to reimburse the port for its $5 million downpayment on the land.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Tuesday’s approvals — unanimous by the port commissioners but 7-2 by the council — remove an important hurdle for convention center expansion.

“This project is absolutely essential for growing our regional economy, adding local jobs and generating new revenue that can be used to improve our neighborhoods,” he said.

However, Councilman David Alvarez was critical of the deal and voted against it, saying, “This is simply another bad real estate deal. Regardless of whether a convention center expansion happens, taxpayers are on the hook for over $5 million.”

— From Staff and Wire Reports

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