San Diego City Council to meet about convention center ruling

San Diego City Council will meet this afternoon in a closed session to discuss whether to appeal a recent California appeals court ruling that cripples the funding plan for the proposed $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center.

According to City News Service, council members don't necessarily have to reach a decision today -- although City Attorney Jan Goldsmith told them earlier this month that they have until Sept. 10 to file an appeal with the Supreme Court of California. Before any action is taken, however, an open session will be held to allow the public to offer input.

A three-judge panel ruled Aug. 1 that a hotel tax approved two years ago by hoteliers and city council to fund much of the convention center expansion -- viewed as crucial to keeping Comic-Con International in San Diego beyond 2016 -- is unconstitutional, and must be put to a citywide vote. The financing plan, which would have added another 1 cent to 3 cents per dollar to room taxes of 224 hotels, was expected to generate about $35 million annually.

Several groups, including San Diegans for Open Government, opposed the funding scheme, arguing that the arrangement amounted to privatizing the city’s taxing authority. A Superior Court judge sided with the city in March 2013, but opponents appealed the ruling.

Now it's up to the city to decide whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court, come up with alternative financing, or put the current plan to a vote. Whichever route the city takes is expected to push the expansion's opening from the hoped-for 2018 to 2020.

The convention center proposal would add 740,000 square feet of exhibit space, a five-acre rooftop park, a waterfront promenade with retail shops and restaurants, and a second, 500-room tower to the adjacent Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel.

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