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August 4, 2014

Comic-Con Future in Doubt as San Diego Convention Expansion Plan is Blocked

Comic-Con 2014 is over, and San Diego is already preparing for next year's event. But after 2016, SDCC (as it is sometimes called) may get a different acronym: On Friday, a California appellate court struck down a plan to fund a $520 million expansion of the city's convention center, which is used as the home base for the annual convention. 

According to the city's news service, the justices ruled that a tax on hotel property owners violates the state constitution and the City Charter, which call for a public vote and a two-thirds majority for a special tax to take effect. These funds were poised to pay for most (although not all) of the construction costs. The story notes that the hotel owners approved of the tax when it was originally proposed. 

As local station KPBS notes, Mel Shapiro, represented by attorney Craig Sherman, and Cory Briggs, who represents San Diegans for Open Government, had sued the city over the plan, leading directly to the ruling. "This is a huge victory for the taxpayers and the voters, and it's been a long and difficult fight, so we're just soaking it in," Briggs said after the decision.

RELATED: Further Delays for San Diego Convention Center Expansion

In a statement, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer called the expansion "critically important" for the regional economy, and emphasized that growth was needed to attract large-scale conferences and conventions like Comic-Con. "We will be working with the City Attorney's Office to review all options moving forward." 

An estimated 130,000 people attended this year’s Comic-Con, but the story notes that other cities are looking to attract the event and have used larger venues as a lure. As it is, the show filled the city's existing convention center and overflowed into nearby hotels. 

RELATED: San Diego Convention Center Forecasts Strong 2014 

An extra 740,000 square feet would reportedly give the convention center the largest amount of contiguous floor space on the West Coast. Tourism officials have claimed that having the floor space all together is a top priority for large-scale event planners.

The ruling, and subsequent delay, could have long-term consequences for both San Diego and for the annual Comic-Con: The event is only booked for the city through 2016, and may go elsewhere for 2017 and beyond if organizers find a better deal.

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