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San Diego leaders request guidance on reopening convention center

Posted at 1:57 PM, Sep 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-18 21:14:20-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — San Diego leaders are asking the state to provide guidance on how the city can reopen the convention center safely during the pandemic.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Councilmember Chris Cate signed on to the letter requesting that Gov. Gavin Newsom provide rules to reopen the convention center, which has been shuttered since March.

According to the city, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the convention center has lost out on more than 100 events between March and December of this year. That factors out to a loss of about $707.8 million in direct attendee spending and $1.2 billion regional impact.

Cate says guidelines to safely reopen convention centers have been awaiting Newsom's approval since June, and must be approved by November in order to host events in 2021 — many events that are already in jeopardy.

"We are respectfully requesting that the Governor approves the Safe Reopening Guidelines for convention centers statewide. These guidelines were submitted to his office in June. When conventions can reopen is just as critical as how they will be allowed to resume, and the state should be proactive in approving these guidelines well in advance. The world’s fifth-largest economy cannot turn on a dime and this guidance has been thoughtfully developed with an emphasis on public health and safety by leaders in the industry," Cate said in a statement.

(See the letter here.)

Last fiscal year, the convention center hosted 143 events that generated $755.3 million in direct attendee spending, $29 million in hotel and sales tax revenue, and $1.3 billion in regional impact.

Leaders say the city relies on tax revenue generated by conventions and visitors who stay in the region.

Though during the pandemic, the convention center has become a different necessity. The property was transformed into a temporary shelter for the city's homeless population. Since April 1, about 1,100 individuals experiencing homelessness have been sheltered at the center per day.

The city says that through its Operation Shelter to Home program, it has helped 525 people find housing to transfer into support housing, longer-term housing, rentals, living with friends or family, or rapid rehousing.

Recently, the city also purchased two hotels — a Residence Inn on Hotel Circle and a Residence Inn in Kearny Mesa — to transform into housing units with supportive services as another method to bring individuals off the street.