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City Council to decide if it will appeal convention center expansion project

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The City Council is scheduled to hold a special meeting Tuedsay afternoon to decide whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court an adverse ruling on funding the San Diego Convention Center expansion project.

Earlier this month, a three-justice panel of the Fourth District Court of Appeal struck down a levy on area hotels, which was designed to pay the bulk of the project's $520 million cost. The justices sided with civic watchdog Melvin Shapiro, who called it a tax that should have been approved in a public vote.

The owners of the hotel properties had agreed to assess themselves to pay a share of the cost, because they'd be the ones to benefit from the projected increase in business.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith had said that the city was venturing into an untested area of the law with the funding mechanism, which was previously upheld by San Diego Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager.

The City Council will deliberate in closed session and don't necessarily have to make a decision today. An open session will be held first so the public can weigh in.

The city's options include an appeal, agreeing to put the issue before voters, or trying to come up with a new plan to pay for the project.

Tourism officials are eager to expand the center out of concerns that the largest of the trade shows are bypassing San Diego for larger facilities. Comic-Con International, the pop culture confab that draws 130,000 attendees to San Diego each year, has been courted by other cities for years.

The current design, if actually built, would give San Diego the largest amount of contiguous floor space on the West Coast -- something tourism officials say is essential to attracting the biggest conventions. If those plans fall by the wayside, however, some of the alternatives being floated include the construction of nearby annexes, and possible joint use of a future football stadium for the Chargers.

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