There’s nothing glamorous about a truck stop, but, without one, the glitter of San Diego’s new convention center may be tarnished by a ring of noisy 18-wheelers jostling to unload their wares for trade shows and conventions.
As a result, the San Diego Unified Port District on Tuesday approved spending $361,000 to transform almost 2 acres of industrial land south of the bayfront center into a truck stop, officially described as a “marshaling yard.”
When paved, fenced and lighted, the yard will hold about 70 big trucks. From there, the waiting vehicles will be summoned to one of the center’s 28 truck docks. In that way, officials hope, order will prevail, and the feared chaos of semis clogging downtown streets and taking up precious parking space will have been averted.
“The large conventions will bring 200 to 300 large trucks to deliver items for trade show booths . . . and most are arriving at the same time,” said Donna Alm, spokeswoman for the Convention Center Corp., the group that will operate the center and which asked the Port District for help. “We don’t want that to happen, to have them parked two deep and clogging the streets. Then everyone gets angry.”
Not only will the yard be new for the convention center, but, according to officials, it will be the city’s only truck stop, although there are others in San Diego County. Without a doubt, it will be the only truck stop within yards of the bay, where waterfront property and views are among the most coveted in Southern California.
Alm said the Convention Center Corp. looked at various sites, including others in the southeast part of downtown and National City. And one developer offered a spot in Otay Mesa.
But, because the object was to keep the trucks as close as possible to the $160-million center, which is due to open in November, the port decided that the best choice was to put it on district property. The Port District, which is paying for the construction of the center, came up with two pieces of property on one-time industrial land about a quarter of a mile south of the center, which is at Harbor Drive and 5th Avenue.
One parcel, of 1.3 acres, is south of Harbor Drive and near the 10th Avenue marine terminal. A smaller parcel, a little larger than half an acre, is across the railroad tracks from the larger parcel and under the Harbor Drive bridge crossing Switzer Creek.
“This is really an accommodation for the Convention Center Corp. and seems like a good arrangement to help them out,” Port Director Don Nay told the commissioners, who voted unanimously to approve the truck stop.
Formal leases of up to five years must be negotiated, but those are not seen as a stumbling block.
The Port District is proposing that the Convention Center Corp. pay total lease payments of about $9,600 a month. According to a report from Nay, unless the five-year lease is renewed for another five years, the district probably won’t recover construction costs.