By the narrowest of margins, the Board of Port Commissioners on Tuesday selected a local development firm over three others to build a luxury Stouffer hotel on the last hotel site on picturesque Harbor Island.
The selection of Boulder Creek Co., a subsidiary of San Diego-based R. B. McComic Inc., was made in the first round of an unusual paper vote. Commissioners, who heard no arguments for or against any of the proposals, marked ballots, which were tabulated by a Port District clerk.
The suspense may not have been the stuff of an Academy Award presentation, but that was of little solace to the large and fidgety gathering of dark-suited developers. When the votes of the seven-member commission were counted, four were for Boulder Creek and three were for Harbortel, a partnership that wanted to build a Ritz-Carlton hotel.
Voting for the Stouffer project were commissioners Bill Rick, Milford Portwood, Delton Reopelle and Ray Burk. Those in favor of Ritz-Carlton were Dan Larsen, Louis Wolfsheimer and Robert Penner.
Drawing no votes were separate proposals for an Inter-Continental and Westin hotels.
"We're obviously very pleased to have won. I'm frankly surprised it came so quickly on the first vote," said R. Barry McComic, chairman of R.B. McComic, who, along with Gary S. Copson, own Boulder Creek Co. "We felt we had the best design for the property."
If negotiations go smoothly, the 430-room hotel would break ground in August, 1991, and open for business the following August, a construction timetable officials for the development firms say is very tight.
Although there was little discussion of the proposals Tuesday, the commissioners spent several hours last week listening to detailed presentations from each developer and hotel operator. During the week, the San Diego Unified Port District staff analyzed the proposals. The port report said that "any of the four proposals should result in an excellent hotel development," but concluded that the Ritz-Carlton was the best choice.
The report also said that, although McComic and Copson have extensive experience building residential projects, "their direct hotel development experience is limited."
However, the Port District staff noted the unusual design of the hotel and its extensive use of recreational facilities, such as three swimming pools, a children's tide pool, spa, health club, two tennis courts, a 42,000-gallon saltwater aquarium, a waterfall, fountains and reflecting pools, as items that set it apart.
The hotel includes a 15-story tower of about 372 rooms and separate casitas (luxury suites). The top of the tower, limited to 160 feet in height by the Federal Aviation Administration, will house a restaurant with a 300-degree view of downtown, the bay and Balboa Park. The building's facade will be of sandstone and marble.
The architect of the Stouffer project, Joseph Martinez of Martinez-Wong Associates, also is based in San Diego.
The Port District places construction value of the project at $77.4 million, while the developers place overall value at $89 million.
For years, developers have coveted the east Harbor Island site, between the Lockheed Ocean Laboratory and Sunroad Resort Marina. The site is now used as a parking lot for rental cars.
The property, across Harbor Drive from Lindbergh Field and surrounded by hotels, restaurants and marinas, is one of the Port District's premier waterfront locations. The agency decided last May to solicit hotel proposals.
What it wanted was a resort-oriented, first-class hotel of up to 500 rooms on 8 1/2 acres, an acre of which would be devoted to landscaped open space.
As well as imposing design and development criteria, the Port District set financial guidelines, including a $400,000 non-refundable payment for the development option; a 50-year lease that would pay the district $400,000 the first year; $800,000 annually in years 2 through 10, and $1.2 million from the 11th through the 20th years, rather than percentages of the hotel's business.