Moscone disrepair may stifle business

The Moscone Center needs repairs, and if it does not receive them The City could lose millions during an economic time when it relies on hotel and sales taxes, according to tourism officials.

The downtown convention center has three portions: Moscone South, built in 1981; Moscone North, built in 1992; and Moscone West, built in 2003. Uncompleted repairs, however, could begin keeping corporations away from The City as they stray toward newer facilities in cities such as Boston, Denver and San Diego.

In a March letter addressed to Mayor Gavin Newsom, the San Francisco Customer Advisory Council, a group of firms that represents groups using the Moscone Center, urged the mayor to replace air walls, expandable and contractible walls, and the heating and air-conditioning system or else risk losing future business.

“The continual neglect to make these capital improvements is embarrassing for a first-tier city,” the letter read.

While The City is facing a $338 million project budget deficit for the coming fiscal year and city coffers are burdened with cuts to health services, The City’s increased earnings from hotel room and sales taxes have been bright spots.

The City reaped $143 million in taxes on hotel rooms and $107.81 million in sales taxes during the 2006-07 fiscal year, according to the city Controller’s Office. This fiscal year, hotel-room taxes are expected to bring in nearly $162 million and sales taxes a projected $113.6 million in revenue, according to the Controller’s Office.

The tourism industry has been buoyed by a weak U.S. dollar, which has attracted foreign travelers looking to receive the best bang for their foreign buck, according to tourism industry experts.

Joe D’Allesandro, president of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, said convention visitors pump $7.6 billion into the local economy annually with a single large convention bringing in $20 million to $60 million to local attractions.

The Moscone Center began falling into disrepair after the post-Sept. 11economic downturn and the cutting of capital improvement funds, D’Allesandro said. The thought was that the repairs would be done some day, he said.

“We’ve come to that day,” he said.

Newsom said The City has invested in the center the last three years and he hoped to again this year.

dsmith@examiner.com

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