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Gaylord Proposal Still Has Public Agencies Talking

Gaylord Entertainment said it is interested in resuming discussions with both the Port of San Diego and the city of Chula Vista about its $1 billion hotel/convention center project on Chula Vista’s bay front.

At its Aug. 7 meeting, members of the San Diego Port Commission, the governing body for the agency that manages the tidelands of San Diego Bay, met in closed session and discussed the Gaylord proposal.

Gaylord’s chief negotiator, Bennett Westbrook, was not at the closed-door meeting, but sent a letter to Port CEO Bruce Hollingsworth dated Aug. 2 saying that “as a result of the overwhelming show of community support for Gaylord’s inclusion within the Chula Vista Bayfront Project, Gaylord hereby requests to continue discussions with the Port regarding the same.”

On Aug. 6, Westbrook met personally with Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox, said a city spokeswoman.

Nashville, Tenn.-based Gaylord Entertainment, the owner and operator of the Grand Ole Opry, its affiliated hotel and other hotels, entered into an exclusive developer agreement with the port and Chula Vista last year to build a 2,000-room hotel and 400,000-square-foot convention center on 33 acres of bay front the city has been trying to develop for decades.

The project was expected to generate 6,500 construction jobs, and more than 2,000 hotel jobs.

However, Gaylord said July 6 it was no longer pursuing the project because of unreasonable demands made by local labor groups. The groups also said they were no longer talking to Gaylord, charging the company with dishonesty and for refusing to commit to hiring local workers for the project.

Gaylord and local labor were attempting to negotiate a project labor agreement, something not legally required but practically essential for a complex development that requires approvals from a host of state and local public agencies.

Local organized labor groups said in a prepared statement that if Gaylord takes $300 million in public money (funds committed by the port and Chula Vista), it should make a legal commitment to hire local workers.

, Mike Allen

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