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Comic-Con Not So Super at City Hall: Local Office Lacks Business License

Allison Avenue operation, where 25 people work, is given 30 days to apply for license. Office near City Hall owes at least $110.

Nearly a month ago, readers of The San Diego Union-Tribune saw a charming story headlined “Comic-Con’s unlikely nerve center: La Mesa.”  It was a surprise to most.

One of the readers was Jolene Cayas, who works in City Hall.  It was news to her, too.

So out of curiosity—and professional obligation—she decided to see if the world-renowned San Diego Comic Convention had a business license to operate here. She couldn’t find one. But since the article by Steve Schmidt didn’t list an address, she said she Googled some keywords and found it online.

The Comic-Con offices, it turned out, were only blocks away—a quarter-mile east of City Hall on Allison Avenue.

So Cayas, who happens to be La Mesa’s business license officer, sent a letter to Comic-Con.

Dated May 2, the letter began: “I have noted that your business is operating in the City of La Mesa at the above address. All businesses, regardless of size, that are based in or conducting business in La Mesa must possess an active business license with the City (La Mesa Municipal Code Chapter 6.04).”

The Municipal Code section specifies: “It is unlawful for any person ... to commence or carry on in this city any trade, calling, profession or occupation licensed in Chapter 6.04 or 6.08 without first having procured a license from this city so to do.”

Cayas gave Comic-Con 30 days to apply for a license.

On Thursday, Cayas said Comic-Con has a deadline of June 2. To comply with city laws, Comic-Con must submit a business license application and appropriate fees—about $110 ($35 license fee and $3 per employee).

As of Thursday morning, Comic-Con had yet to comply.

Several email and phone inquiries by La Mesa Patch to David Glanzer, the event’s director of marketing and public relations, have not been returned as of Thursday night.

Cayas said the next step—if Comic-Con doesn’t apply for a license—would be a site inspection. If the convention office still doesn’t comply, Cayas said she’ll consult with her supervisor, city finance manager Heather Jennings. She also might touch base with City Attorney Glenn Sabine.

A recent visit to Comic-Con’s La Mesa offices confirmed the Union-Tribune story: “Glanzer said Comic-Con fans might be disappointed by the offices, pointing out that they’re just work spaces, with desks and phones. ‘It’s a lot more mundane than people imagine,’ he said.”

A male receptionist in his late 20s or early 30s greeted a visitor from La Mesa Patch but couldn’t answer questions about the business license. He phoned Glanzer but was told Glanzer was on a conference call and unavailable.

In the U-T article, also online here, Glanzer said the La Mesa offices have been used for five years and employ 25 people—who move to the San Diego Convention Center around the time of the summertime event, which this year is July 21-24.

According to real-estate records, the 5,000-square-foot building has been owned by the Clark Trust since November 2002 and was owned by Helen and Clifton Clark since 1995.  The last time the building was sold—by Lanette Rector to Clark Family Bypass—was March 1995 for $370,000.

When the structure was first recorded in 1995, it was a medical building, according to real-estate records.

Founded in 1970 as the Golden State Comic Book Convention and later the San Diego Comic Book Convention, Comic-Con first operated out of the U.S. Grant Hotel with a reported 300 guests. Later it moved to Muir College at UCSD and then the El Cortez Hotel in downtown San Diego, growing attendance to 5,000 by 1978.

But after moving to its present location at the San Diego Convention Center in 1991, it has become a massive engine of tourism—with 130,000 attending in 2010. It’s  became a target of Hollywood, using the pop-culture convention to market and test films with sci-fi and superhero themes.  Major celebrities pop in, and fans act out, dressing up for the event.

Badges to the convention routinely sell out the first day they’re available.

Concern-Ed May 27, 2011 at 03:15 AM
It isn't abundantly clear in this article how Comic-con operates. Some questions I have are: is Comic-con a non profit? If so, are they bound by the same licensing requirements? Have they been present in association or council meetings? if so, how did the city miss the connection? It is difficult to believe that an organization as credible as they are would so obviously neglect licensing. Not for $110! Some things just aren't as sinister a we would make them out to be. Give them a break.
Chelsey Adams May 27, 2011 at 03:54 PM
Yeah, this smacks of someone trying to break a 'sensational' story, and failing utterly. Plus, what's with the photo's they don't really illustrate anything that adds to the story, or prove any useful points. Look! Another generic La Mesa office building! Sometime things are just oversights, I agree with Concern-ed.
Zack May 28, 2011 at 07:16 AM
Ken Stone has built mountain ranges out of molehills before and he's at it again. The spin of this piece implies the City is treating Comic-Con in some different fashion than they would any other business with an expired license or no license when the City process for bringing Comic-Con into compliance is a routine one applied in all cases. Comic-Con is no different than any other business in La Mesa, such as a bookstore or an antique store, when it comes to business license requirements. But you don't see Ken fabricating any exposes on the ABC Dry Cleaners or the XYZ Sandwhich Shop because they aren't "names." But here he is trying to be the second coming of Woodward-Bernstein again by hassling a fine business that really only wants its privacy and that we should all be glad chooses to locate in La Mesa. This is not to mention the value of the time of City personnel that he occupies to undertake these ridiculous investigations. Ken, both you and City staff must have better things to do.
Concern-Ed May 29, 2011 at 08:29 PM
The notion that Comic-con is nothing but a con is obviously falling on deaf ears to those of us who understand the "real" interworkings of our city. Maybe this article should have concentrated on how much money these 25 employees bring to the business', and thus to city hall via taxation when buying gas, lunch and the such on a daily basis!

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