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Port of San Diego, Airport Authority settle rental-car fee dispute

REGION — The San Diego Regional Airport Authority announced today it will withdraw from a lawsuit against the Port of San Diego as part of a settlement agreement between the two parties over a fee assessed on rental cars.

In April, the port began collecting a $3.50 fee on rental cars on the port’s property, with the estimated $5 million a year in revenue earmarked for a $40 million parking garage at the 535-acre Chula Vista Bayfront project. The port had previously assessed the fee from 1999 to 2006 to fund a downtown San Diego parking structure.

In June, Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. and Hertz Corp. filed a lawsuit challenging the fee, calling it a tax that needed to be approved by voters. The Airport Authority, a tenant of the port, joined the suit on July 24.

After a month of negotiations, the Airport Authority agreed to withdraw from the lawsuit contingent on the port using revenue from the fee exclusively on the planned parking garage and agreeing not to increase the fee.

As part of the agreement, the Airport Authority also reserves the right to challenge any future fees imposed by the port.

“The Airport Authority stands behind important projects, like the Chula Vista Bayfront redevelopment, that draw visitors to our region,” said April Boling, chair of the Airport Authority board. “Regional prosperity hinges on everyone working together, and in this case, both parties have done that.”

Airport Authority officials had in part questioned the propriety of fees charged on airport property — where the rental car companies are located — being used to fund a non-aviation-related project.

Port officials thanked the Airport Authority for working toward a settlement.

“Our San Diego region is known as a place where people put aside narrow interests and work together to overcome obstacles for the greater good,” said Port Chairman Rafael Castellanos. “I want to thank everyone, including elected leaders and community stakeholders, who encouraged a prompt resolution of this matter.”

With the Airport Authority sated, the port plans to turn its attention to the still-active suit filed by Enterprise and Hertz. In the meantime, the port will continue collecting the fee.

“The port is hopeful that these companies will follow the airport in dropping the lawsuit and supporting the Chula Vista Bayfront project,” said port spokeswoman Tanya Castaneda.

The California Coastal Commission approved the Chula Vista Bayfront project in 2012. Once completed, the project will feature parks, a shoreline promenade, walking trails and shopping and dining options according to the Port.

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