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Lawsuits & Litigation

San Diego Files Multimillion-Dollar Lawsuit Against SeaWorld

— September 8, 2023

The lawsuit claims that SeaWorld violated the terms of its lease contract when it stopped paying rent amidst the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The City of San Diego has filed a lawsuit seeking millions of dollars in back-rent for the city-owned waterfront property currently occupied by SeaWorld.

“SeaWorld owes San Diego taxpayers more than $12 million — a delinquency they acknowledged in their annual report,” San Diego City Attorney Mara W. Elliott said. “Their efforts to shift their financial obligations to hard-working San Diegans is repugnant and will not be tolerated.”

According to FOX News, the lawsuit was filed earlier this week in a San Diego County Superior Court.

In the complaint, Elliott claims that SeaWorld San Diego breached the terms of its lease by having defaulted on payments during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

San Diego is now seeking interest and penalties for the alleged violations.

SeaWorld has since said that it has no comment, and that it remains hopeful that it can resolve the matter without the need for protracted litigation.

“While as a matter of policy we don’t comment on potential litigation, we have enjoyed a long relationship with the city and remain hopeful that we can resolve this matter. We have partnered with the city for nearly 60 years – conducting thousands of animal rescues, numerous recycling drives and many other events,” SeaWorld told FOX5 in a statement. “We also have paid more than $146 million in lease payments to the City of San Diego since 2010. We appreciate all the city has done and we look forward to addressing this situation.”

San Diego. Photo by Tom Fisk from Pexels

However, when announcing the lawsuit, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria was quick to point out that the sum sought by the city—about $12 million—is a significant amount that could have been used to better the community before and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That’s a lot of road repair. That’s a lot of police officers. It’s a lot of firefighters. That’s a lot of shelter beds. It’s a lot of money,” Gloria said in a statement. “Now, [in] fairness, a lot of that money has to stay in Mission Bay Park. But you’ve been to Mission Bay Park.”

“We could pave some of those parking lots,” he said. “We could repair some of those lots that are there. We could returf some key areas. Mission Bay has a lot of needs.”

Elliott also emphasized the city’s belief that taxpaying residents should not be forced to bear the burden of SeaWorld’s losses and expenditures.

“It is a very lucrative company. SeaWorld is part of the fabric of a lot of children’s lives, and it’s one of the reasons that we like having them here in San Diego,” she said. “I raised my kids at SeaWorld, and I think most of us feel like that.”

“So this is a very disappointing result,” she said.


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