By: San Diego Union Tribune, January 1, 20117 – Staff Writers
1: Nuclear energy
The San Onofre nuclear plant isn’t producing electricity anymore, but it will still generate headlines in 2017. A state superior court will hear a lawsuit in March challenging a decision by the California Coastal Commission to store some 3.6 million pounds spent nuclear waste on the facility’s site. And the original agreement shutting down the plant that left about 70 percent of costs on the shoulders of ratepayers is getting reviewed by the California Public Utilities Commission as well as in a case before a federal appeals court.
Slowing smartphone sales have investors worried about long-term growth. Qualcomm rejected a break-up idea and got much larger, buying NXP Semiconductors and its share of the global automotive chip market, in a deal valued at $47 billion including the assumption of NXP debt. Now Chief Executive Steve Mollenkopf must integrate 44,000 NXP employees into Qualcomm’s 30,000, as well as keep investing heavily in the world’s transition to super-fast 5G technology.
Carlsbad’s ViaSat has bet more than $1 billion that satellites have a place in providing more bandwidth to the world. In 2017 engineers plan to launch the $625 million ViaSat-2, bringing 300 gigabits of capacity to its network. That’s about double the 140 gigabit capacity of ViaSat-1, which launched in 2011 and has about 700,000 residential subscribers, including Wi-Fi for commercial airlines such as American, JetBlue and United.
When the Orlando-based company said in 2016 that it would end the captive breeding of orcas at its marine parks, the big question was whether that could revive the struggling business. San Diego will be on the vanguard in 2017 when it becomes the first of the three marine parks to replace Shamu with a show that focuses on the killer whales’ natural behaviors in the wild. Shareholders will applaud if the move reverses falling revenue and attendance.
5: San Diego Convention Center
With the November defeat of the Chargers’ ballot proposal to build a joint stadium and convention center downtown, backers of a contiguous expansion of the waterfront center are hoping to get the project back on track this year. But voters just rejected higher hotel taxes, and a lawsuit by attorney Cory Briggs challenges the legality of such construction in the coastal zone. Hoteliers have lots of persuading to do.
6. Ben Carson, home builder?
Life in San Diego County is heavily subsidized by the federal government, but that could change under Ben Carson, president-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The county gets roughly $250 million a year just for Section 8 vouchers, and developers use federal tax credits to build subsidized housing. Carson, who grew up in subsidized housing, is a vocal critic of government handouts and could change how San Diego houses its poor.
7. Mortgage rates
Mortgage rates have already gone up since the election, boosting payments and making homebuying less affordable. Rates for a typical 30-year fixed rate mortgage were 3.59 percent the day before Donald Trump’s victory. It was 4.36 percent on Dec. 27 . With three more expected Federal Reserve rates in 2017, rates could continue to rise.
Tijuana is in the middle of building up to 2,000 new condos while the peso has continued to drop in value since the U.S. election. This lowers purchase costs for buyers using dollars, but makes imported materials and appliances more expensive. Despite claims from Mexican developers, many industry watchers wonder what will happen if money dries up during construction.
9. Rent prices
As of September, rent increased nearly 9 percent in a year but CoStar is predicting rent will rise just 3.6 percent in 2017. With less profit growth, more landlords may consider turning apartments into condos. If rent goes up more than expected, we may see louder calls for rent control, pressure on employers to find places for their workers, and a dip in local consumer confidence.
10. Financial markets
Stock investors will pay keen attention to clues that the “Trump Rally” foretells longer life for the bull market that began in 2009. With corporate profits fading at the end of 2016, high equity prices raise the odds of a correction. Meanwhile, higher U.S. interest rates have hurt bond values, causing paper losses for pension funds, insurance companies and retirees who rely on fixed-income investments. A Bank of England study said global markets had delivered the lowest interest rates in 5,000 years of recorded history. Bouncing off that bottom could rock the financial system.
11. Artificial intelligence and personal assistants
Alexa, will Apple release a voice-powered assistant for the home? Apple isn’t saying, yet consumers can expect the battle for the household to heat up among tech superpowers in 2017. Artificial intelligence will play a deciding role in which companies win or lose. Now that Amazon’s Echo is a public success story, Google is trying to transfer its search-giant smarts to the living room through Google Home. The biggest question mark is whether Apple will tap the original AI assistant, Siri, to enter the fray.
12. The Beachhead
San Diego is following the startup money trail to the Bay Area, where the San Diego Venture Group, with financial backing from the city, will operate a satellite office, dubbed “The Beachhead.” The venue, opening in January, is meant to help local tech businesses secure Silicon Valley-sized funding rounds from top-tier investors. But what can a five-desk office really accomplish in the nation’s tech mecca? We should find out by the end of 2017.
13. Navy Broadway Complex
Developer Doug Manchester hopes to begin construction this year on the $1.2 billion hotel-office-retail replacement for the Navy buildings that have dominated the foot of Broadway since the 1920s. Legal problems have stymied construction ever since Manchester won a 99-year lease in 2006, and there’s always a chance of further litigation.
14. Port development
Anthony’s Fish Grotto will close at the end of January and then a new Brigantine restaurant complex will go up next to the Star of India. Further design work and negotiations will take place at the port’s biggest redevelopments, Seaport Village and Harbor Island. And the first draft of a new master plan and environmental analysis will be issued.
15. A new plan for the old library
Civic San Diego is expected to announce early in the year who will win the contract to reuse the old Central Library at 820 E St. The building was vacated when the new, much bigger replacement opened a few blocks to the east in 2013. New ideas that have been considered include education, a startup business incubator and commercial uses.
16. Balboa Park
The Plaza de Panama no-parking plan has received renewed City Council approval to move forward with building a parking garage south of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion and divert cars from the Cabrillo Bridge via a bypass bridge from the west. But preservationists have filed a new lawsuit on environmental grounds, and supporters still have meet their $30 million target to cover their portion of the $79 million plan; the balance will come from the city. Construction is scheduled to begin later this year, headed for completion in 2019.
17. Commercial real estate
With vacancies dropping and rents rising, industrial development is hot with several projects expected to break ground. Office development is facing similar trends, yet a start on major high-rises has yet to announced. The retail sector will see the opening of the Westfield UTC mall expansion, but Westfield’s plans for a major redo to Horton Plaza remain unknown. The Pendry Hotel is opening early in the year in the Gaslamp Quarter, while several others are under construction, ready to start in 2017 or being proposed to meet San Diego’s rising business and tourist traveler demand.
U-T staff writers Mike Freeman, Dan McSwain, Phillip Molnar, Rob Nikolewski, Roger Showley, Jennifer Van Grove and Lori Weisberg contributed to this report.
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