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Doug Manchester agrees to sell Manchester Grand Hyatt for $570 million

SAN DIEGO -- Doug Manchester, owner of the Manchester Grand Hyatt and the subject of a long-standing boycott because of his support of the Yes on 8 campaign to overturn gay marriage rights in California, has agreed to sell his 1,625-room hotel for $570 million to Host Hotels & Resorts.

Since 2006, Manchester has been at the center of public scrutiny by UNITE HERE Local 30, a hotel and hospitality workers union representing 4,500 hotel, gaming and food service workers throughout San Diego County. The union's members initially protested the working conditions in the hotel endured by housekeepers, whose quota increased from 17 to 30 rooms per shift.

In 2008, protests and boycott efforts against Manchester's hotel increased dramatically after the LGBT community learned that Manchester gave $125,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign, which helped persuade voters to take away the rights of gays and lesbians to wed in California.

Since then, the LGBT community and UNITE HERE Local 30 have been frequently conducting protests and demonstrations in front of the downtown hotel and promoting boycotts of the hotel for visitors and conventions that are allies of both communities.

According to UNITE HERE’s records, the Manchester Grand Hyatt estimates that the boycott has cost the hotel $2.4 million since July 2010.

The boycott is officially sanctioned by the San Diego Labor Council and California State AFL-CIO and was launched in coalition with the LGBT community.

Groups that have canceled business from the hotel include the International Fund of Employee Benefits, Legal Writing Institute, Society of American Law Teachers and the San Diego Association of Realtors.

Wendy Sue Biegeleisen, a longtime community activist in San Diego, said she would take a wait-and-see attitude about the potential new ownership before the boycott would be called off.

"The new owners will need to prove that they are LGBTQ positive and are willing to work the labor unions on wages and health benefits for LGBTQ employees. They are going to need to change things at the hotel," she said.

That sentiment was also expressed by Lisa Kove, executive director of DOD Fed Globe, whose said her comments do not reflect those of her employer, the federal government.

"Bottom line is that the new owners need to join the unions by showing their support for gay marriage, dignity and respect of the LGBT employees," Kove said.

The sale of the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego will be subject to numerous closing conditions and there are no assurances that the transaction will be completed, but Host Hotels & Resorts officials said today that they hope to do so by year’s end.

These closing conditions include the approval of the San Diego Unified Port District, which owns the land where the hotel is built and is considered its landlord.

Marquerite Elicone, San Diego Port of Authority’s manager of media relations, confirmed that the Port of Authority has been aware of the intentions to sell since last year, but only found out on Monday of Host Hotels & Resort's intentions.

“The Real Estate Department is trying to prepare its agenda in time for the March 8 Port of San Diego board meeting, but there is a chance the item will be pushed back to April’s meeting due to time constraints,” Elicone said.

If the meeting takes place on March 8, it will be at 1 pm at the Port Administration Building, 3165 Pacific Highway. The April 12 meeting will take place at the same time and location. All Port of San Diego board meetings are open to the public.

The Port of San Diego has about 600 tenants with an extensive array of businesses surrounding San Diego Bay. These businesses include hotels, marinas, restaurants, shipyards and manufacturing enterprises.

Daniel Rottenstreich, UNITE HERE’s political director, said the union is monitoring the sale, but is not ready to comment on the pending transaction. Representatives from the Hyatt Hotel Corp. were also unable to comment before deadline.

SDGLN Staff Writer Ben Cartwright contributed to this report.