Heading downtown for Comic-Con next month? Harbor Drive will be closed — to cars and scooters

Crowds of fans pour across Harbor Drive on Day 2 of Comic-Con 2018 in San Diego. Access was easier because Harbor Drive was closed to vehicles.
(John Gibbins/San Diego Union-Tribune)

For the second year in a row, Harbor Drive will be closed to vehicles, as well as bicycles, scooters and skateboards, during Comic-Con International’s annual gathering next month.

The closure was so well received last year that the San Diego Convention Center Corp., Port of San Diego and Comic-Con agreed to reprise the temporary shutdown, officials said. One of the benefits of closing the wide boulevard between First Avenue and Park Boulevard is significantly more space for the pedestrian-only area fronting the center.

Except for emergency vehicles and shuttle buses, Harbor will be closed for much of the day and night throughout the convention, starting with the preview night on July 17 through the final day July 21.

The hours it will be closed are:

  • Wed., July 17 (3 p.m. - 10 p.m.)
  • Thurs., July 18 (7 a.m. - 10 p.m.)
  • Fri., July 19 (7 a.m. - 10 p.m.)
  • Sat., July 20 (7 a.m. - 10 p.m.)
  • Sun., July 21 (7 a.m. - 8 p.m.)

Like last year, the front drive area of the convention center, formerly used by shuttle buses, will be open only to attendees with badges or those picking up their badges. Those who are not attending Comic-Con will be not be allowed access. Shuttle buses, which largely pick up attendees staying in area hotels, will in turn be relocated to Harbor Drive.

What will be new this year is much improved signage both on the ground and at eye-level that will help guide those not attending the convention to the waterfront behind the convention center building.

“We want people to know the waterfront is still open for business and accessible, so we worked with Comic-Con and the port and came up with improved signage, particularly in the back so the public can know how to get behind the building,” said Convention Center Corp. CEO Clifford “Rip” Rippetoe. “There will be some sidewalk signs that are adhesive that will show you the pathway to the waterfront. We’re trying to be more communicative with our signage package.”

Comic-Con, said Rippetoe, bears all the expense for the extra cost of traffic control.

During the annual “talkback” session last year when attendees give Comic-Con organizers their feedback at the conclusion of the convention, the Harbor Drive closure was widely praised. Some asked whether it could return the following year, but at the time it was still undecided.

Since then, the closure program has received wider attention beyond San Diego, which may encourage other larger conventions to seek a similar closure, Rippetoe said.

“We got mostly positive remarks on the Harbor Drive closure, that people felt safer crossing the street and there was a much calmer vibe once they entered the building,” Rippetoe said of last year’s Comic-Con. “We have had inquiries from other customers asking ‘is this something that might work for us, and we want to see how one more year goes and we may have a conversation with you later.’”