Since Qualcomm cofounder Irwin Jacobs announced plans to remove vehicles from Balboa Park's Plaza de Panama last August, critics and park preservationists have asked to hear alternatives to the proposal.
At the center of the issue is a bypass bridge that would extend from the Cabrillo Bridge, pass through the Alcazar parking lot, and lead drivers to a new underground parking garage behind the Organ Pavilion.
Critics of the plan say the bridge would destroy a historic landmark and flood the Alcazar Gardens with exhaust fumes from the vehicles passing through.
On Thursday, April 7, design teams presented those alternatives to the Balboa Park Committee, but not before stressing the importance of the bypass bridge to the project.
"The bridge is the lynchpin for this project to occur," said architect David Marshall. "Other than closing the Cabrillo Bridge to traffic, there is no other way to achieve the goals that we are discussing."
After discussing the pros and cons of constructing the bridge, the design team reviewed the alternatives to constructing the bypass bridge.
The first alternative called for closing Cabrillo Bridge to traffic and forcing drivers to enter from Park Boulevard at President's Way. Another option is to reconfigure the Quince Street off-ramp to travel under the bridge and up the canyon to the parking garage.
During public comment, it became clear that most of those in attendance supported the removal of vehicles in Plaza de Panama but rejected the proposal to build the bypass bridge.
"Most people are not against the goals of the project, they are against the means to that end," said longtime environmental planner for Caltrans Martin Rosen. "[The design team] seems to be concentrating on the visual impacts of the bypass bridge, not the unmitigated structural impacts it will have on the Cabrillo Bridge."
Later, Bruce Coons, executive director of the Save Our Heritage Organisation, dismissed the project. "This project has no substance, only fatal flaws. It is a waste of our time, just a big snake oil sales pitch."
On April 14, San Diego's Development Services Department will hold the first Environmental Impact Report scoping meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the Santa Fe Room in Balboa Park.