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Rob Steppke chairs the North Park Planning Group. He also sits on the Balboa Park Committee, an advisory committee to the mayor and city council. On February 15, Steppke asked his fellow North Park planners their thoughts on the proposal by Qualcomm cofounder Irwin Jacobs to remove cars from Balboa Park's Plaza de Panama. Jacobs proposes building a bypass road off of Cabrillo Bridge leading to a new parking garage.

Before the community planning group vote, Steppke opened the discussion to the public. Bruce Coons, executive director for Save Our Heritage Organization, took the floor.

"This is such a lovely plan," quipped Coons, who believes the bridge would destroy Balboa Park's most defining landmark.

"This is the most destructive project that we've seen for Balboa Park in more than 50 years," Coons said. "This is a character-defining moment for the future of the park. A serious discussion of alternatives has not occurred. Jacobs himself told me that it's either this project or nothing."

The discussion then turned to members of the planning group.

"I don't understand why they would bend over backwards to accommodate traffic while attempting to remove traffic in the plaza. It doesn't make sense," said planner Robert Barry.

"I think it's one of the greatest horrors that could happen to the park," said planner Dionne Carlson.

The committee unanimously agreed to oppose the project and asked that Jacobs explore alternatives such as building a parking garage on the eastern edge of the park or at the zoo.

North Park's Planning Group is one of two community groups to have stated their position on the proposal. Earlier this month, the Banker’s Hill/Park West Community Association voted in favor of it.

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Comments

JudiO Feb. 16, 2011 @ 3:25 p.m.

Hi all, I am a member of the North Park Planning Committee and also a Board member of SOHO. I am so impressed by the way the North Park Planning Committee explores the issues from many perspectives and in a very inclusionary way. We as a community want to preserve the iconic Cabrillo Bridge and have a serious discussion of alternatives to remove parking from the interior corridors and make the Plaza a lively place that honors our historical past as well as reduce or eliminate non-essential traffic through the park.

So far, a serious discussion of alternatives has not taken place because so many institutions and communities believe that Irwin Jacobs will take his money off the table and will penalize people and groups that oppose his plan. This is not good governance. The Bankers Hill/Park West group did not have an inclusionary meeting, rather there were hand-picked representatives. The group did not even discuss alternatives. They seem to be largely concerned with parking in their area. If there is only paid parking in Balboa Park as the Jacobs plan proposes, then the Bankers Hill/Park West communities will experience even more people fighting for free parking in their communities. Their approach in counter-intuitive to logic.

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Founder Feb. 19, 2011 @ 6:32 p.m.

On street parking without the protection of a Residential Only Parking District (paid for by the City) will only make things worse for those that live within walking distance to Balboa Park! One only needs to look at North Park, PB and Hillcrest to see what the impact of parking BLIGHT is...

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BlueSouthPark Feb. 16, 2011 @ 4:59 p.m.

It doesn't seem that the Bankers Hill/Park West group's approach was at all counter-intuitive. They are concerned about the impact on their neighborhood if free parking in Balboa Park is eliminated. That's about as intuitively obvious a concern as is possible.

I do not want paid parking in Balboa Park and think a garage behind the organ pavilion is a terrible idea, no matter how a garage might be formed, designed, constructed, or sold as some great architectural/environmentally friendly deal...however, I am not reading in JudiO's comment that alternatives to SOHO's position were presented at the NP meeting. Were they?

And on the subject of one-sidedness, in the nearby community of Greater Golden Hill, the Planning Group had no less than City salesman Gerry Braun and consultants (you are paying their salaries!) on hand to inform the committee. From the minutes at http://gghpc.blogspot.com/

"Gerry Braun from City of San Diego spoke about the plan to take parking out of the center of Balboa Park, and maybe even traffic. Dr. Irwin Jacobs (Qualcomm) has made a recommendation about how to accomplish this. Gordon Kovton of KCM Group and Scott Jordan of Civitas were present and described the project with a PowerPoint presentation."

PowerPoint! Whew! There is some good PR $$ being thrown at this. And Braun answered questions like a true bureaucrat: When concern was expressed about public safety for pedestrians, "Braun said they are aware of the issue." Yes! Great answer. Braun was well-schooled at the U-T.

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Founder Feb. 19, 2011 @ 6:34 p.m.

Great Comment BSP!

We all are being "worked" to insure that the future is WEALTHY friendly to the rich and let everyone else fend for them selves!

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LovesHillcrest Feb. 16, 2011 @ 8:17 p.m.

Correction: The Bankers Hill/Park West Community Association didn't "vote in favor" of Dr. Jacobs proposal. Leo Wilson's insular "steering committee" sent the letter of support.

The City of San Diego's District 2 website says the Park West/Bankers Hill Community Association meets quarterly. That is not true either. The last gathering open to everyone in the neighborhood was held in 2009.

Congratulations to North Park for having an open meeting for their community. It's amazing that the 9 members of Leo's "steering committee" would speak for the entire community. In addition, one of the eight signers of the letter supporting the bypass bridge doesn't even live in Park West or Bankers Hill.

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dansoderberg Feb. 17, 2011 @ 12:14 a.m.

All the planners nailed it perfectly. But perhaps the comment I liked best came from Robert Barry. "I don't understand why they would bend over backwards to accommodate traffic while attempting to remove traffic in the plaza. It doesn't make sense."

So much of the Jacobs plan doesn't make sense. Building a parking structure for over $32 million dollars for a net gain of only a couple hundred parking spaces. That's nonsense!

Building a pay to park structure in the middle of free parking surrounding it. Nonsense!

Making users of a handicap parking lot (Alcazar Garden lot) cross the busy traffic of both the by pass road, and valet parking drop off circle. Nonsense!

That nonsense seems more familiar in places like a Mission Valley or any ordinary shopping Mall. NOT Balboa Park.

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Founder Feb. 19, 2011 @ 5:49 p.m.

RE: "Bend over backwards"

The users of Balboa Park are the ones that will have to "Bend over backwards" and it is a sure bet that in the future what is free today will be "at cost" tomorrow! IOf I am wrong, then put the appropriate language in p[lace now to prevent charging for parking in the future, I double dare the powers to be to do that and if they will not then we all will know what they're "Planning" is ...

Just Say No

Mr. Jacobs would become a hero of SD if he agreed to set up funding source, so that once projects are built their maintenance would be paid for... This is the big problem today, we can build projects but the City of SD requires maintenance, that is what will change SD for the better...

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nostalgic Feb. 17, 2011 @ 3:03 p.m.

Anyone who goes to the park can see the solution: Get to the plaza, right turn only. no cars to the left. Problem solved. Pedestrian only mall preserved. But too, bad that is just one free solution. Well, nobody wants that!

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BlueSouthPark Feb. 17, 2011 @ 5:44 p.m.

You know, nostalgic, I think you've got it...no matter how hard I try, when I compare the before and after drawings of the plaza with and without parked cars, I just can't see how 'no cars' improves anything. It just seems like a big so-what. It is a small plaza. Really small. The city can close it off from parking for special events, if it wants. There are just a few parking spaces, important to disabled placard holders. There is a big pedestrian-only stretch all the way up toward the fountain. What is going on? PAID PARKING!

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Founder Feb. 19, 2011 @ 5:50 p.m.

You Hit The Nail On The Head!

$ Rules and keeps the Rift-Raft Out...

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Javajoe25 Feb. 17, 2011 @ 7:40 p.m.

Yea, I don't get this one either. It makes no sense whatsoever to put in an exit from the Cabrillo Bridge to take cars over Palm Canyon and lead them where? The parking area behind the Spreckles Pavilion? I would think a construction job of that size would be awfully expensive, and even then, it would only make sense if an underground garage were there. If that is the plan, it is going to be a real mess with the bridge closed and no parking available behind the Spreckles during construction. And all this for what? So people have more room to roam around aimlessly where the traffic circle used to be? I think it's downright screwy.

What would make more sense to me is to put in a small bridge over 163 that would be accessed by an exit road coming from Balboa Dr., down near Marston Pt.. That bridge could take traffic behind and around the auto, air & space, and sports museum into what would then be a multi-level underground garage. That parking lot back there does not usually get the traffic the others do and would not be as big a disruption as far as construction goes. Plus, by putting the bridge in down at Marston, you avoid messing with the iconic Cabrillo.

I get the feeling somebody somewhere has additional plans for the Prado Circle once it is cleared of traffic. I think either the Prado Restaurant or the Museum of Art would like more real estate. Look at how fast we lost parking when the Prado Restaurant got set up and then required valet spaces.

And if it's just a case of trying to restore the Park back to the way it was back when, well, I just hope they restore the Zorro Garden and its residents. Now that would be something worth shooting for.

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Founder Feb. 19, 2011 @ 5:53 p.m.

Beware ALL PROJECTS that seek to improve Balboa Park...

We all know what we have now and no amount of current promises will insure that the future of Balboa Park is guaranteed!

Wake up and smell the current fiscal problems in SD...

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Joe Poutous Feb. 20, 2011 @ 7:06 p.m.

Why not a parking structure behind the Rose Garden in Florida Canyon?

There is a triangle created by the back of the garden, Zoo Place and the Hospital. I bet there would be room for a 4 or 5 level structure back there that would not impact the look of the park at all.

There is already a foot bridge straight into the park located right there.

Please leave the Cabrillo Bridge alone.

  • Joe
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Founder Feb. 21, 2011 @ 10:06 a.m.

tikicult Great Idea! I bet it has never been seriously considered! Perhaps someone on the Balboa Comm. will get a link so they can read your suggestion and respond on this blog! Thanks

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Javajoe25 Feb. 21, 2011 @ 11:08 a.m.

Tikicult: That link you provided doesn't look quite right-- goo.gl? Which footbridge are you referring to?

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dwbat Jan. 8, 2013 @ 8:33 p.m.

The link works just fine. [It's a shortened link.] The footbridge crosses Park Blvd. from the No. 7 bus stop.

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