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.