David Lundin, cofounder of the Balboa Park Heritage Association, was there when Mayor Faulconer announced the resurrection of Qualcomm billionaire Irwin Jacobs's Balboa Park plan on June 30. Known as the Plaza de Panama Project, it entails adding an off-ramp to Cabrillo Bridge and a paid parking garage behind the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.
On July 1, Lundin started planning a protest. He said the first protest will be in August or September. Hundreds of protesters in 1915 and 1935 costumes is one idea he has. “We would walk across Cabrillo Bridge, have a picnic, and then a press conference.” Lundin intends to bring his protest to every hearing and meeting related to the project.
On July 2, Lundin talked about his concerns. “I have no doubt that Irwin Jacobs cares about San Diego. He’s been incredible by helping the symphony and the library.
"A friend that looked at the plan said it best when he commented that it’s an electrical engineer’s solution to a park landscaper’s problem. It’s equivalent to painting the Botanical Building pink or placing a parking garage next to Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disneyland....
“If I was in charge, I wouldn’t want to make decisions based on obsolete information. The zoo just built a parking garage that has an additional 650 parking spaces. In 1915 Cabrillo Bridge was only open for pedestrians. Why not just close the bridge to automobiles for six months and see what happens, get some hard data instead of just speculation? Let’s find out if we do indeed need extra parking.”
The introduction of paid parking is another hot-button issue.
“Since 1915, the park has never had paid parking. If they introduce it to pay for the bond they will need 80 percent occupancy to pay the bond debt. If your choices are either free spots or a paid parking garage, you will use the free spots. The paid spaces won’t generate enough money to pay down the bond. The solution to generate sufficient revenues will be to have no free spaces in the entire park.”
Lundin also talked about unintended consequences, such as museum volunteers having to pay for parking and families with limited means unable to afford the parking.
He said it made no sense to spend $40–$60 million on a parking garage when park buildings are falling apart.
“Instead of ruining the bridge and building a parking garage, take that money and restore the Botanical Building. And then focus on smaller projects. Museums have had to close because the toilets don’t work. There are offices where trash bags are duct taped to the ceiling when it rains....
“In 1868, our city fathers set aside 1400 acres for a park when the population was a proverbial ten people. That took courage. In 1915, the city had fewer than 40,000 people and hired the best architects and landscapers for the park. Now that we have 3.5 million people, we don’t even maintain the park....
“Our so called Crown Jewel is ignored by the city. The buildings that were redone in the 1970s and 1980s now have dry rot, mold, and mildew. You would never see a major historic building in other countries looking like this. It’s complicated but it’s simple. The major museums pay $1 a year in rent, but they have no incentive to maintain or care for the buildings they inhabit. This should be a fundamental municipal obligation like a sidewalk, sewer or pothole....
“A good steam-cleaning to remove the mildew and the re-stuccoing of buildings would cost perhaps $1 million and would at least prevent further deterioration. Disneyland steam-washes everything every night and it hasn’t been done in Balboa park in years. This gross neglect is an insult to the park, its history and the community that cares about it.”
Bruce Coons, executive director of Save Our Heritage Organisation, passed on a link that details the two-and-a-half year “David and Goliath battle” fought by more than 30 groups opposed to the Jacobs Plan.
Councilmember Todd Gloria, in whose district Balboa Park lies, said about the proposed project, "I thank the mayor for his leadership and am supportive of his efforts to bring more funding to the City's crown jewel. I look forward to hearing the details of this proposal to make sure it makes sense for all regional stakeholders who care about Balboa Park."
The meeting to plan the protest is on July 14 at 6:00 p.m. at the Brick Bar at 1475 University Avenue (all ages welcome). RSVP to LoveBalboaPark@gmail.com