David Dodd 1:48 a.m., May 18
Irwin Jacobs and Jerry Sanders: Billionaires and bullies create a false picture of public support for Plaza de Panama
When you're a billionaire it's pretty easy to shape public opinion or at least shape the public's view of public opinion. And when you are mayor and have endless resources at your disposal it's easy to create a giant facade to cover the truth about a truly destructive project. And that is precisely what has been happening with the much maligned Plaza de Panama Balboa Park renovation.
The mayor -- who has a long history of being a serious bully -- has teamed up with other San Diego bullies like billionaire Irwin Jacobs, the paid parking giants and the Building Industry to pass the most egregious and illegal project in San Diego's history -- the Plaza de Panama. The plan is billed as eliminating vehicular traffic from the Plaza which NO ONE is disagreeing with, but the plan does so much damage to the beloved park, opening it up to private interests while much better alternatives are available that citizens are up in arms that these bullies are forcing this plan on us illegally and threatening our park's National Historic Landmark status.
Judging from the meeting Monday it would be abundantly clear to a spectator that the public doesn't just "not like" this project, they HATE this project with a passion. But looking at the media you see an entirely different picture.
The chambers were so packed on Monday that three overflow rooms had to be opened to the public. Citizens that are usually extremely diplomatic, poised and mild mannered were extremely animated at Monday's hearing because of what was at stake. A normally calm audience could not keep quiet either as they witnessed the clear favoritism of Jacobs, Sanders and his developer buddies by Faulconer and all other Council members but Lightner.
Citizens went crazy for ex-City attorney Mike Aguirre who insisted “Mr. Jacobs, you’re not just destroying Balboa Park, you’re destroying democracy in San Diego" and that the park belonged to the people not "the City". They couldn't keep quiet when Kevin Faulconer tried to cut him off shouting out they would cede their time. Yet the media describes Aguirre's populist diatribe that received a roar of applause as "cringe-worthy" and "idiotic".
In fact the Jacobs-friendly UT described opponents of the plan as "idiotic" yes that's right the vast majority of the public that opposes this plan is "idiotic" in their editorial piece. They also cheer Councilwoman and special interest shill Lorie Zapf (who clearly lacked any real knowledge about the project) for attacking SOHO.
Bruce Coons of SOHO has been the greatest advocate for the vast majority of the public who opposes this and we owe him a huge debt of gratitude. He has also been the victim of a massive smear campaign by the UT, VOSD, KPBS and other Jacob's media productions that have such a huge financial stake in this bad project going through. Many cities are not as lucky as San Diego to have people like Bruce and Alana Coons who devote themselves full-time to protecting the public from these destructive and illegal projects by the City and the City's special interests.
The Voice of San Diego insisted Bruce's claim that nothing significant had changed about the plan during the 2 years of meetings and public input was flat out "False" in their "Fact Check" which has now lost all credibility in my opinion.
"Hours before the vote, Coons rallied opponents outside City Hall and appeared on several local TV stations in yet another effort to sway public opinion behind him. He mainly argues the plan would destroy the park’s historical integrity.
But in an interview with CBS8, Coons added another argument he and other opponents often cite. They claim the public has been shut out from deciding Balboa Park’s future, and its remaking will reflect the vision of only one man, Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs.
To buttress that idea, Coons argued Jacobs and other proponents have completely ignored the public. He told CBS8 (emphasis added):
It’s been a complete sham. This thing was fully baked two years ago. It was put on the scene. We were told we were all going to have input into it. They’ve changed it not one bit."
Apparently Jacobs and his "team" moved some bathrooms and widened a few lanes. The changes did not represent a compromise in ANY way since the primary issues were the devastation of the historic Cabrillo bridge and the introduction of paid parking. The other issues were inconsequential and were more of an insult than an acknowledgement of concerns.
VOSD does disclose that Jacobs is a major donor to Voice of San Diego which in and of itself should discredit any reporting on the issue. And is probably why VOSD blasts Bruce Coons and portrays him as inaccurate and entitled and nothing could be further from the truth. SOHO even worked with Master architect William Lewis to design an alternate plan pro bono that would accomplish the alleged goals of the Jacobs plan and would cost far less but Jacobs team would not even acknowledge the plan -- a fact that indicates there is much more to this plan than the alleged goals which is why I refer to the plan as a red herring.
I've said before it is my opinion that the goal of this plan is to destroy the National Landmark Status District designation to make exploitation of the park's 1400 acres possible.
KPBS has also spun the Jacobs plan in a very favorable light showing a lot of Jacobs promo videos for the plan and seriously downplaying any concerns. But it's important to note KPBS received a 2.5 million dollar gift from Jacobs which really brings into question how a station can claim to be "public" radio when it receives millions of dollars from a giant corporate donor that can use his "donation" to shape the narrative of his projects.
So with all these Jacobs-run media sources and millions of dollars to shape public opinion it is more than challenging for concerned citizens to find the truth. From reading these sources you would think the plan is a gift from heaven and the answer to many of the park's problems, but nothing could be further from the truth. The plan is a Pandora's box of devastating and permanent consequences. It will be the biggest mistake San Diego has ever made. Please examine stories from Jacob's media sources with a huge grain of salt and take action to help save our historic park.