Eva Knott 10:44 a.m., May 18
Mayor Jerry Sanders has thrown his support behind the proposal to redevelop Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama into a car-free zone. In an open letter issued last week, he lamented the current condition of the park, writing that “Every year, Balboa Park’s backlog of deferred maintenance grows longer. Plans for needed improvements gather dust for lack of funding.”
The plan to re-route cars away from the plaza, says Sanders, “is the most exciting thing to happen in Balboa Park in my lifetime. It will transform the Balboa Park visitor experience.”
Backed by Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs, the major component of the proposal is to create a bypass bridge to loop around the plaza, stopping traffic on El Prado as it crosses over SR 163 and diverting it to the right toward a paid parking garage near the organ pavilion. The garage will feature “a green rooftop park of lawns and gardens,” and will be financed through a bond to be repaid with the parking fees generated.
Jacobs and others on the Plaza de Panama Committee have committed to raising $25 million, which will largely fund the remainder of the project. The group is in a hurry to begin development, as it’s hoped the project will be complete by 2015 for a yearlong centennial celebration of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition.
On July 17, the committee goes to the city council to discuss a memorandum of understanding. While not an explicit project approval, if issued the memorandum would express the council’s support for the project.
Rendering of the proposed bridge