Walter Mencken 9:15 a.m., March 28
City Attorney finds a way to bypass court ruling against Plaza de Panama Project
Project can be exempt if the application is amended. If approved, even mayoral veto may not be able to stop it.
Legal or not here the bypass bridge comes.
In coming weeks it appears that San Diego's city councilmembers will revisit a controversial plan to remove traffic from the center of Balboa Park, now that the City Attorney's Office has found a way for the City to move forward with the Plaza de Panama project.
According to an April 3 memo from Jan Goldsmith, issued at the behest of Council President Todd Gloria, the city council can bypass the law and adopt an ordinance that would make the project exempt from a Site Development Permit.
In order to do so, reads the 12-page memo, the Plaza de Panama Committee or any member of the public would have to submit an application amending the project. The applicant and the newly worded project would then make their way through the planning commission and two city council hearings before the project could become exempt.
Once all that is completed there is little that can be done to stop the project, not even a veto from Mayor Bob Filner, a longtime critic of the plan.
Reads the memo:
The City Council may adopt an ordinance that exempts the Project from some of the SDP findings in the San Diego Municipal Code, makes the remaining required findings, and approves a new SDP for the Project. These approvals would likely not be subject to veto. The standard City process for development project approval should be followed, including required noticing, and a Planning Commission recommendation because the Findings Exemption is considered a zoning ordinance amendment. This Office is available to assist with the processing, assuming there is an applicant who desires to bring the Project forward again.
Gloria's decision to look for ways around Judge Taylor's ruling hasn't gone over too well with some members of the public. Records obtained through a public records request turned up dozens of emails from residents to Gloria urging him not to proceed with the project.
"Good grief...will you never learn?" Asked North Park resident and planning committee member Dionne Carlson in a February 25 email to the city council. "This is getting to be like that Monty Python skit with the dead parrot, 'The project is dead...Nooo, it is just resting...'
"We told you the Plaza de Panama [Memo of Understanding] was illegal. You pooh-poohed that one and went ahead anyway...Do please take a look down the tracks at the freight train of unfortunate consequences (further lawsuits not being the least of them) coming your/our way should you choose this option."
Other letters denounced the plan, the main proponent, Irwin Jacobs, while pleading with the Council President to step back.
"I am a voter and a taxpayer in the City and County of San Diego and want you to know that the self-aggrandizing Jacobs plan is a boondoggle that will destroy the integrity of the Balboa Park by introducing more cars into our beautiful and historic park," wrote another resident before finishing with a line in bold, capital letters; "KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID."
Gloria recently released the following statement on the memo from the City Attorney's Office.
"The City Attorney makes clear in his memorandum that a City Councilmember cannot sponsor the project and bring it back for consideration. If an applicant comes forward to advocate for the project, I would docket the request for the City Council’s consideration at a future public hearing. While it is helpful to understand there is a course to pursue, it is unfortunately apparent that the improvements could not be complete in time for the 2015 Centennial Celebration because of the likelihood of additional litigation and the project’s complexity and construction timeline."
Go here to read the full memo.
More like this:
- In cross-appeal, Save Our Heritage Organisation rehashes fight over plan to remove traffic from Balboa Park's Plaza de Panama — June 3, 2013
- City Attorney finds gaps in Mayor Filner's effort to remove traffic from Balboa Park's Plaza de Panama — May 23, 2013
- Save Our Heritage Organisation urges Gloria not to pursue Municipal Code change — Feb. 26, 2013
- Todd Gloria still ready to move forward on Plaza de Panama Project — Feb. 11, 2013
- City Council to authorize funding for Balboa Park Parking Garage — Oct. 1, 2012