Jeff Smith 6:45 p.m., June 29
City denies permits to San Diego's annual Earth Day event
Filner deputy chief of staff tells organizer they are standing by staff's decision
San Diego's Earth Day is under attack and event organizers are scrambling to obtain the necessary permits and save the Earth Day celebration at Balboa Park.
Today, Mayor Bob Filner's deputy chief of staff Allen Jones, called Earth Day organizer Carolyn Chase to inform her that the City will not allow the event to be held inside Balboa Park.
Trouble getting the necessary permits began in August 2012, one month after city councilmembers approved a controversial plan to remove traffic from Balboa Park's Plaza de Panama. At the time, city staff informed Chase that permits for the 23rd annual Earth Day at Balboa Park would not be granted because of concerns that the event will get in the way of construction.
Shortly after hearing the news, Chase lobbied former mayor Jerry Sanders for help. Sanders however, a proponent of the Plaza de Panama project, stood by his staff's decision.
And now, new Mayor Bob Filner, once an outspoken critic of the Plaza de Panama project, appears to be following suit despite the fact that construction has been called off until the issue is heard by a judge.
During their conversation, Jones told Chase to find a new location, like the west side of the park along Sixth Avenue, for the 50,000 plus person event.
Easier said than done, says Chase.
"Trying to take Earth Day and squash it into the west side is not feasible," writes Chase in a January 4 email.
"The question the staff wouldn't answer: What's the benefit? We would still take up the usual parking and the roads closures would be the same - so what are they really trying to achieve?"
Not only that, says Chase, but the planners have had to work around previous construction projects at the park.
But this isn't the first time Jones has refused to try and find a solution. As we reported on November 29, he passed up an opportunity to help resolve the issue.
"I have an issue I need to put on the ‘Urgent and Short’ list, which is to say an item that 1) requires early action due to a prior delay from the previous administration and 2) shouldn't take much time to help along (by the right person)," read Chase's November 14 email to Jones.
“I'm hoping you can help get me into the loop...
Added Chase: "We need [Filner] or the direction from [Filner] to his COS to check with Director of Park & Rec and ensure this is happening IN DECEMBER. We normally open for registration the last week of December, and legally we cannot do so without the park permit."
Jones passed the email on to Sanders chief of staff Julie Dubick with the following message: "Here is the issue raised by Carolyn Chase. I am taking no action on this matter other than to forward it on to you.”
Chase is upset over the inaction and feels that Balboa Park is being run by the shop and museum owners. "A policy requirement of the Master Plan is to maximize public access," writes Chase. "It's not about the events, it's about usage of the public space on the Central Mesa. And, why should decisions about park permits for publicly available facilities rentals be made behind closed doors without any route for appeal?"
Jones declined an offer from Chase to meet. Likewise, Mayor Filner and his staff also declined a request for comment on the issue.
Read the request from San Diego EarthWorks to City here:
More like this:
- Allen Jones reportedly out as Mayor Filner's Deputy Chief of Staff. — June 20, 2013
- City Attorney finds gaps in Mayor Filner's effort to remove traffic from Balboa Park's Plaza de Panama — May 23, 2013
- As the world turns: Earth Day Fair to be held inside Balboa Park — Feb. 5, 2013
- Filner sticks to staff decision to deny Earth Day use of Balboa Park...for now — Jan. 7, 2013
- Deep inside the Filner transition — Nov. 29, 2012