Cabrillo Bridge
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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.

David Lundin

image by KPBS videographer Katie Schoolov

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....

What Wikipedia said: "...The [Cabrillo Bridge] design was to be similar to Toledo, Spain's Alcántara Bridge. However, Frank P. Allen, Jr. convinced Balboa Park commissioners to choose a cheaper design by Thomas B. Hunter of San Francisco that looked similar to other bridges in Mexico and Spain....

“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.

Roof on Balboa Park's Botanical Building

Balboa Park Heritage Association

“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 [email protected]

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Geranium July 3, 2016 @ 10:31 a.m.

If this plan goes forward its a huge loss in two ways, one is simply the heartless and vision-less destruction and compromise of the historical structures and landscape of Balboa Park, but it's also a loss for what could be done for the park to gently bring it into the 21st Century while fully preserving and respecting the past. Jacobs' plan is a 20th century plan, something I can imagine being considered at the same time (1960's) they were going to build a major road from I-5 to 163 via Maple Canyon and going through the West Mesa of Balboa Park, connecting to 163 around the Marston House.
Sadly this feels like Jacobs just wants to win after his earlier defeat. This is really sad because he has done so much for this city and I think must feel he's fighting for the public's good. I think all the nefarious speculation I read and hear talked about is wrong, this is not for personal profit, but simply a rich and powerful man's ego. It seems he has been working in the background to get even with SOHO and all the other folks who are trying to protect Balboa Park for the last couple years. This may even explain with the Democrats didn't put up a challenger to Faulconer in the June primary: Jacobs was behind Fauloner and they didn't want to alienate their biggest donor. All so he could get even with those who fought his plan to force his largesse on Balboa Park. (Is it possible we ended up with 4 more years of a mayor that is fully in bed with big developers because Jacobs feelings were hurt by the fight over his BP plan??) The problem is if Jacobs wins Balboa Park loses in a really big way.
Perhaps there is still a way to convince Jacobs (and Faulconer) to support an envisioning process to bring together brilliant thinkers with great ideas, both locally and internationally, to find a way to address Balboa Park's issues in a truly visionary way. There is a way to fully preserve the park and plan for a multi mode transportation needs. I would hope with Jacobs generous support of the arts and creativity he could be convinced to slow this process down and support developing a plan that isn't weighed down with the divisiveness and opposition this one has had to date and will in an even bigger way going forward. I am choosing to believe Jacobs is doing this for the right reasons, but the fight has blinded him to a pathway to a better solution for all involved, but ultimately for the legacy we leave Balboa Park.


SDJahof July 3, 2016 @ 3:40 p.m.

I believe that the approach for those against Jacobs vision needs to not be rooted in personal attacks. Doing so, continues the perception of San Diego BIG Metro city with the back woods politics that keeps this city from becoming a world class status. This city has a lot to offer Balboa Park (and many other places as well) deserves the best minds and visionaries to guide and show us the way. Geranium commented what I believe as well in regards to Jacobs. Maybe this project can become a turning point for the city and most importantly it's citizens


dagobarbz July 3, 2016 @ 10:52 a.m.

Adding more cost to people seeking to enjoy a day at the park will prevent many people from visiting, making the park "upscale only." Some people don't have yards, and use the parks for their kids to get outdoors and run around.

I really hate the way our city finds ways to stick price tags on things that should be free for residents to enjoy.


eastlaker July 3, 2016 @ 11:07 a.m.

And then there is the Ace parking angle. Just a bit more for them to manage.

No, thanks!


SD_non_native July 3, 2016 @ 11:25 a.m.

Balboa Park has been my favorite part of the city both when living here (now on my third tour) and when visiting. My thoughts:

First, please clean up and fix the buildings.

Second, Plaza de Panama should be a pedestrian area and meeting space rather than a street or parking lot. After all, it's a park.

Third, link the west (museum) side of the park to the Trolley system with at least 3 and preferably four stops.

Finally, the park does need new revenue sources, so it is going to need to start charging for parking, but that shouldn't happen until after the trolley stops are built.


Matt101 July 3, 2016 @ 4:03 p.m.

Good ideas, except that building a trolley line out to there would be very expensive and using available money to fix deteriorating Balboa Park buildings should be the highest priority. Use busses, shuttles, etc. instead.

And definitely charge for parking, not only for the revenue but also to incentivize park users to use the busses and shuttles or to carpool to the park.


SD_non_native July 3, 2016 @ 11:33 a.m.

I'm also concerned about the terrorist angle:

One of the nation's 10 largest cities - check A tourist area - check Significant military presence - check Weak security - check Ability to set off a car bomb - easy

Adding more cars to the Plaza doesn't seem to be the answer to any question.


jv333 July 3, 2016 @ 11:48 a.m.

if the parking structure doesn't make economic sense ... how about making better use of the parking on the east end of the park the former Balboa Naval Hospital...and having plenty of trams to cart people into Balboa Park? that could be one stopgap solution while we address the mold, mildew and crumbling structures within the park.

but above all else....let's stop with the personal attacks ... Irwin Jacobs is a thoroughly decent human being's painful to hear the unacceptable name-calling .. we can all agree that we love and enjoy Balboa Park ... making the Park entirely pedestrian and banning cars may be worth exploring ... it will add new human transportation challenges for the elderly and others to get to the Old Globe and other destinations.


Geranium July 3, 2016 @ 3:23 p.m.

Jv333 are you suggesting that the tone of the discussion is more important than saving Balboa Park from this horrible, destructive and irreversible idea? I agree that Irwin Jacobs is not a bad person, and that in many ways he's the privileged victim of a city that allows the rich and powerful to control it. But its hard to feel too sorry for him given the rest of us are just victims of the corruption. From what I have heard Jacobs was asked to consider a significant donation to Balboa Park, and he came up with this plan (no doubt getting advice from others). Instead, the City of San Diego should have set up a process to bring in the greatest thinkers and designers of public spaces from around the world to help us (the citizens of San Diego who own the park) to wisely add brilliant early 21st Century updates (that respect the history of the park) to the brilliant early 20th Century original design of the park. Once there was consensus from ALL the stakeholders on a plan, Jacobs should have been asked to help realize it. In other words the City set up a dynamic that was bound to be contentious for all. But understandable given the mindset of the City is that their duty is to let the rich and powerful use and play with our city as they so desire. Irwin Jacobs does deserve to be treated with respect, but he is clearly engaged in a political power play to get what he wants, so he also is going to have to endure the wrath of the people who were excluded from the process that is going to partially destroy something they love.


Ponzi July 4, 2016 @ 6:52 p.m.

Let's see, Irwin Jacob's is the biggest user of H-1B visa labor (used to lower and stagnate American wages), the biggest offshore and outsource firm to India and China - eliminating thousands of American jobs, and now with his profits he wants to be a force in redefining the future of Balboa Park - destroy habitat, ruin vistas, eliminate free parking (it will be gifted to the Ace Parking Mafia) and you want people to not attack him? Sorry, Jacobs can take his plan and shove it.


shirleyberan July 3, 2016 @ 11:53 a.m.

What about build upward the parking lot at the zoo ( Disneyland style) Everything else is walkable.


rcurrier July 3, 2016 @ 10:48 p.m.

The zoo has had a long-range plan to build a multi-level parking garage on part of the existing lot and to push the entrance out into the other part. No idea where that stands today. Also, I believe that the new parking garage that the zoo built is just for employees.


jelula July 6, 2016 @ 3:36 p.m.

rcurrier - the Zoo's Park Promenade plan (underground parking) is on hold since approval by Council a decade or more ago, primarily because the Zoo wants a City bond issued to build it and a share of the revenue to the Zoo.

You're correct that the 650 space garage is for employees only although the Zoo shares it evenings, I believe, with Old Globe attendees. So why do we need more parking and easier access for Old Globe attendees? That was one of the arguments for the valet drop-off by the Alcazar lot for people entering from the bypass bridge then traipsing in numbers through the currently quiet and serene Alcazar Garden.


Sjtorres July 3, 2016 @ 1:12 p.m.

The people involved in this project = lunatics. You want us to pay to park at the park? And you want to tear down the Cabrillo bridge? Where do these people come from? Give me a break. Close down the 163 before you tear down that bridge. And you better put that parking garage underground, we don't need another concrete eyesore.


amorpheous July 3, 2016 @ 3:05 p.m.

Building a multi-story parking garage will destroy the character of the park,

The Cabrillo Bridge is an iconic part of San Diego's identity and history.

The traffic plan is flawed and will permanently ruin sections of the park.

Irwin Jacob has made fantastic contributions to San Diego but he is imposing himself on the people of this city in an unacceptable way this time. He needs to back off and let the citizens decide what they think is best rather than dictate what he wants.

Jacobs is in danger of creating something he will be hated for this time and will be sorry.


shirleyberan July 3, 2016 @ 4:11 p.m.

True that parking structures are ugly. What they want to do to Hillcrest is as stupid.


swell July 4, 2016 @ 4:12 p.m.

Cars and commercial activities should be out of sight. The sprawling parking lots take space where there could be green picnic areas or exotic plants or playgrounds or athletic facilities. Put the cars underground! And every year the restaurants, junk food vendors and bicycle renters expand their encroachment in the public space. Put them underground too or somewhere that they aren't impeding enjoyment of the park. Gift shops? There are roughly 18 in the park, not counting the artisans at Spanish Village, and one planned for the Botanical Building- do we need so many? How about one, at the visitor center, that serves all the museums and all the tourists and leaves more display space in all the museums. What do you think about the advertising signs intruding on the sidewalks and streets? What do you think of shuttle buses covered with advertising? How do you feel about the buskers who blast loud or amplified music around the park or sell t-shirts and jewelry?

Our Park is one of the last places in the city that is relatively free of offensive advertising and sleazy commercial in-your-face promotions. If we are to be a great city, we need to keep it clean. If Mr. Jacobs can get those ugly cars and traffic out of sight, that's a great step forward.


jelula July 6, 2016 @ 3:45 p.m.

Two things readers need to understand about the Jacobs project. One is that Jacobs always made clear that he would not pay for the actual construction of the project, that others must raise the millions of dollars necessary.

Second and most important (share this info with everyone you know), the parking garage is to be built using City funds. The funds would be from a City-issued bond that will be backed by the General Fund (think Fire, Police, Library.....) if revenue from the parking fees is not enough. That revenue is intended not only to pay the bond debt but to pay for operation and maintenance of the garage. This is absurd!

San Francisco built a 4-level underground structure with almost the same capacity and it cost $65 million to build. Parking fees are by the hour ($4.50 last I checked), higher on weekends and there's a flat $15 fee for special events. After the first few years it was open, revenue dropped precipitately, fluctuating considerably by season and by whether there was a special exhibit or concert at one of the nearby museums. My figures are from early 2013 but I doubt circumstances have changed very much since.


Flapper July 9, 2016 @ 12:13 p.m.

Re: jv333 July 3, 2016 @ 11:48 a.m.

While I share the emotion of outrage, I know that it will do no good (and even undermine the case against this project) to pop off, rant, rage, and whine, not to mention name-calling. In fact, a common practice of fifth-columnists is to incite to riot, so questioning (not declaring) whether or not such comments are planted is reasonable.

Mature discussion of the issue requires much more specific knowledge than I have at the moment (where are the plans, where are the studies from which the plans were developed, and were are the data upon which the studies reached their conclusion?).

It might be better to encourage rather than damn Jacobs, and perhaps get him behind a more logically-developed alternative. After all, there is no rush--the "problem" is not of a high order at this moment. When things get rushed, especially expensive projects with uncertain funding, "follow the money." And the pride. The result of rushing will not be a mere stumble or a fall, but a major collapse--perhaps literally and figuratively. I suspect that this eyewash has not even had any real engineering feasibility studies done yet.


Effect on buildings (e.g., Museum of Man)?

Where are they going to put all the "dirt" they dig out to build the parking garage? Florida Canyon? Palm Canyon? Gold Gulch?

Let's have some links to the details, please.


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