The Balboa Park Star can carry up to 288 passenger-diners.
A petition opposing a temporary ferris wheel in Balboa Park's Plaza de Panama has more than 2,600 signatures and counting. The city still has to approve the installation, which the Balboa Park committee voted 7-1 to move forward earlier this month.
The "Balboa Park Star" was proposed in October by the Cohn Restaurant Group, owner of the Prado Restaurant and Tea Pavilion, and Sky Views of America as a 3-6 month cure for the pandemic blahs.
It would occupy 56 x 75 feet of the area between the San Diego Museum of Art and the Timken Museum, offering rides, views, and three-course dining in the sky.
Critics call it a "disfiguring boondoggle."
David Lundin, petition starter and president of Balboa Park Heritage Association, says the 148-foot tall wheel would consume a large portion of the plaza that should be reserved for walkers, bikers and buskers.
The 1915 ferris wheel in Balboa Park
San Diego Historical Society
A vision of the plaza as an urban oasis has inspired efforts to keep it as pedestrian-friendly as possible.
It's no place to put a ferris wheel, said Charles Kaminski. "Seaport village, Liberty Station, but not in the Plaza de Panama which was freed of cars and will now be filled again."
Petitioners say the public space would be squeezed to make way for 4,200 square feet of platform and additional thousands of square feet for safety zones, security, and utility and emergency access.
A for-profit ride doesn't belong on dedicated park lands within the National Historic District, argues the petition, which had collected more than 1500 signatures when it was presented to the committee.
Committee members countered claims that the wheel is a bad fit for the historic park, which has had other fleeting projects over the years, like the Zorro Garden Nudist Colony at the 1935-36 Pacific International Exposition.
There was even a ferris wheel at the 1915 Panama-California Exhibition, said applicant David Cohn, who calls the proposed ride an "observation wheel." The wheel has 36 enclosed gondolas and can carry up to 288 passenger-diners. It will provide night and day "Covid-safe" activity.
Cohn assured the group the installation will be temporary.
Each $16 ticket would allot $1 to benefit a park fund, and potential discounts may be offered to families, military and seniors.
The wheel has approval from the regional airport authority and the FAA, but must still be reviewed by the city attorney's office and the city's historic resources board. The county will have to be back in the Covid-19 red tier before permits are secured.
The one dissenter on the park committee was Vicki Granowitz, who felt the attraction would take away plaza space from the public.
Cohn said no other location in the park would work. "It's just too far away from our kitchens and the Prado restaurant."