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Save Our Heritage Organisation, which has long been vocal in its opposition to the plan to transform Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama, yesterday filed a lawsuit against the City of San Diego over what the group calls a “failure to comply with local and state laws” in approving the project.

Earlier this year, SOHO prevailed in another lawsuit against the city for prematurely entering into a Memorandum of Understanding expressing approval for the project, which is backed by outgoing Mayor Jerry Sanders and Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs. The latter has pledged $25 million toward the goal of removing vehicle traffic from the plaza and returning it to a pedestrian zone, but only if his preferred plan of building a new auxiliary bridge and a paid parking structure is implemented.

“We expect to prevail again,” said SOHO executive director Bruce Coons in a release, “because the new violations of law that threaten Balboa Park are again blatant.”

“The City of San Diego concedes that the Plaza de Panama project would cause significant adverse impacts to the iconic architecture and cultural landscapes of Balboa Park, a national historic landmark,” states the petition filed by the group’s lawyer.

SOHO contends that there are other ways to resolve the situation in the Plaza that will have fewer impacts on the natural and built environment, and that the California Environmental Quality Act requires the city to instead pursue these alternatives, calling their approach “inadequate and incomplete.”

Further, the suit claims that the project violates the city’s own municipal code, which allows for the alteration of the historic Cabrillo Bridge if “no reasonable beneficial use” remains of Balboa Park. SOHO turns to California State Historic Preservation Officer Milford Wayne Donaldson, who notes that even “if there was no project, Balboa Park would continue to serve the public as it has for almost 100 years.”

Finally, SOHO points to an 1870 declaration by the state legislature that Balboa Park is to be held by the city “in trust forever” for “the use and purposes of a free and public park.” The group claims that the installation of a paid parking facility, which is an integral part of the Sanders/Jacobs plan, is at odds with the language calling for a “free” park.

The National Park Service has also weighed in against the plan, saying that it would have a “permanent, major and adverse effect on the integrity of the Balboa Park National Historical Landmark.” The Service is not a party to the suit.

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jennbarry Aug. 14, 2012 @ 9:57 a.m.

So there is still some hope. Glad to hear it. Let's not sell Balboa Park to Mr. Jacobs.


cousin Aug. 14, 2012 @ 5:54 p.m.

Did you notice the last time you went to Balboa Park that most of the visitors were in the car free plaza at the east end of the Prado, the one between the Natural History and Science Museum? No one likes the Plaza de Panama in front of the Art Museum, with its traffic and parking lot. As for the deserted little plaza in front of the Museum of man, there is no way to save it without stopping the cars from driving through. Closing the Cabrillo Bridge is not the solution, that would hurt the neighbors in Banker’s Hill who suffer from traffic and parking problems every time the bridge is closed on a temporary basis. The City Council studied the environmental report and looked at all the alternatives, then voted to get cars out of the heart of Balboa Park. They put the highest priority on people.


Javajoe25 Aug. 14, 2012 @ 10:39 p.m.

Highest priority on people, my foot! This hair-brained scheme should be dropped and the sooner the better.

The reason people do not congregate in the plaza in front of the Museum of Man is because there is nothing there! Even if there were no traffic, there is not much reason to hang around there. You can only stare at the architecture detail of the Museum of Man for so long. There is no fountain there; no food vendors; no benches to sit on, and no trees for shade. There is just not much reason to stay there.

At the other end of the Prado, in front of the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, there is the fountain; the cafe in front of the Science Museum; other food vendors; and lots of nice places to sit under the shade of the trees. It is convenient if one wants to stroll over the foot bridge to the cactus and/or the rose gardens. You've got several museums right there and it's a short walk over to Spanish Village. It's a great place to stroll and sit awhile. Even if the traffic were eliminated from the traffic circle in front of the Art Museum, it would not be as attractive a place to spend time, as the other end is.

I do not understand why Mr. Jacobs, or anyone else thinks the traffic is a major problem. By allowing cars to enter the park over Cabrillo Bridge, it completes a loop that give people easy access to the entire park. The "benefits" of the alteration proposed in the modification plan is just not worth the trouble-- unless you feel "you just have to make some money" from all the people coming to the park. Or, you have plans to expand the food services currently available either in the Prado or the Art Museum's sculpture garden, maybe add another "Prado" type restaurant.

Otherwise, there isn't any sensible reason to make any of the proposed changes, and that is not even taking into consideration the historical value that would be seriously diminished. Like I said, a hair-brained scheme. Jacobs should stick to cell phones and missile guidance systems and leave the maintenance of San Diego's history to those who have studied it and demonstrated an expertise and appreciation for the qualities and values that make San Diego the beautiful city it is and has been for many,many years.


rafael629 Oct. 18, 2012 @ 11:30 a.m.

The Jacobs plan is flawed as it gives no reference to improving public transportation to the park. Assuming that all park visitors enter via automobile is an archaic concept. More and more citizens are choosing to bike, walk, or take the trolley/bus. The millions being raised would have been much better spent adding a trolley line up Park Blvd. to Hillcrest. There historically was a trolley circuit commissioned by John Spreckels in 1915, that ran until the 1930's. MTS already has a few beautiful vintage streetcars in service downtown, why not bring that to uptown and complete the city's core public transportation routes? The need to expand trolley service has been studied again and again, why then have city leaders chosen to disregard this option and push for more roads and more parking garages in the heart of the Balboa Park? In this era of heightened awareness of the dangers of global warming, the City should be promoting more environmentally conscious alternatives to driving, especially though rare urban greenspaces.

In addition, there is already a massive parking lot at Inspiration Point, with a regular tram service to the center of the park. Why not create more parking by adding a FREE parking garage there instead. Then the City could increase the frequency of the tram service if needed. (It currently runs every 15-20 minutes.) This is in a much better location and would not necessitate the marring of the iconic Cabrillo Bridge in any way. There are two good alternative: increase parking at Inspiration Point, and bring the Trolley up Park Blvd.. More options need to be fully considered before rushing into building a permanent intrusion into the historical views and structures of Balboa Park.


Javelin Nov. 3, 2012 @ 6:15 p.m.

Please people, I'm begging you, inform yourself and watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=...

There is a lot of good that can come out of this.


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