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The controversial Plaza de Panama project appears to moving along according to plan, Mayor Jerry Sanders and billionaire philanthropist Irwin Jacobs' plan, that is.

On September 19, the City put out a request for bids from outside companies capable of furnishing "the City of San Diego with Movers for the Pedestrian Trams for the Balboa Park Plaza de Panama Project."

But the City isn't the only entity moving forward on the major renovation project aimed at removing cars from the Plaza de Panama.

On Tuesday, October 2, city councilmembers will be asked to approve issuing $17.4 million in tax-exempt bonds for the construction of a massive parking garage behind the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Annual revenues collected from that parking structure, estimated at $1.3 million per year, will go towards the debt from the bonds.

According to a report from city staff: "...the City recognized that the undertaking of the reclamation and restoration of the Plaza de Panama is of such significant cost that it will not be feasible solely through funds raised by the Committee. Accordingly, to ensure funding for the parking garage portion of the Project, the City Council also approved a plan of finance on July 9, 2012 contemplating the issuance of tax-exempt bonds in an amount self-supported from parking fee revenues generated by the operation of the Parking Garage."

Progress continues, however, despite a lawsuit from Save Our Heritage Organisation. The lawsuit objects to putting in a bypass road at the east end of the Cabrillo Bridge. The group and its supporters say the new road will destroy an old landmark.

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Visduh Oct. 1, 2012 @ 2:41 p.m.

Wasn't the deal that Jacobs would pay for all this? It sure sounded that way some months ago. Now they need to borrow money, and that should be a deal killer, but of course it will not do that.


Dorian Hargrove Oct. 1, 2012 @ 3:17 p.m.

Visduh: I seem to remember hearing the same thing. Although, that might have been for the other phases.

That would have been a major selling point; get a parking garage for free and then charge visitors to park in it.


jelula Oct. 4, 2012 @ 11:58 a.m.

It's amazing that, no matter how often opponents to the plan (myself included) tried to tell people that the Jacobs plan was not going to be covered entirely by Jacobs, or even by the fundraising that is supposed to pay for the bypass and related elements, no one paid attention. Over and over, we pointed out that the garage was not included and would be on the City's nickle - or, to be more direct, on the City's General Fund nickle as backup for bond payments if revenue from the parking garage is inadequate.

They also kept telling us that the garage cost would only be $14 million, ignoring the additional bonding costs and bond payment coverage until the garage is built. By the time we got to City Council, the bond amount was finally stated clearly as $16 million. Yet, on Monday, the Council approved a bond of just over $17 million. And if revenue from the parking garage is insufficient to meet bond payment requirements and operation/maintenance of the garage, the money will come from the General Fund - which is what pays for public safety (fire, police, etc), libraries, recreation centers and pools, parks..... all of the basic public services that are already gasping for life because of radical cuts over the past decade or more. San Francisco built an underground garage in Golden Gate Park and it's not free parking - the City of SF is continuing to subsidize it because the revenue is insufficient to cover the costs. Why would we think it any different here in San Diego?


jelula Oct. 4, 2012 @ 12:06 p.m.

Excerpt from Feb. 16, 2012, Minutes of the SF Recreation and Parks Dept, regarding request for increases in parking rates in the Concourse garage: "GOLDEN GATE PARK CONCOURSE GARAGE Martha Kropf: Good morning. I chair the Board of Directors of MCCP, the Music Community Partnership. The garage was opened in 2005. I’m just going to give you a little bit of background. Construction was funded as you recall through a combination of $36.4 million in private philanthropy and $26.5 million in bond anticipatory notes. In December of 2010 we refinanced the bands with a bank qualified tax exempt loan. The debt is scheduled to be retired in 2039 at such time the garage will be transferred to you. Use of the garage has steadily increased after the de Young opened in 2005 and then really jumped significantly when the Academy opened in 2008. Use has now leveled off and somewhat declined. It’s a common pattern among new cultural institutions. The peak use of the garage is in the spring and summer when tourism is high. Usage is also heavily dependent on events and maybe the weather. Our revenue is way down for December and January, they were all at the Zoo. Expenses are very basic. We have debt service, we have staffing, city rent, and the utilities and insurance. MCCP is a nonprofit with a responsibility to operate the garage obviously in the most prudent way possible for the visitors to the institutions in Golden Gate Park. Currently we’re not able to cover our expenses even though our expenses are right on-budget. We have a revenue problem. The rate increase is necessary to carry the garage during the winter months and between special exhibits. Rates initially were set by ordinance in 2003. There have been two increases since then, a .25 cent COLA increase in 2009 and a .75 cent increase which was approved here in August of 2010. The proposal before you today is to increase the weekday rate by $1 from $3.50 to $4.50 an house. Likewise $1 increase per hour on the weekend rate which means the rate would go from $4 to $5 in house. After-hour event parking would increase to $15. That is pegged to Performing Arts garage and the daily maximum rates are unchanged. They will remain at $25 and $28. Monthly rates are also unchanged. There’s just a few numbers that I will share with you. ... There were twenty percent fewer parkers in December 2011 than in December 2010. The Impressionists was at the de Young in 2010, it’s not there 2011. There were thirty-four percent fewer parkers in January of 2012 than in 2011. Said another way, December 2011’s revenue was thirty-six percent below the revenue in 2010. January revenues were twenty-seven percent below of January of the preceding year. Year to date we are about seventeen percent behind on revenue."


SurfPuppy619 Oct. 4, 2012 @ 8:50 p.m.

Some GREAT reasons NOT to go froward with this white elephant.


nostalgic Oct. 7, 2012 @ 9:17 a.m.

For an example of Qualcomm/City of San Diego Parking Planning, try going to a ball game at Qualcomm Stadium. Perhaps the parking at the stadium is designed to gain public support for a new ball park. Still, it would be a good exercise to look at the process there before turning over anothe city asset to this team. The ancient Roman's got people out of the colosseum in a far more organized fashion. Maybe the plan is to move all of those interconnected cement barriers from Qualcomm Stadium to Balboa Park when the Stadium moves. Be careful here.


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