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City Attorney finds gaps in Mayor Filner's effort to remove traffic from Balboa Park's Plaza de Panama

In a May 15 memo, City Attorney finds issue with Filner's so-called temporary plan.

Not so fast, Mayor Filner. That's the gist of a May 15 memo from the City Attorney's Office regarding the Mayor's plan to close the Cabrillo Bridge, thus removing traffic in the Plaza De Panama.

Filner's announced his proposal shortly after the plan to build a bypass bridge largely funded by Irwin Jacobs was shot down in court.

The plan is laid out in three phases. The first phase, set to start on May 25, is to close Cabrillo Bridge on weekends and holidays. That will be followed by the removal of traffic from the Plaza de Panama. Then comes the last phase, expected for sometime in June or July, to add additional accessible parking spaces and resurface the parking lot.

But in a May 15 memo, Deputy City Attorney Shannon Thomas laid out some obstacles to Filner's plans.

The first one is identifying the impacts that closing the Cabrillo Bridge will have on nearby city streets and adjacent neighborhoods and if that plan would need CEQA review.

In his proposal, however, Filner suggests that environmental review would not be necessary because the proposal is temporary.

The Deputy City Attorney isn't so sure, saying that even temporary parking impacts may be subject to reviewal.

"The court determined that temporary impacts caused by parking are appropriately reviewed under CEQA, because the vehicles “constitute physical conditions in an area that may be affected by the proposed project, thereby requiring a lead agency to study whether a project’s impacts on parking may cause a significant effect on parking and thus the environment.”

And then there's the problem with closing Cabrillo Bridge and whether the Mayor even has the authority to do so.

The Deputy City Attorney states that state law allows for the closure of streets for specific events, i.e., parades, celebrations, block parties, and the like in order to ensure the safety of pedestrians during "temporary closing." There is no definition of temporary, and that, reads the memo, could pose another problem.

Then there's the issue with adding and improving accessible parking in the Alcazar Gardens lot. The Deputy City Attorney says the plan could potentially trigger a requirement for a Site Development Permit and that may take time.

"There are no details regarding the extent of the improvements to the Alcazar Lot, although the IBA Report states that the parking lot would be expanded and reconfigured to accommodate ADA accessible parking...If improvements to the Alcazar Lot as envisioned pursuant to the [Balboa Park Transportation Plan] will also impact environmentally sensitive lands, a Site Development Permit will be required. A Site Development Permit that is triggered based on deviations to the environmentally sensitive lands regulations must be approved by the Planning Commission in accordance with Process Four."

More accessible parking spots then brings on another issue; whether there is sufficient access from the parking lot at Alcazar Gardens to the Plaza de Panama.

"The path of travel adjacent to the proposed accessible parking spaces in the Alcazar Parking Lot would need to be evaluated, and slope and cross slope issues addressed, in conjunction with relocating the parking spaces."

Despite the issues, it appears as if the plan is moving forward. On May 22, the City issued a permit to Balboa Park Central Valet Service to open up lanes in the Casa de Balboa parking lot, the Federal Building, North Pepper Grove, South Pepper Grove, and Inspiration Point for valet service.

You can find the memo here.

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Not so fast, Mayor Filner. That's the gist of a May 15 memo from the City Attorney's Office regarding the Mayor's plan to close the Cabrillo Bridge, thus removing traffic in the Plaza De Panama.

Filner's announced his proposal shortly after the plan to build a bypass bridge largely funded by Irwin Jacobs was shot down in court.

The plan is laid out in three phases. The first phase, set to start on May 25, is to close Cabrillo Bridge on weekends and holidays. That will be followed by the removal of traffic from the Plaza de Panama. Then comes the last phase, expected for sometime in June or July, to add additional accessible parking spaces and resurface the parking lot.

But in a May 15 memo, Deputy City Attorney Shannon Thomas laid out some obstacles to Filner's plans.

The first one is identifying the impacts that closing the Cabrillo Bridge will have on nearby city streets and adjacent neighborhoods and if that plan would need CEQA review.

In his proposal, however, Filner suggests that environmental review would not be necessary because the proposal is temporary.

The Deputy City Attorney isn't so sure, saying that even temporary parking impacts may be subject to reviewal.

"The court determined that temporary impacts caused by parking are appropriately reviewed under CEQA, because the vehicles “constitute physical conditions in an area that may be affected by the proposed project, thereby requiring a lead agency to study whether a project’s impacts on parking may cause a significant effect on parking and thus the environment.”

And then there's the problem with closing Cabrillo Bridge and whether the Mayor even has the authority to do so.

The Deputy City Attorney states that state law allows for the closure of streets for specific events, i.e., parades, celebrations, block parties, and the like in order to ensure the safety of pedestrians during "temporary closing." There is no definition of temporary, and that, reads the memo, could pose another problem.

Then there's the issue with adding and improving accessible parking in the Alcazar Gardens lot. The Deputy City Attorney says the plan could potentially trigger a requirement for a Site Development Permit and that may take time.

"There are no details regarding the extent of the improvements to the Alcazar Lot, although the IBA Report states that the parking lot would be expanded and reconfigured to accommodate ADA accessible parking...If improvements to the Alcazar Lot as envisioned pursuant to the [Balboa Park Transportation Plan] will also impact environmentally sensitive lands, a Site Development Permit will be required. A Site Development Permit that is triggered based on deviations to the environmentally sensitive lands regulations must be approved by the Planning Commission in accordance with Process Four."

More accessible parking spots then brings on another issue; whether there is sufficient access from the parking lot at Alcazar Gardens to the Plaza de Panama.

"The path of travel adjacent to the proposed accessible parking spaces in the Alcazar Parking Lot would need to be evaluated, and slope and cross slope issues addressed, in conjunction with relocating the parking spaces."

Despite the issues, it appears as if the plan is moving forward. On May 22, the City issued a permit to Balboa Park Central Valet Service to open up lanes in the Casa de Balboa parking lot, the Federal Building, North Pepper Grove, South Pepper Grove, and Inspiration Point for valet service.

You can find the memo here.

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Comments
1

In Rome, Italy, the entire Via Imperiale closes every Sunday to automobile traffic - a lovely place to stroll and view the antiquities. Of course, Julius Caesar opened the nearby Via Appia some time ago, so they have had time to work out the kinks.

May 24, 2013

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