Florida Lake at Balboa Park? Proposal from 1899 echoed for canyon

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floridalake1The American Institute of Architects (AIA) San Diego chapter is holding a contest to find a new design for the entrances to Balboa Park along Park Boulevard. The specifics of the competition will be announced in early August. Among other information to come is the amount to be awarded to the winning entry, who will judge the entries, when are the deadline dates, and the amount of the entry fee, currently believed to be fifty dollars.

The competition will be open to anyone, but professional architects, while eligible to compete, will not win any cash. The AIA hopes to receive a minimum of 50 proposals. They will be on display at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park. The general public will be able to vote on the entries at the museum.

Further details are available by calling the AIA at 619-232-0109, or visiting their website at

One proposal by a student team suggests a new lake be created, with a towering bridge spanning the central canyon of the park. That idea is one of more than 50 being looked at by Mike Stepner’s studio class at the NewSchool of Architecture and Design. Stepner, who was once the San Diego City Architect is having his class study various proposals in light of the upcoming 100 year anniversary of the “world’s fair” in 1915 that created Balboa Park as we know it.

Stepner’s students will be presenting a 150 page paper to the Balboa Park Committee and Park and Recreation Board in the fall. Duplicates of the report have been sent to City Hall and to various groups supporting the continued development of the park.floridalake2

As for the lake in Florida Canyon idea, it was first discussed way back in 1899. Mayor Edwin Capps wanted to build a dam across both Switzer and Florida Canyons, creating a lake and a reservoir. At that time there was a tiny pond underneath the Cabrillo Bridge in Pond Canyon. The pond was removed when State Route 163 was built through the park in the 1940s.

Since then, many plans have been made for lakes and other water-filled venues in Balboa Park, but none have been able to hold water in the light of day.

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