Balboa Park: Judge’s ruling denying redesign & parking garage plans being appealed

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balboaplan1A court ruling that denied Balboa Park a $45 million makeover, has been appealed by the Plaza de Panama Committee. The group is led by Irwin Jacobs, co-founder of Qualcomm.

The redesign of America’s Finest City’s finest park was first proposed in mid-2010. The plan included removing all vehicular traffic and parking from the central part of Balboa. This was to be accomplished by constructing a ramp from the Cabrillo Bridge entrance of the park to the west. The ramp would lead to a new parking structure situated in the current Spreckels Organ Pavilion parking lot. The structure would have had room for 800 vehicles.

This would have created a vehicle-free walkway for the whole the center portion of El Prado. New landscaping would have been added to the Plaza de California and the Plaza de Panama. New pedestrian-only ramps would have taken people to the parking garage.

The new ramp coming off the Cabrillo Bridge would have wound around the current parking lot in back of the House of Charm by the Alcazar Garden. There, passengers would have been able to disembark from their cars while either the drivers or valet parking attendants would have deposited the vehicles in the new parking structure.

In 2012 the plan was given approval by the City Council. Mayor Jerry Sanders and the city government strongly supported the plan, and made a point of scheduling the proposed opening for Jan 1, 2015. This would be the beginning of a twelve-month commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Panama-California Exposition. The exposition, held in 1915-16, was a veritable “World’s Fair” of its time, and created Balboa Park as we know it today.balboaplan2

Once the plan was given council approval, a lawsuit was filed by The Save Our Heritage Organisation.  The lawsuit named both Jacobs’ Plaza de Panama Committee and the city itself. The suit claimed that changing the look of the western entrance (Cabrillo Bridge) by adding a ramp would destroy the expected, historically-known landscape of the park.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor agreed with the SOHO, and ruled that the current city ordinance concerning historic preservation was violated by the proposed plan. The appeal of this ruling was filed on May 24, 2013.

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