New large-scale project confirmed for Balboa Park

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Yes, we know that Balboa Park can get a little hectic, especially around the holiday season.

That’s why a new movement has been in the works to help decrease the population per capita in the park in hopes of increasing space for newcomers and frequent pedestrians alike.

Yesterday, the City Council voted to approve a $79 million project entitled the ‘Plaza de Panama Plan,’ which would implement a 797-space parking garage outfitted with a 2.2 acre rooftop park along with a bypass bridge that will connect from the heart of Balboa Park to the new parking garage. Additionally, renovations to various plazas and gardens are to be installed as well.

About 200 people entered City Hall to voice their opinions on the project, including 90 from either side of the argument who were given opportunities to speak in the court.

This announcement has been in the works for six years since the co-founder of Qualcomm Stadium, Irwin Jacobs, set the plan in motion. Almost inevitably, the proposition was met with opposition from environmentalists and others who were concerned with preserving the history of the park.

After the plan was validated in 2012, Bruce Coons, executive leader of the Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO), attempted to the sue the city’s Superior Court on grounds that it did not submit the contract for review under the environmental board. While the lawsuit failed, the ensuing result was an overall lethargic approval process for the city to reignite.

This was met in opposition from one of the more vocal proponents of the project, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulkner, who stated that the project would mainly serve to assist in the longevity of Balboa Park as a centerpiece attraction in San Diego. Along with Faulkner, Jacobs -who is also in charge of the accrued funding for the project- stated that he wants to see families out in the open enjoying their time at the historic park.

The mayor was quoted by NBC 7 in a statement to the public in stressing the importance of the project as well as the philanthropic contribution of Jacobs.

“We can now seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform San Diego’s crown jewel for the next century,” said Faulconer in a statement. “This public-private partnership will reclaim the heart of Balboa Park for pedestrians and return the Plaza de Panama to its original grandeur. With the support from the City Council and great civic leaders like Dr. Irwin Jacobs, the grand restoration of Balboa Park can finally begin.”

Others voiced their concerns over the issue that the new project has not seen enough attention to detail in regards to the construction as well.

The construction is slated to begin in September of 2017.

It remains to be seen whether the project will be able to simultaneously attract more people to the park while reducing the large crowds, but in either case, we will see when the park is forecasted to reach its completion in late 2019.

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