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Let’s Talk: Parking At Balboa Park

Above: An artist's rendering of the future, pedestrian-only Plaza de Panama.

During the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, Balboa Park's Plaza de Panama didn't have any of those adorable Ford Model T's parked in it.

Instead, the square was an open space for pedestrian strolling, mingling and, likely, displaying one's afternoon finery. But for decades now, that core of the park - the central square that sits in front of the San Diego Museum of Art - has been home to 67 parking spaces and a fountain.

According to plans unveiled yesterday, Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs, Mayor Sanders, and other city officials want to clear out those parking spaces to recreate the open space of old, and add some public art and seating areas.

This obviously means 67 fewer parking spaces. The solution to that loss is to create more parking in the lot adjacent to the Spreckels Organ Pavillion by way of a two-story parking garage with 900 spaces.

Jacobs has established an 11-member committee to help raise the funds ($33 million in construction costs) to make it happen. But if the committee comes up short, the city may have to issue a bond that will be repaid through parking fees. For more background on this, see this U-T article.

The goal is to have all the construction done in time for the Plaza’s 100-year anniversary celebration in 2015.

So here's the question: Would you pay for parking to create open space in Balboa Park's central square? Do you think it's necessary to build a parking structure to alleviate the loss of 67 spaces? Do you think the square should be left as is, with parking spots intact?

I LOVE not having to pay for parking at Balboa Park. I also would really like to see open space in the Plaza, especially if it meant a high profile space for public art. So though I'm all for the redesign, I'm not sold on the idea that losing those 67 spaces requires us to build a two-story parking structure. Thoughts?

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Avatar for user 'bernasconi'

bernasconi | August 31, 2010 at 10:07 a.m. ― 6 years, 6 months ago

I would be willing to pay as long as profits return to Balboa Park and help with the close to $200 million needed for repairs. Plus it might make people start thinking of alternative modes of transportation to get to the park.

Now, I hope they do the same thing with the parking area in front of the Air & Space Museum. It would be nice to have that original fountain back.

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Avatar for user 'Angela Carone'

Angela Carone | August 31, 2010 at 10:31 a.m. ― 6 years, 6 months ago

I agree - if the funds raised from paid parking went to help repair and maintain the park, I'd gladly pay.

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Avatar for user 'bri'

bri | September 1, 2010 at 9:43 a.m. ― 6 years, 6 months ago

I would LOVE to see Balboa Park stay a park and not a parking lot. They've always had trouble with parking. I think we should get more public transport options to the park, and utilize parking areas off the park. The San Diego Historic Streetcar project wants to get the original streetcars that ran to Balboa Park during the 1915 Exposition back in operation. They could run from 12th and Imperial to the Park. People could leave their cars, and get on fun streetcars!

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | September 1, 2010 at 3:37 p.m. ― 6 years, 6 months ago

There always seem to be 67+ open spaces at the zoo. Maybe I just don't go at the busy time, but just park there. The extra walk won't hurt anybody. I do like the idea of connecting the trolley network to the park, but don't have a clear picture of where it would run and what would need to be disrupted to install it.

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Avatar for user 'DebUC'

DebUC | September 1, 2010 at 11:37 p.m. ― 6 years, 6 months ago

The above article oversimplifies the situation: expanding the Organ Pavilion lot with a two-story structure is not about compensating for a mere 67 parking spaces in the Plaza de Panama. Want to visit San Diego Museum of Art or the Reuben H Fleet Science Center on any weekend? Dine at The Prado on summer afternoons? Or add to these, Organ Pavilion recitals, Old Globe matinees, Junior Theater and special events ... plus the families that visit to simply enjoy the park's ambience. Parking is the major problem, as cars keep circling for open spaces, wasting fuel and time. How much better things would be with open space, art and recreation in the heart of the Park, with convenient shuttles to parking and hopefully greater access to public transporation. Dr. Jacobs and Mayor Sanders are right on target, working to finally make Balboa Park what it should be. Of course I would pay to park in Balboa Park ... I already do so in Chicago to visit Millennium Park and New York to visit Central Park (both cheaper via bus or subway and more expensive for auto parking) to cite just two examples.

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Avatar for user 'Angela Carone'

Angela Carone | September 2, 2010 at 9:53 a.m. ― 6 years, 6 months ago

@ DebUC Thanks for your comment. I agree that creating the open space on the Plaza is a good idea, as I state in the post. The cars in the center have always been an eyesore.

I also think charging for parking is acceptable if the money is used for Balboa Park renovations and upkeep.

I just don't love the idea of a parking structure adjacent to the Organ Pavilion or anywhere on park grounds. Convenient shuttles and public transport are the best solution.

Also want to clarify, this is hardly an "article" - only a blog post meant to solicit opinions on this topic, not to explore the issue in depth (thus, the links to news coverage).

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Avatar for user 'cdemos1'

cdemos1 | September 6, 2010 at 8:03 p.m. ― 6 years, 6 months ago

Why would we want to erase one eyesore to create a greater one? Yes I agree, the cars parked in the central plaza distract from the beauty of the buildings and landscaping directly adjacent to it, but a two story parking garage seen from many more angles would be changing the esthetic layout of the park. I think the answer is to build a pay-parking garage underground. Those that want to park in the center of the park will have to pay for the privilege.
I myself will continue to park around the perimeter of the park. That way I leave the 21st century behind so that myself and others can immerse ourselves into the peaceful 19th century atmosphere that makes Balboa Park world renowned.

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