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Let’s Talk: Parking At Balboa Park

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

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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