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Group Sues City Of San Diego Over Plaza De Panama Project

The Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO) has filed a lawsuit against the City of San Diego over the plan to ban cars in Balboa Park's Plaza de Panama.

The San Diego City Council recently entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Plaza de Panama Committee, the group proposing the no-cars plan headed by Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs.

SOHO Executive Director Bruce Coons said the memorandum violates state law by attempting to forgo environmental-impact reports.

"They're basically pre-approving the project," Coons said. "There are many environmentally superior plans that need to be considered by the city."

SOHO said the memorandum must be set aside to ensure the city takes a "fair and open look at the alternate options for Balboa Park's parking and traffic issues."

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith responded to the lawsuit by filing a dismissal, asking SOHO's attorney, Susan Brandt-Hawley, to do the same.

“I have no opinion on the proposed project," Goldsmith said. "The only purpose of this request is to avoid the expense of litigating this meritless case and to allow public discourse to continue.”

Goldsmith said the Memorandum of Understanding between the City of San Diego and the Plaza de Panama Committee creates no legal commitment to approve the project.

"The MOU does not commit the City to any decision and reserves to the City the right and obligation to fully consider environmental analysis, including all project alternatives and mitigation measures, even the alternative of not proceeding with the proposed project," Goldsmith said.

The plan has gained the support of Mayor Jerry Sanders and has drawn criticism since its proposal.

The Plaza de Panama Committee plans to build an access road off the south side of the Cabrillo Bridge entrance to the park and a parking structure behind the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. They hope to finish the remodel by 2015 in time for the park's centennial celebration.

Funding for the $40 million plan would come from private donors and revenue from the proposed parking structure.

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