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San Diego Moves Toward Balboa Park Makeover


Aired 7/20/11

A plan presented by Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs for a major makeover of Balboa Park has received preliminary support from the San Diego City Council.

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

The San Diego City Council voted Tuesday to enter into a Memorandum Of Understanding with the Plaza de Panama Committee, which is headed up by Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs. The agreement isn’t binding, but gives the committee assurances the city council is open to some version of the plan.

"We need some indication that this project is acceptable to the council,'' said Jacobs, who has already chipped in $2 million for early studies and designs.

The Jacobs plan calls for building an access road off the south side of the Cabrillo Bridge entrance to the park. It would route traffic out of the Plaza de Panama in time for the 2015 centennial of the park’s international exposition. The plan also calls for the construction of a parking garage behind the Speckels Organ Pavilion.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders supports the Jacobs plan, which he said could spur more donations to the park.

"It’s a signal to the foundations and philanthropists whose help is critical to Balboa Park’s future," he said. "It tells them: 'Yes, San Diego is open to new ideas and bold vision.'"

Under the agreement, Jacobs would help raise $25 million toward the estimated $40 million project. The remaining cost would be covered by revenues from the new underground parking garage. The Plaza de Panama committee would also fund an Environmental Impact Report.

But the Save Our Heritage Organization said the plan would harm the historic nature of the park. And SOHO’s attorney, Susan Brandt-Hawley, said the MOU may not be legal.

Architectural rendering of Plaza de Panama by-pass.
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Above: Architectural rendering of Plaza de Panama by-pass.

"What isn’t appropriate - especially for a landmark site like this when there is a historic resource at stake and so much public controversy - is to right now basically ask you to to agree with the development vision before you’ve had the chance to look at alternatives," she said.

The council voted seven to one to enter into the agreement, with Councilwoman Sherri Lightner opposing the plan. The council said it would consider alternatives to the Jacobs plan as well.

Jacobs said he anticipates the project will be completed by December 2014, in time for the park's centennial in 2015.

City News Service contributed to this story

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Avatar for user 'Derek'

Derek | July 20, 2011 at 11:07 a.m. ― 5 years, 8 months ago

The problem with the parking garage is that they are planning to charge a fixed rate of $5 rather than whatever the market clearing price is. If a particular aisle has no cars parked in it, it means people place a low value on that aisle, so shouldn't the price be lower?

If a particular aisle is completely full, it means people place a high value on that aisle, and it also means someone who drives down that aisle is creating unnecessary traffic congestion.

Modern parking management guarantees one or two empty parking spaces in every aisle at all times of day. It does this between giving people the choice between a near but expensive spot and a cheap but distant spot, and between a popular but expensive time of day or a sparse but cheap time of day. So it gives people many choices, helps them save money, and reduces traffic congestion all at the same time.

Meanwhile, giving people these choices on the existing surface lots would also disprove any arguments about a "need" for this concrete monstrosity.

The "one price fits all" model just doesn't work very well. It wastes money, creates congestion, and creates dead zones. So let's not perpetuate it, okay, San Diego?

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