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SD Councilman Vows Plaza de Panama Will Be Ready For 2015 Celebration

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Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama will be overhauled by the 2015 Centennial Celebration. A San Diego Councilman is making that vow even though elaborate plans for the plaza have stalled.

— The Plaza de Panama may not end up being totally traffic free as proposed in a $40 million plan from Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs. But Councilman Todd Gloria said an earlier, more modest vision calls for less radical changes, such as removing the parking spaces. He said that plan has already been publicly vetted and will cost far less money.

Gloria still believes there may be a day when the plaza is completely car free.

There’s nothing that prevents us from closing the plaza today to traffic,” he said. “At least, perhaps, on special occasions, weekends, temporary basis, to get a feel for how that works and how do San Diegans respond to it and how can we make that work better.”

Gloria said there were a number of people who ultimately thought the Jacobs plan went too far. It included building a parking structure behind the organ pavilion and adding a bypass road onto the Cabrillo Bridge.

But Gloria believes everyone, not just billionaires, should chip in to help preserve the crumbling park. He said the December Nights event is an example of how popular the park is.

“Over 300,00 people come to the park, they love the park, they enjoy it for several days,” he said. “But none of them are asked to do anything for the park. And we have to change that around. “

Gloria said large projects like revamping the Plaza de Panama will take a lot of money. But he said citizens could contribute toward smaller jobs, like replacing a stained glass window. A non-profit group is currently being organized to manage the park in the future.

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