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State Official Says Balboa Park Could Lose Historic Designation

Aired 2/7/12 on KPBS News.

A state official says a plan to re-route cars out of Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama could put the park’s historic designation at risk.

— The proposal to keep cars out of the Plaza de Panama calls for building an access road off the Cabrillo Bridge and building a parking garage behind the Organ Pavilion. San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs are supporting the plan. Jacobs is also a supporter of KPBS.

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.

In a letter to the National Park Service, California’s State Historic Preservation Officer, Milford Wayne Donaldson, said the proposed changes to the park may mean it no longer qualifies for a National Historic Landmark designation.

But David Marshall, the city’s preservation consultant for the project, said changing one section isn’t enough to risk the park’s designation.

“Balboa Park is made up of dozen historic buildings and gardens and the whole group works together as a unit,” he said.

Marshall said the project falls under the category of rehabilitation, which allows for new uses at historic sites. The project is not receiving state or national funding, and doesn’t need approval at those levels. But Marshall said he’d like to talk to the state preservation office to find out more about its objections and how they can be dealt with.

In his letter, Donaldson calls the project unnecessary and intrusive. The Save Our Heritage Organization publicized the letter locally. In a news release, SOHO Executive Director Bruce Coons called Donaldson’s letter a severe blow to the project. He said if Balboa Park lost its historic status, it could jeopardize federal funding for other projects in the park.

But Marshall said the letter wouldn’t affect the timing of the Plaza de Panama project. Supporters hope to have it complete in time for Balboa Park’s centennial celebration in 2015.

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Avatar for user 'starfish'

starfish | February 7, 2012 at 10:18 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

The artists rendering makes the plaza look like a new shopping mall.

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Avatar for user 'Derek'

Derek | February 8, 2012 at 7:09 a.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

The parking garage is unnecessary. All that's needed is to make more efficient use of existing parking spaces. SFPark shows how to achieve that goal:

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Avatar for user 'gregoryagogo'

gregoryagogo | February 8, 2012 at 10:35 a.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

I think if Jacobs it's itchin' to blow a wad of dough for Balboa Park and the Plaza De Panama, he should donate it to the Committee of One Hundred and rebuild the Science & Education Building!

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Avatar for user 'Melovechocolate'

Melovechocolate | February 8, 2012 at 1:41 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

" History is important because WE ARE the past: we are the sum of all the events--good, bad, and indifferent--that have happened to us. This sum product guides our actions in the present." WHY is the Irwin's project even being considered, if there is the threat that our precious Balboa Park may FOREVER lose its historic designation? There is HISTORY here--among the very few historic sites that have not been torn down or completely refurbished to a state completely unrecognizable from the original..Is there a stronger surge coming from developers? There are ABSOLUTELY alternatives--why are the proponents so adamant and inflexible? Why don't they work to keep the historic designation? Why Is Mayor Sanders and the council members not considering this very important point? We can't get the designation back once we lose it..The 40 million dollars can buy not only materials and labor, but many pockets as well.. I hope San Diegans make their voice heard against this proposed plan..

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | February 8, 2012 at 4:26 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

I want the cars out ofthenecntral square, I think that is pretty universal amongst all citizens.

The question is how to do this without diminishing from the historical integrity of San Diego's most prized iconic jewel.

The answer is public transit.

It may take longer and be more expensive in the short-term, but at least people will be looking back on us 50 years from now and saying, "thank you for your vision and preservation of our park" instead of, "what the hell were these mad people thinking?".

We need a trolley line that goes from downtown to the park - period.

In the meantime, use shuttles to take people from existing parking garages *outside* of the park to Laurel and 6th where they can *WALK* thenPrado into the park.

Make walking the only way to get to the park's interior, leaving exceptions for the elderly and handicapped only.

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Avatar for user 'Syntropic'

Syntropic | March 3, 2012 at 9:53 a.m. ― 5 years ago

Restore the historic view by trimming and removing trees that have overgrown and blocked it. Close Cabrillo Bridge and Heart of the Park to private autos. Restore Alcazar Garden and Organ Pavilion lots to historic uses, as well as Pan Pacific Plaza and Plaza de Panama. Build a multi-use structure at Inspiration Point that includes parking, Park offices, dining, sport/multi-use roof, meeting/rehearsal space, etc. as a destination. Link building to West side of Park Blvd. through a tunnel for pedestrian and public light electric vehicle & "tram". Implement a comprehensive internal transportation system that demonstrates electric induction charging, "swarm" robotics where vehicles link as trams/convoys or can deliver passengers or goods to specific destinations. Re-stripe Fifth/Sixth Avenues and West Mesa transportation corridors. Implement external circular public transportation system.
Create "Plazas of Inspiration, Imagination, Innovation & Opportunity" with "Streets of Dreams" within Balboa Park as a "City of Dreams" by marketing donations from visitors and residents to purchase special pavers with which to line Balboa Park's pedestrian friendly walkways: 1) Titanium Dioxide concrete that cleans itself and the air; 2) Etched with the Donor's "Dream" as a pictograph or limited number of characters ($ match by Twitter?); 3) Link to electronic database through QR code or other means where Donor's name, story behind Dream, etc. could be added; 4) GPS coordinates for each paver; 5) pavers color arranged in geo glyph patterns along the idea of the Nazca Lines in Peru - visible from the air, or other patterns (spiral, maze) that lead to inspiration, imagination, innovation, and creativity; 6) make concrete using sustainable new technology.
Make Balboa Park a Showcase for Sustainability by partnering with Business, the Public, and the Environment. Provide a platform that raises money for Balboa Park by partnering with Transportation and Technology companies for pilot projects that enhance the visitor experience while creating external linkages.
Do not have major elective cosmetic surgery in the form of a bypass bridge and underground parking garage in the Park's Heart that do not enhance the visitor experience.

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