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Plaza de Panama Project Dealt Legal Blow

Aired 1/23/12 on KPBS News.

A recent court ruling says the City of San Diego is too cozy with Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs when it comes to revamping Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama.

— A Superior Court ruling says a Memorandum of Understanding between San Diego and the Plaza de Panama Committee, headed up by Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs, amounts to a project approval.

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.

Jacobs wants to route traffic out of the Plaza de Panama by building an access road around the Museum of Man. He’d also like to construct a parking garage behind the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

The ruling said an environmental review that considers alternatives should have been done first. Jacobs has paid for such a review and a draft is expected to be released soon. But the ruling said the MOU implies support for Jacobs’ plan.

Attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley represents the Save Our Heritage Organization, which filed the suit against San Diego.

“Everybody wants to deal with the parking in the park; it’s just a matter of how,” she said. “And by endorsing one alternative that early, it just makes a mockery of the process.”

The City Attorney’s office did not reply in time for this story. City officials want the project to be completed by the park’s 2015 centennial celebration.

Jacobs is a supporter of KPBS.

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