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Balboa Park Plaza de Panama Project Goes Before Planning Commission Thursday

A proposal to remove vehicles from the center of Balboa Park, which has drawn intense criticism from preservationists, is scheduled to be considered tomorrow by the San Diego Planning Commission.

The $45 million plan, backed financially by Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, envisions building a 405-foot-long bypass bridge to take traffic away from the Plaza de Panama and Plaza de California, along with construction of an underground 822-space parking garage near the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

The basic idea of getting rid of cars from the center of the park to make it more pedestrian-friendly is almost universally accepted but, for opponents, the devil is in the details.

Leaders of the group Save Our Heritage Organisation say a bypass bridge would destroy the visual beauty of the west side of the park and disrupt the peaceful Alcazar Gardens. Others question plans to charge for parking in the new structure, which they worry could become a fiscal liability for the city.

Supporters of the plan say alternatives have been considered but fall short. They hope to have the changes to the park implemented in time for the 100-year anniversary of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition.

The City Council, which will have the ultimate say, is scheduled to take up the issue on July 9.

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