Plaza de Panama Supporters Say Opponents Using Scare Tactics
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Aired 5/15/12 on KPBS News.
Backers of the proposed Plaza de Panama project in Balboa Park say their opponents are trying to scare them into dropping the plan.
SAN DIEGO Earlier this month the City of San Diego received a letter from a National Park Service representative warning the proposed Plaza de Panama project is not consistent with the standards of treatment for historic properties.
Response to National Park Service Letter
But project preservation consultant David Marshall said the Park Service has no jurisdiction over the plan because it does not involve federal money. And he said the idea of the park losing its historic designation is a far-fetched possibility being promoted by project opponents.
"The threat that Balboa Park will lose its National Register District status is nothing more than a scare tactic," Marshall said. "Because everybody we’ve talked to, including at the National Park Service, has said that’s not a realistic scenario."
Responding to the National Park Service letter, Marshall said that given the numerous historic buildings and gardens in the park, it would be difficult to show that removing 67 feet of railing from the Cabrillo Bridge and making the plan’s other proposed changes would threaten the park’s historic character. He said the letter raises some important concerns but that they have been largely addressed.
The National Park Service began looking into the project at the request of California’s State Historic Preservation Officer.
That official also said major changes to the park will cause it to lose its Historic Landmark Designation and possibly future funding opportunities.
Qualcomm founder and billionaire philanthropist Irwin Jacobs originally proposed plans to make over Balboa Park for its 2015 centennial celebration. Jacobs is a major contributor to KPBS. San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders also backs the plan.