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Filner Has New Plans For Plaza de Panama

— Mayor Bob Filner said he’s nearly ready to announce a plan to get the cars out of Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama. He said he’d do that by changing traffic patterns and removing parking spaces.

From political realities to Plaza de Panama, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner covered a lot of ground in his official monthly meeting with the media.

Photo credit: KPBS

Mayor Bob Filner the day after the November 2012 election.

"Because it's not a permanent thing like the bridge, we can have an experiment, does it work or doesn't it work?'' Filner told reporters. "If it doesn't work, we'll change it.''

The mayor said parking would be eliminated in the Plaza de Panama, including parking for the disabled and valet parking. He has asked the City Council for $500,000 to implement the plan, which would come from a budget surplus projected for the current fiscal year. City Council President Todd Gloria, who represents the park, said before Filner made his remarks that no one has briefed him on the plan and suggested that area residents would react negatively if left out of the loop.The mayor subsequently said the City Council and residents will have the opportunity to vet his proposal.

A previous plan to remove vehicles from the center of Balboa Park, which included construction of a $40-million bypass bridge to carry traffic around the Plaza de Panama and Plaza de California, was recently shot down in court.

The Plaza is just one of the contentious issues Filner has had to deal with during his two months in office. His aggressive actions at City Hall, which have included holding up important appointments and withholding marketing money from the hotel industry, haven’t won him any friends among many of San Diego’s power brokers. But Filner said that’s to be expected.

“I think the people of San Diego voted for change, I think they’re behind us. But I think some of the people, who, I’ll say, lose power … get nervous,” he said. “And they’re responding in a way that, when people get defensive, they do. They write editorials. They use words for you. They sue you.”

One thing Filner can’t control is possible across-the-board federal budget cuts, which could be triggered this Friday. Filner said several large San Diego companies have already informed him they’ll lay off workers if the cuts go through.

“It would be disastrous,” Filner said. “There’s official-notice requirements by larger business if they think there’s going to be layoffs due to national polices. And we’ve gotten some of those from (General Dynamics) NASSCO, for example and, I think (Navy ship contractor) BAE," Filner said. "So, we can see, it’s going to be terrible for San Diego.”

Filner said his 20 years in Congress led him to believe that some sort of agreement will be reached between congressional leaders and President Obama to avoid the cuts, even if it comes at the very last minute.

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