Monday, June 10, 2013
Removal of more than 60 parking spaces from the Plaza de Panama in the heart of Balboa Park began today.
City crews took out concrete parking curbs, signs and planter boxes as part of Mayor Bob Filner's plan to make the area more pedestrian friendly.
Handicapped and valet parking is being relocated and the city has purchased a tram to shuttle park visitors around. New landscaping and seating will go into the plaza.
Motorists will still be able to drive through the area, but the mayor hopes to close off traffic on weekends and holidays beginning in September.
Traffic will be shut down completely early next year when Caltrans begins a four-month enhancement project on the Cabrillo Bridge over state Route 163.
The mayor said city staff will continue to meet with community groups to see how the changes are working and implement refinements.
"This is a framework we're setting up that allows further enhancement and beautification,'' Filner told NBC7/39.
The $300,000 project now underway replaced a plan backed by Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs that would have resulted in construction of a new bridge to carry traffic away from the plaza.
A preservationist group that worried the bypass bridge would be unsightly and threaten the park's historic status sued and got a judge to reject the Jacobs plan. The court decision is being appealed.