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Mayor Faulconer Revives Balboa Park Plaza Plan

July 1, 2016 1:18 p.m.

Mayor Faulconer Revives Balboa Park Plaza Plan


Roger Showley, reporter, The San Diego-Union Tribune

Related Story: Mayor Faulconer Revives Balboa Park Plaza Plan


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

The top story on midday edition, remember the plan to move parking at a pleasant day Panama and reroute traffic? The one that got shot down by a court ruling that was later overturned? Well, the plan is back including support for it to wealthy land -- philanthropist Irwin Jacobs, Kevin Faulkner plays the -- praise the revival and said the city has a plan that will preserve and improve Balboa Park and other city parks for decades to come.
It will provide hundreds of millions of dollars more for San Diego parks as well as finally elevate the Plaza to Panama into one of San Diego's premier public spaces.
That was mayor Faulkner at yesterday's press conference, joining us now is Roger Schooley, growth and development reporter at the San Diego Tribune, thank you for being with us today.
Glad to be there.
Roger, the plan has at least 2 aspects and one would revive Irwin Jacobs has a day Panama plan, tell us more about the plan and let us know if anything has changed?
As you said the plan was shut down by the court and revived last year through an appeals process. Let's go back to 2010 when they had a press conference in the positive Panama outside the Museum of Art and announced a proposal for finally solving the trafficking pedestrian complex in the park. He had a number of elements in that plan including a so-called bypass bridge, you call this the Centennial Bridge and it goes off the Cabrillo Bridge leading to the center of Balboa Park and taking you over to an 800 space parking garage behind the building. The other part of this was to remove cars and traffic from the middle of the park and turn it back over to pedestrians.
The one thing that has changed is when Bob Fullmer was the mayor he ordered parking remove the positive Panama and that is the state today, the bigger goal of Jacobs was to clear out all of the traffic in the cars from the center of the park. That is a plan that city Council approved in May approved master plans and other plans to make this happen. It is basically a Rip van Winkle and we have awakened from a slumber in our back on the front burner.
Now that we are awake again, what is the price tag?
The cost four years ago was $45 million, Irwin Jacobs had spent his own money, $1 billion in legal and planning cost. The actual construction cost is last -- less.
The mayor's office said they will look at estimates again because time has passed and there are other changes. All we know at the moment is that the $45 million is what it was estimated that back then.
Irwin Jacobs was going to be the main donor behind the project, I should say he is a large contributor to KPBS. In 2013 he said he was calling it quits, he had had enough of the legal wrangling and the controversy but it does look like he is back on board?
That was a big surprise to me and everyone else because he was not nasty about it that he said I have other things to worry about and see you later.
He did not say he would never come back he just said I'm not going to focus on this but the time being.
He will not pay for the whole thing, he is going to lead a fundraising campaign.
That is what did not happen in 2010, he formed a committee, the positive Panama committee with a lot of movers and shakers. He said I am going to reach out to other donors and collect money and raise it privately.
Than the city was going to take on about $18 million in cost to the parking garage.
The implication was if there is a shortfall in the fundraising side that he and his wife would pick up the difference. He did not say that yesterday but it sure sounded like he was going to take the same position because he wants to get a ton.
Roger, this plan when it was first proposed was very controversial with some people. What you hear from opponents? Like people with save our heritage, will continue to be controversial?
Just like the mayor and Dr. J pics have come back to life so has the opposition in a powerful statement saying, held that we will not go for this. They are threatening all sorts of actions, I don't know if there is a legal basis for challenging it. The city Council was of 2 minds of the time after it fell to the courts and there was not a lot of enthusiasm. They will have to prove this eventually that it's funded and commit with parking bonds and so forth and I guess it will be another battle, it is a big unknown.
Finally I said there are a couple of aspects to the plan and the mayor also wants to extend Cropsey, what would it do for Balboa Park?
It was set to take Mission Bay revenues and share it with other regional parks. It expires in 2039 so his proposal is to extend it to 2069. From the numbers that I thought could potentially produce $1.6 billion in revenue for Mission Bay Park and Balboa Park and the other parks like Mission trails and others in the beaches. There is a long and must list of things that people want to do in every single Park in San Diego. There is no end to what people like to see in Balboa Park itself has many unmet needs and wish lists that extend. At one point I added it up and it sounded like it was more than $1 billion of things that people want to do in the park over the next 50 years.
Roger Schooley is the growth and development reporter, he joined us to talk about the revival of the Plaza day Panama plan for Balboa Park.