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Interest In Balboa Park’s Plaza De Panama Project Has Waned

Photo by Milan Kovacevic

Pictured is the fountain in the center of the Plaza de Panama at Balboa Park, Jan. 15, 2015.

After being blocked for more than a year, the plan to reroute cars from the middle of Balboa Park was given new life by a state appeals court on Thursday. But that doesn’t mean the project will actually happen.

California's 4th District Court of Appeal reversed a Superior Court ruling from 2013 that derailed the plan to build a new bridge that would divert cars from the Plaza de Panama in Balboa Park.

But so much time has passed since the plan was struck down that it seems interest has waned.

A spokeswoman for City Council President Sherri Lightner said she is still reviewing the documents, but "at this time, to our knowledge, there are no plans to revisit the original design."

Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a statement that he supported the Plaza de Panama project as a city councilman, and that city staff are reviewing the court ruling to decide what to do next.

"City Attorney Jan Goldsmith laid out the legal strategy for victory in this case and kept that opportunity alive," the statement said. "City staff will be reviewing the project’s plans in light of this decision and any potential impacts of the more than two-year delay since the project’s approval."

Philanthropist Irwin Jacobs would have paid for the plan, but pulled his support after a court struck it down. He did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Gerry Braun, a spokesman for the City Attorney's Office, said even if the plan is not revived, the court ruling is a victory because it sets a precedent for the future.

"The appellate court said (Save Our Heritage Organisation)’s position if it were allowed to stand would allow any single individual at any time to block any change in a historic district, and that’s a recipe for gridlock and dysfunction," he said. "This was a project that had the support of the city and decisions by elected officials and should not be held hostage to the whims of a narrow special interest."

Save Our Heritage Organisation, the group that sued over the plan, could appeal the ruling to the California Supreme Court. Alana Coons, a spokeswoman for the organization, said they are reviewing the court decision but would not say whether her group would consider an appeal.

Disclosure: Irwin Jacobs is a major funder of KPBS.

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Claire Trageser
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs a member of the KPBS investigative team, my job is to hold the powerful in San Diego County accountable. I've done in-depth investigations on political campaigns, police officer misconduct and neighborhood quality of life issues.

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