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San Diego City Council Advances Balboa Park Parking Garage

Photo caption: Pictured is the fountain in the center of the Plaza de Panama at Balboa Park,...

Photo by Milan Kovacevic

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

A plan to close Balboa Park's Plaza de Panama to cars and reroute them to a new parking garage goes before the City Council on Monday. There are several questions on how the city will pay for the project, which has grown in cost by $30 million.

Balboa Park Parking Garage Goes Before San Diego City Council


Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS


The San Diego City Council on Monday voted to spend up to $1 million updating a revived proposal to build an underground paid parking garage in Balboa Park.

The plan was passed by the council in 2012, but was held up for three years by a lawsuit. That lawsuit was resolved, and so Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced this summer he was bringing back the project, which conforms to the park's master plan.

Under the plan, the Plaza de Panama would be made pedestrian-only, and cars would be re-routed to a new subterranean paid parking garage behind the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

The estimated cost has grown since 2012 from $45 million to as much as $75 million. The maximum share paid by the city has nearly tripled, from $16 million to $45 million.

Councilman Todd Gloria, whose district includes Balboa Park, said he thought the plan was a good compromise and looked forward to hearing more details about the project's financing.

"I'm anxious to see a project implemented, but like other big infrastructure projects, not at any price," he said.

Council President Sherri Lightner cast the only vote against advancing the park plan, saying the city should not be spending money on new capital projects in the park when it cannot afford to maintain the park's existing infrastructure.

"I believe introducing a paid parking structure to the center of Balboa Park is not the best use of public resources," she said. "In addition this project is not in keeping with the city's Climate Action Plan goals because it continues to prioritize personal automobile travel and parking over alternative transportation."

Independent Budget Analyst Andrea Tevlin told KPBS before the vote that there are currently few details on how the project would be funded. Much of the money is expected to come from charitable donations and parking fees in the garage. But the city has not revealed how much it would have to charge for parking, or how the city would cover the costs if parking fees or donations came up short.

"Until we have that, it's a little hard to weigh in on this project," Tevlin said. "There has to be a thorough discussion at the council level before this can move forward. And the public needs to know also what this really means."

A final vote on allocating the money for the project is expected in November.

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