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San Diego City Council Approves Funding For New Plaza In Balboa Park

The Palisades parking lot in Balboa Park is seen here, Feb. 10, 2020.

Photo by Andrew Bowen

Above: The Palisades parking lot in Balboa Park is seen here, Feb. 10, 2020.

San Diego City Council members Monday unanimously approved funding for a project that will transform a parking lot in Balboa Park into a new pedestrian plaza.

The lot sits in the park's Palisades area, which is in front of the San Diego Air & Space Museum and adjacent to the San Diego Automotive Museum, the Municipal Gym and the abandoned Starlight Bowl amphitheater. The idea of turning the lot into a plaza dates back to the early 1990s when the city first drew up the Central Mesa Precise Plan.

Listen to this story by Andrew Bowen.

City Councilman Chris Ward, whose district includes Balboa Park, said the project would attract more visitors to an area of the park that is often forgotten.

"What we are getting is a huge new living room opportunity for people to come, enjoy the Palisades on a Sunday afternoon and actually take advantage of some of the museums that are down here," he said.

Funding for the plaza became available last year after the city abandoned its plans for an underground paid parking garage, which had ballooned in cost while stalled by litigation. Construction of the plaza was already included in the current budget, but the City Council had to authorize spending $600,000 on city staff hours to get work on the project started.

Photo credit: City of San Diego

A rendering shows a bird's eye view of the future pedestrian plaza planned for Balboa Park's Palisades parking lot.

The full project would tear up the lot's asphalt and install benches, tables and landscaping at a cost of about $1.2 million. Because the city plans to simultaneously expand parking in other lots, the park will only lose a total of 13 spaces. The city also plans on updating the waiting area for the free tram service that connects the Palisades with some of the park's more distant parking lots.

In future years, officials plan on installing a rectangular fountain in the center of the plaza to bring the Palisades area closer to how it looked when the park first opened just over a century ago.

Immediately adjacent to the Palisades lot is the building where Comic-Con International plans to open up a museum dedicated to the convention.

Though he voted in favor of the plan, Councilman Mark Kersey raised concerns about the impact of the lost parking. Kersey said it will make parking even more difficult in the already high-demand spaces near the proposed plaza, and added that he expected city officials to continue longstanding efforts to increase the overall supply of parking in the park.

"Telling people they just need to Uber or take scooters in the park is not good enough," he said.

Reported by Andrew Bowen , Video by Nicholas Mcvicker

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Photo of Andrew Bowen

Andrew Bowen
Metro Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover local government — a broad beat that includes housing, homelessness and infrastructure. I'm especially interested in the intersections of land use, transportation and climate change.

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