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Arts & Culture

Report: Balboa Park needs nearly half a billion dollars to be brought up to modern standards

Balboa Park is known as the crown jewel of San Diego for good reason.

But a new report says the jewel is losing its luster. That report from the Burnham Center for Community Advancement has some suggestions for how to preserve it.

“We help cultivate good ideas, create good ideas, and then organize around those good ideas to bring them to life," Burnham Center CEO Tad Parzen said.

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The Burnham Center took several decades worth of reports on the park and synthesized them, adding their own ideas on how to preserve the park and make it sustainable for generations to come.

Those ideas come with a hefty price tag. The Center says nearly half-a-billion dollars is needed.

A big component of the report is how Balboa Park should be managed.

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Carlos Castillo
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KPBS
The Plaza De Panama in Balboa Park on Dec. 6, 2022.

“The systems that drive the park are decades old and our community is different, the park is different, the needs are different, the infrastructure is aging, and what we built decades ago to serve the community and maintain the park… we’ve just outgrown it," Parzen said.

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The report lists seven priorities, including a revenue measure for deferred maintenance, commitments to do big-time fundraising, creating a property and business improvement district, and a cabinet-level department within the city to oversee the park.

Some long overdue work is underway now. For instance, the Botanical Building is getting a complete makeover.

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John Carroll
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KPBS
The Botanical Building, undergoing renovation, is shown in Balboa Park on Dec. 6, 2022.

But other big challenges remain. New drainage systems are needed. The park needs more bathrooms too, and the existing ones need updating.

There is so much to do, and Parzen said there's no time to waste.

“It’s really too important to fail. We’ve got to come together as a community, find solutions, and make them happen," Parzen said.

The report makes the vision clear: a community working to make sure the jewel of San Diego stays at the top of the crown.