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Balboa Park Watch:
City Council Committee Supports Paid Parking

By A. Hayes

The latest chapter in SOHO's fight to prevent Balboa Park's historic core from being irreparably damaged is challenging. The City Council's four-member Infrastructure Committee* met in early August and, despite opposition from SOHO and the community, they unanimously supported amending the Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) to include the Plaza de Panama project, otherwise known as the Balboa Park Paid Parking Plan. This means that if the recommendation is approved by the full City Council on September 19, a minimum of $1 million would be spent to review and revise the project's financing plan and construction documents. Even more concerning, the money is "excess funds" coming from the Mission Bay/Balboa Park Fund, Balboa Park Concessionaire Fund, and the Balboa Park Trust, funds that should be spent on the park's mountain of deferred maintenance and repairs.

The Cabrillo Bridge, El Prado, California Tower, and the Old Globe are all part of the National Landmark Historic District, which is the highest level of significance for historic resources. Courtesy Amie Hayes

Although the Balboa Park Paid Parking Plan moved incrementally forward at the meeting, there is still no dedicated funding-and due to the number of changed circumstances, Council support has weakened. The initial $1 million requested to update cost estimates and construction documents is more than likely not enough; the bill is expected to be at least double that amount.

In another troubling new development, city staff is now proposing that the city contribute up to $45 million dollars with anticipated revenues from the project's parking garage, while private donations would presumably cover the remainder of this estimated $85 million project. Currently, no private contributions have been forthcoming, which means the project could be wholly funded through the general fund. Once the paid parking garage goes unused, as SOHO expects, Balboa Park would lose free parking to metered parking to compensate for the loss of expected revenue.

Not everyone at City Hall is keen on the project. The Independent Budget Analyst cautioned it "will require significant policy and financial review." Councilmember Marti Emerald questioned whether building the garage (and freeway off-ramp to get to it) is the best use of funds. She called for first exploring all options for safe and free parking in the park, adding that she needs more answers about the long-term financial obligation in order to support this project.

Please donate to SOHO now and write your Councilmember HERE to request he or she oppose this $1 million request and mark your calendar for Monday, September 19, to join SOHO at the City Council meeting and intensify the opposition to the Balboa Park Paid Parking Plan.

*Infrastructure committee chair is Councilmember Mark Kersey and the committee includes Councilmembers Myrtle Cole (Vice Chair), Marti Emerald, and Lorie Zapf.

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