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Balboa Park Watch:
City Council Action Threatens the Loss of Balboa Park and
Brings in Paid Parking

By A. Hayes

The City Council met on September 19 and approved adding the Plaza de Panama project to the Capital Improvements Program, which includes appropriating at least $1million to finalize the project design and revise the cost estimates. SOHO sincerely thanks our members and supporters who made it to City Hall and ceded time for SOHO's presentation.

SOHO fervently opposed this project before the Council, citing the multiple changed circumstances as to why not to move forward. Beyond destruction of Cabrillo Bridge and Palm Canyon, reasons include the successful removal of surface parking from the Plaza de Panama in 2013, the Zoo's new 650-space parking structure, compliance with the City's Climate Action Plan, and Caltrans data from the 2014 bridge retrofit demonstrating that museum admissions did not suffer when the bridge was closed.

Other community members also opposed the project and highlighted a recent Uptown News survey showing that 87% are in opposition. Some institutions still supported the project, despite the $45+ million minimum that would be imposed on the City's General Fund. Some even purposely misled the Council about facts, such as the loss of trees and fire access.

When it came time for the Council to discuss the project, Councilmember David Alvarez brought up the Park Boulevard Promenade plan (page 12) and the 4,800 parking spaces this entitled project could provide. Bruce Coons also brought up the viability of this plan in his public comments. Councilman Alvarez directed the Mayor's staff to include an update on the status and feasibility of this project in November, when the full Plaza de Panama project will come back before the Council for a final vote of approval. We will keep you apprised of this November date, as it will be crucial that you attend.

The only member in opposition was Council President Sherri Lightner. Not only did Lightner question the Mayor's staff on how much money the Plaza de Panama Committee had raised to move this project forward, which is zero, she specifically stated, "A paid parking structure in Balboa Park is not the best use of city resources." She then probed staff as to why it was necessary to waive Council policies 000-31 and 800-14 pertaining to the transparency and prioritization process of projects proposed for the Capital Improvements Program. Staff explained that while it wasn't necessary to waive these policies today, these waivers would likely be necessary to initiate actual construction of the Plaza de Panama project.

After three hours of testimony and discussion, Councilmember Todd Gloria made the motion to include this project in the Capital Improvements Program, which was seconded by Councilmember Scott Sherman. Since the motion passed (8-1), the full project will move forward to be approved by the City Council's Infrastructure Committee meeting on Thursday, October 27, beginning at 10am, and then to the full City Council again on Monday, November 14 at 2pm.

Please write your Councilmember HERE to request he or she oppose this project and join SOHO at the Infrastructure Committee and City Council meetings to squash the Balboa Park Paid Parking Plan!

And, please donate to this cause now; our attorneys are busy at work.

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