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Council's Infrastructure Committee Holds Sham Hearing for Balboa Park
By A. Hayes

The City Council's Infrastructure Committee meeting on Thursday October 27 regarding the Plaza de Panama should have been a lengthy discussion about the changed circumstances within the proposed project area of Balboa Park, and the best use of the City's general funds. Instead, it was a disappointingly servile demonstration that this committee is not dedicated to responsible government, but motivated by monied influence of special private interests.

The Plaza de Panama project, at an estimated cost of $80 million, is likely to climb much higher. Despite the great importance of the occasion, however, Council President Pro Tem Marti Emerald was absent, members Mark Kersey (chair), Myrtle Cole (vice chair), and Lorie Zapf listened to Irwin Jacobs present his project, followed by supportive testimony from some of the Balboa Park institutions who apparently do not understand they are located within a regional park (and not an institutional mall).

After a display of inappropriate park priorities by the proponents, SOHO's Executive Director, Bruce Coons, presented the alarming facts and bewildering intent of this plan, which among other serious consequences will introduce paid parking to Balboa Park for the first time in its history. Not only does the pro-automobile plan destroy park land and threaten termination of the nation's highest honor of National Historic Landmark status, it nets only 80 additional public parking spaces, lengthens the ADA path of access, and creates new vehicular conflicts in areas where none currently exist. When it came time for the committee to deliberate, there was ZERO acknowledgement of the issues brought up by SOHO and the intense public opposition that has surrounded the plan for over six years. The limited comments by committee members showed that, at best, they were uninformed or unable to understand the true nature of the project, or didn't care.

The Independent Budget Analyst stated that they had not reviewed the financial plans yet having just received them before the meeting. They noted that they would have plenty to comment on by the November meeting. Without the expert findings of a Budget Analysis to refer to, it is alarming that the committee was still willing to vote to approve an $80 million project, yet to be vetted for financial viability.

Despite the obviously pre-determined and unanimous outcome of this committee meeting, SOHO is thankful so many were able to attend and cede time for SOHO's presentation and to speak in opposition. Please mark your calendars now for Monday, November 14, the last opportunity the community will have to support the preservation of Balboa Park through opposing the Plaza de Panama Paid Parking Plan.

And, please donate to the Legal Defense Fund.

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