Opponents sue to block
Balboa Park project
The project, to be built by 2019 on the Spreckels Organ Pavilion parking lot, is the first major funding component of what could total $75 million to implement the Plaza de Panama Plan. The Council approved the plan four years ago to remove cars and parking from the center of the park, but it was delayed by litigation. The semi-underground garage would include a 2.2-acre rooftop park.
Written by David Garrick
12/22/16 - San Diego Union Tribune - Original article
Opponents of the Balboa Park Plaza de Panama plan filed a lawsuit this week to block the $79 million project based on contentions the city didn't analyze potential environmental effects thoroughly enough when the project was revived this year.
The suit, filed by the nonprofit Save Our Heritage Organisation, says several significant changes to the project since a previous approval in 2012 warrant a more detailed environmental review that the city didn't conduct before final City Council approval Nov. 14.
In addition, the suit says the last four years have also brought changes to the area surrounding the project, such as plans for nine new international cottages in Balboa Park and the rise of popular ridesharing services like Uber, which could decrease the need for a parking garage included in the project.
In contrast, city officials said in November that no further environmental analysis was necessary because "no changes in circumstances have occurred, and no new information of substantial importance has manifested, which would result in new significant or substantially increased adverse impacts as a result of the project."
A spokesman for City Attorney Mara Elliott called the lawsuit "an unjustified attempt" to delay the project.
"We look forward to the court swiftly rejecting SOHO"s claims once again and the construction of new parkland, pedestrian spaces and access for disabled visitors in the heart of Balboa Park," said the spokesman, Gerry Braun.
SOHO has consistently opposed the project, unsuccessfully suing to block it once before. They contend it would have adverse impacts on the park"s historic integrity and public access to the park.
The project aims to remove cars and parking from the center of Balboa Park with several significant modifications.
They include a 797-space paid-parking garage south of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, a 405-foot "Centennial Bridge" bypass off the Cabrillo Bridge at the park"s west entrance and redesigned plazas and roadways where cars currently travel.
During construction, the city plans to run shuttles to the park.
The city will cover $49 million of the project"s cost, chiefly from parking fees at the new garage, and a fundraising committee led by Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs will raise about $30 million more and cover any overruns once construction begins next fall.
The project, slated to be complete in 2019, has increased in cost from an initial price tag of $45 million because of some modifications that the suit says are significant enough to warrant a new environmental analysis.
They include reducing supports for the Centennial Bridge, redesigning storm water basins, adding ventilation equipment to subterranean parking and changing the elevation at the Arizona Street Landfill.
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