Plan for Balboa Park advances

San Diego’s Balboa Park remodel project received a passing vote of 6-1 on July 9, with the city council approving a $45.3 million plan to abolish current parking structures built along the Plaza de Panama and replace them with one large Spanish-Colonial style parking garage. The plan additionally includes the construction of a bypass bridge. The idea behind the remodel is to usher cars away from the archway at the end of Cabrillo Bridge and return the heart of the park, including the plazas, to pedestrians, Voice of San Diego reported.

Those looking at real estate in San Diego should consider how public spaces may evolve in the near future. The Plaza de Panama project is expected to “transform the core of Balboa Park into a grand public space for San Diego” through the removal of automobiles from its center, according to BalboaPark.org. In addition to the Plaza de Panama, both West El Prado and Esplanade “will be restored to their historic use as pedestrian park spaces.”

The new bridge and road to be built are to be called the Centennial Bridge and Road, and will take vehicles around pedestrian areas to the new underground parking structure, which will also be topped by a 2-acre park. The plan is expected to create almost 6.3 acres of new parks and promenades by eliminating current parking structures and roads.

This proposal has been controversial, garnering opposition from those concerned that the construction would negatively impact the historic character of the park. The San Diego City Council met July 9 to discuss the project proposal, drawing hundreds to the heated debate, with more than 140 people speaking out in favor and against the plan in a comment portion that lasted over six hours. At the conclusion of the comment period, the council held the vote, finally drawing the meeting to a close at about 9:30 p.m., according to Voice of San Diego.

Councilman Todd Gloria told CNS that the benefits of the plan outweigh the costs. He said, “It takes an asphalt parking lot and turns it into a public park, which is what it should be.”

Save Our Heritage Organisation's chief Bruce Coons spoke passionately, saying, “You do not want to be known as the council that voted to destroy Balboa Park,” Voice of San Diego reported.

Balboa Park is one of America’s oldest sites put aside for public recreational use. Many know the park for being home to the world famous San Diego Zoo, but it also contains many museums, theaters, gardens and other recreational facilities.