Gloria hopes to resurrect Balboa Park project

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plaza de panama

Proposed parking structure for Plaza de Panama.

SAN DIEGO — City Council President Todd Gloria asked City Attorney Jan Goldsmith Monday to present legal and legislative options to resuscitate the plan to keep vehicles out of the center of Balboa Park.

The proposal, adopted by the City Council last year and backed financially by Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, was thrown out last week by San Diego Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor.

In a lawsuit filed by preservationists who opposed Jacobs’ plan, the judge ruled that the City Council violated the municipal code in finding there was no reasonable beneficial use of Balboa Park without the project. Such a finding is required to alter a facility that’s designated a historic resource.

Gloria said the SOHO lawsuit creates a situation where the city won’t be able to make any beneficial changes to Balboa Park until the laws are changed.

SOHO head Bruce Coons accused Gloria of trying an “end run” to get the project built even after Jacobs said it was over.

Boosters of the plan wanted to begin construction quickly so the Plaza de Panama and Plaza de California would be free of vehicles in time for the park’s 100th anniversary in 2015, in which a full year’s worth of events are being planned. The Save Our Heritage Organisation objects to a proposed bridge that would carry traffic around the plazas and to a new paid parking garage to be built behind the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

“I continue to support the Plaza de Panama Project as approved by the City Council, and am firmly convinced, as Judge Taylor was, that its benefits far outweighs its impacts, even in regard to protecting the park’s historic resources,” Gloria said.

“I am also firmly convinced that the city needs to fix the problem with its municipal code, as identified by Judge Taylor, or it may never be able to remove traffic and parking from the plaza,” he said.

Gloria said he looked forward to Goldsmith’s recommendations so the City Council could determine the “appropriate course of action.”

Coons said SOHO would “strongly oppose” any attempt to amend its Historic Preservation Ordinance.

“The ordinance provides important protections to the city’s historic resources, and no such resource is more important than Balboa Park,” Coons said. “Such an attempt to move the goal posts after the case is finished and the court has made its order is wrong.”

The ordinance is “the result of a detailed, public, and well-considered process some years ago” that sets out rules for making changes to historic resources, he said.

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