City to pay preservation group to end Balboa Park lawsuit

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SAN DIEGO — The San Diego City Council Tuesday officially signed off on a $355,000 payment to a preservationist group that sued to stop a plan that would have resulted in construction of a bridge in the west side of Balboa Park.

plaza de panama

Proposed parking structure for Plaza de Panama.

The settlement reimburses the Save Our Heritage Organisation for attorney’s fees incurred during a lengthy court battle.

The City Council greenlighted the deal in closed session last month. Tuesday’s public vote was made unanimously and without comment as part of the council’s consent agenda.

SOHO disputed a plan by ex-Mayor Jerry Sanders and Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs to remove vehicle traffic from the heart of Balboa Park in the Plaza de Panama.

The Sanders-Jacobs plan called for the addition of a bypass bridge that would have carried cars away from the plaza area, along with construction of a parking garage. SOHO contended the bridge would be unsightly and take away from the historical character of the park.

The City Council approved the plan.

However, in February last year, a Superior Court judge ruled that the council members had no evidence to support a finding that the project area would have no reasonable beneficial use if the plan wasn’t approved. The finding was necessary because of the park’s historic status.

The ruling effectively killed the plan. Then-Mayor Bob Filner subsequently ordered parking in the plaza to be removed.

Traffic in the plaza has been reduced this year by a seismic retrofit project on the Cabrillo Bridge.