Council cuts ties with Balboa Park centennial group

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SAN DIEGO — The San Diego City Council Tuesday cut ties with a volunteer group that tried to stage a yearlong celebration of Balboa Park’s centennial.

California Tower in Balboa ParkThe directors of Balboa Park Celebration Inc. voted to disband about two months ago and turn over planning activities to the city. The organization was unable to attract enough private dollars to put on a major extravaganza.

BPCI agreed last week to the terms of the termination, which will result in the reimbursement of unspent funds to city coffers.

“Under the terms of this agreement, BPCI expects to transfer roughly a quarter of a million dollars to the city, according to its current financial projections,” said Gerry Braun, who described himself as the organization’s transition director. “Under the terms of this agreement, BPCI also will transfer to the city all of the records and documents in its possession, excepting those deemed by the City Attorney’s Office to be privileged.”

Thousands of documents have already been posted on the website, and will continue to provide updates in the future, Braun said.

The city also reserved the right to investigate the group’s use of $1.6 million in city funds and seek recovery of any misspent municipal money. BPCI could also turn over any remaining private funds, which the city would then use for their intended purpose of staging a celebration.

The termination, which will take effect when signed by Mayor Kevin Faulconer, also maintains that the city and BPCI are separate entities, and the city will not accept any of the group’s liabilities.

City officials are in the process of planning a scaled-down celebration at the 1,200-acre park. The centennial will mark 100 years since the 1915 Panama-California Exposition brought international attention to the city.

“This is really kind of a downer given what we expected,” said Councilman David Alvarez, who leads a committee that oversaw the centennial planning.

Council President Todd Gloria said the “grand vision” of a spectacular celebration proved “unworkable” in retrospect. He said he believes BPCI has been cooperative, and termination of the contracts will allow the city to move ahead with planning for a smaller series of events.