Balboa Park Palisades area revamp to begin in March

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SAN DIEGO — The San Diego City Council unanimously voted Monday to allow city employees to move forward on the first phase of a $1.2 million parking and pedestrian project in Balboa Park.

The Balboa Park Palisades Phase I Project will replace the South Palisades parking lot with a pedestrian-friendly plaza area and green space. The current parking lot and planned plaza is sandwiched between the Automotive Museum, the Air and Space Museum, the Municipal Gym and the Comic-Con Museum.

Last June, the council approved the reallocation of $9.3 from the Plaza de Panama Capital Improvement Project for the Palisades project, comfort stations around the park and improvements to the Federal Building roof.

City employees from the Parks and Recreation, Transportation and Stormwater departments will do much of the project work on Phase I. The council approved a budget ceiling of $600,000 for using city employees, with outside contractors completing the remainder.

The project will create a public plaza with seating and tables, four L- shaped turf areas and central space for a potential future water feature. The plan also calls for creating shelters for the tram stop, lighting improvements and repaving the North Palisades lot along with the Inspiration Point and South Carousel lots, which will also be restriped to add more spaces. In total, Balboa Park will lose 13 parking spots.

“This will be welcoming to visitors,” said Councilman Chris Ward. “Kudos to city staff, who have minimized parking loss. Thirteen spaces lost and all this public benefit added.”

There were some concerns about the loss of spaces, as the park deals with significant traffic from vehicles circling for spots.

“A person from my district is not going to Uber down,” said Councilman Mark Kersey. “A mom with her kids is not going to scooter. I want to emphasize parking going forward.”

Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the council’s approval was a step toward making Balboa Park a more pedestrian-friendly landmark.

“The city can now begin to restore the Palisades area to its original vision of a walkable, family-friendly space where people can find a spot to sit and enjoy a beautiful day in San Diego’s crown jewel,” he said. “The new seating and landscaping amenities will be a welcome addition for park visitors, and the project is a great first step to revitalizing Balboa Park.”

The project will begin in March and is expected to take four months to complete.

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