If you wanted to make a rhetorical point about commercialism clashing with a public place, you might imagine aloud a beloved park, all full of tranquility and fun, interrupted by the deep-fried scent of the first fast-food place that came to mind — say, McDonald’s.
This scenario was actually considered in Balboa Park in the late 1980s. It’s one of the more peculiar chapters in the city’s long-running challenge to pay for the park’s needs.
As the city created its park blueprint calling for better-planned parking and traffic control, officials wanted to start a tram system to ferry people from outer parking lots into the center of the park. But they needed money to pay for it. City lawmakers directed parks staff to look for ways to raise around $400,000 to cover the tram yearly. The idea was that a big corporate sponsor might pay for the service in exchange for advertising and logos on the tram itself.