The Botanical Building in Balboa Park is one of the city’s most photographed icons.
But look closely and you’ll see it’s falling apart. Some of the wood framing on its domed roof is popping off and splitting. The water feature on the west side of the building’s been out of commission for years. Rust lurks behind elaborate plant displays.
In late 2013, the Balboa Park Conservancy announced plans to restore and upgrade the facility. The effort was billed as the fledgling group’s foundational project – something that would prove its mettle as the park’s chief fundraiser.
The Conservancy envisioned a nearly $3 million, donor-backed restoration would be finished before the 2015 Centennial Celebration. That didn’t happen. Now, more than two years in, the group reports it’s raised just $457,000. The rust and cracks continue to fester – and the group’s still working to build its track record.
Conservancy leaders point to a handful of roadblocks, from intense fundraising competition and struggles in the lead-up to the Centennial to an initial reliance on volunteers to help sell a project that wasn’t fully sketched out.
“Our story wasn’t adequate,” said Carol Chang, the Conservancy’s board president.
Support Independent Journalism Today
Unsure what Nakamura espouses but there is much about the area that I've liked & returned to enjoy except relatively recent since those that got involved made the area around the pond look inaccessible & plastic. That would repulse anybody seeking natural warmth & organic growth. Unsure why the arboretum was closed or what happened while supposed repairs were expected. Likely the potential designs will promote disharmony & require too much logistics. However, beside the malfeasance, misappropriation, & particular neglect there are other issues with the area, especially to the east since the zoo was indulged. That makes the arboretum a rather one-sided feature. Where does the money drain?
Maybe you should've kept some of the $10 million for the centennial anniversary and spend it on repair. Anything that comes from this city and affiliates is should be taken with a grain of salt.
The first people the Balboa Park Conservancy should hit up are the former Jerry Sanders minions he appointed to run the defunct Balboa Park Celebration, Inc. organization, who spent more than $2.3 million in city tax funds on themselves for lunches and junkets, before declaring their effort a failure and scattering. Perhaps if the city had the gumption to claw back city tax funds from those individuals, instead of sweeping the whole affair under the rug, it could use the money to restore the Botanical Building. It knows where those individuals are working now, so finding them shouldn't be a problem.
They seem to have the inability to take a step back and look at themselves. There is a confusion that they are doing nothing to resolve. The group already had a decent architectural study and plans, they even ran them by SOHO and got their approval, now they just want to hire an architecture firm known for their civic connections. It's obvious to me that they have done nothing to distinguish themselves from all the other groups, past and present, with similar names and similar messages, including a couple of utter failures. They have blown all their money on an out-of-town Executive Director, from as far away as is possible, who seems to not be worth what he is paid (possibly even making more money himself than the group took in last year). They just have too many similarities to the failed "insider welfare" Centennial Committee, and the one-man-show disguised as a Committee (Plaza de Panama Committee), rather than any group that has actually done anything. I think savvy potential donors are more concerned with them being spenders with no track record, rather than associating any possible gift to Balboa park with the Irwin Jacobs project. Everybody knows what the problem with that one was: it's not philanthropy if you have to force something in over the objections of people more informed than yourself, using political connections, promise of political support, putting possible objectors on the payroll, and Washington, D.C. style lobbying techniques.
As a lifelong San Diegoan, I recall seeing scaffolding around the Botanical Building and The City supposedly refurbishing it several years ago. What happened? Low bid and poor workmanship?
The Balboa Park Conservancy was set up by Jerry Sanders and "The City" as a non-competitive favored nonprofit arm for "The City" to raise funds. Following in the footsteps of another City backed failed nonprofit effort, the Balboa Park Celebration Inc. which received $3M in Public Funding with Zero Return on Investment, perhaps it is time for The City's Politicians to dismantle Balboa Park Conservancy in favor of an organization with integrity and openness.