San Diego is relying on Balboa Park visitors paying for parking to cover its tab for a project that would transform the park’s central mesa.
The City Council is set to vote Monday on a plan to finance the controversial Plaza de Panama project, which aims to remove roadways from the park’s center and replace the asphalt lot behind the Organ Pavilion with a grass-covered paid garage.
Philanthropists have pledged to raise nearly $30 million for the project while the city’s poised to commit nearly $50 million, more than triple the amount it promised four years ago. The cost of the project has gone up more than 70 percent.
The city’s counting on profits from paid parking in the garage plus up to $10 million set aside for capital projects to cover its bills.
The city’s independent budget analyst, longtime critics of the project and at least one outside parking expert who spoke with Voice of San Diego caution that approach comes with risks, especially given free parking elsewhere in the park.
But a staffer for Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who’s led city efforts to revive the project, said the city and the Plaza de Panama committee are taking steps to protect the city’s operating fund and ensure philanthropists – not the city – are hit with the bill should the project cost more than the current $78 million estimate.
Support Independent Journalism Today
With "$14 million Jacobs has already sunk into the project" prior to even a Council approval let alone a groundbreaking, sounds like the consultants and lawyers are likely to benefit far more than the people of San Diego.
Are the city hall politicians violating the city charter, which requires that the park remain available to local citizens in a free manner? Does making people pay to park in Balboa Park violate the city charter? What does the city attorney have to say about this? The city should make sure it has the $30 million promised by the project boosters in hand and in a lockbox account BEFORE any construction is begun. The city has a sad history of depending on contributions from private groups, only to see their efforts crash and burn, and having to replace the promised money out of the city's general fund. Let's not repeat that mistake this time.
It is a sad day for those who want Balboa Park to retain it's historical integrity especially for the Cabrillo Bridge. Cal Trans spent millions to ensure the structural integrity of the bridge and insisted that it be done correctly because of the historical nature of the bridge. Any rational assessment of the project shows it to be the most intrusive and expensive way to address the issues it is supposed to solve. Revenue estimates for the garage are unrealistic given the availability of free parking near by. When that happens we are most likely to see paid parking in the rest of the park as opposed to using General Funds. Certain City Council Members have already stated that. Then the zoo will exercise it right to charge for parking in their lot. I would not mind them charging for parking if the revenue was used to maintain the Park but it will go toward a horrible white elephant of a project.
I predict an article during construction that explains the reasons parking fees will be more than planned. And then another after it's built explaining why money will need to come out of the general fund to pay for the garage. Yes, some will park there, but most will use the free parking. The main function of the garage will be to make the free parking easier to find.
But those issues aside this is an awful plan and the money would be better spent on repairs. But repairs aren't sexy, are they?
@Janet Shelton I predict that once the garage starts missing revenue projections, the city will be quick to put in meters at the two lots closest to the garage and eventually turn all of the lots around the park into paid parking.
I know that the people involved with this have the best of intentions, but it really does seem like the cost of this project outweighs the benefits.
If you look at the dollars per sq ft of additional area it seems way out of whack with other improvements that could be make to the park with the same money.
Also, it is worth considering that the Trump administration is planning to allocate additional federal money for domestic infrastructure. We should considering trying to use this local money as a match for federal dollars at the typical 10:1 (or higher) ratio, rather than on a project that only uses local funds.
I find it interesting that just a few yards away from the super-imposed artist rendering of the green space above the parking structure in the picture above, sit dozens of empty--free--parking spaces.
Absurd to spend this much money on traffic flow and parking. For a fraction of the cost, the city should close Cabrillo Bridge to all traffic (except emergency vehicles) and redirect traffic around to Park Blvd where the parking lots are. Take a little of that $78M and extend the Balboa Park Tram service to the west side of the park and extend its operating hours. Let pedestrians and cyclists enjoy the magnificent views of the city from the bridge. Spend the rest of the $78M on badly needed repairs and upgrades in the park. Too bad this issue was not on last week's ballot.
@merlot4251 Amen. Now that our brain dead council has approved this turkey, better use the place soon because its going to get really screwed up. The annual pass is a great bargain; use it now!
Twp points. Underground parking is expensive, add in the bridge and tunnel and road improvements and it gets more expensive. The downtown condos recoup that expense via condo sales, a public park can't do that.
And with nearby free parking, for most people parking in a pay lot will be parking of last resort. No way will the financial projections work unless parking is banned in the free lots until the pay lot is full. Like calling the free lots "backup parking" Not going to happen.
@Rick Smith The way the traffic flows in the project, everyone entering from the west will be routed through the Alcazar lot for (a) disabled parking; (b) dropoff; or (c) valet parking. If they want none of those options, they'll go on to park. The first lot they'll encounter will be the paid structure. Tourists, who make up a sizable portion of BP visitors, will see this first and probably will not be aware of the free parking options. They'll probably be accustomed to paying for parking, because that's common at most tourist attractions and in most urban areas. In addition, many residents find paying a few bucks to not have to hunt is well worth it. If you're a typical resident, it's not uncommon to go to the park for an hour or two. Plenty of people will pay $2 or $4 or $6 for the ease and convenience of the closest parking to the center. Not all San Diegans feel entitled to free parking, but for those who can't or won't pay for parking, there will be free options.
@Rachel Laing @Rick Smith The additional 267 parking spaces, the added traffic, and a roadway that creates a barrier between the International Cottages and the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, together with a bridge that encourages more - not less automobile use, costs the Public over $300,000 each. That is significantly more than $12/day. Those additional parking spaces go to being reserved for Valet Parking and the Institution Employees.
That is a high price for the Public to pay for benefitting those who can afford Valet Parking or work for an institution Leasing Space at a minimal cost from the City.
At the same time, there is a Guarantee of funding cuts facing the City.
To move forward with an individual project with such a significant change to the Park for a group that is not representative of the Public is a mistake.
The inherent assumption here is that if the philanthropists cannot raise the required amount of money, the project would not go forward. However, the timing of the design and engineering, which could take some 9 months, is not mentioned in the article. If the city proceeds with the design and engineering, while the fund raising effort is going on, and if, in the end, the fund raising is inadequate, the city would likely be stuck with the D & E bill. That bill could be several millions of dollars. That is a risk that should be addressed.
@bgetzel The private philanthropists are footing the bill for nearly all pre-construction costs. They've paid $14 million for the design, engineering, EIR and then the code updates and cost of estimates. The city will be out some staff time, but that's about it.
#FaulconersFolly This project, led primarily by white men of wealth and power, serves their goals and not those of the Public. The Public recognizes the need for a comprehensive Parking Plan for Balboa Park that includes Zoo Promenade Parking and shuttle systems without the Plaza de Panama Project as presented. The "leadership " of the Museum Lessees ar selected by their Boards. They purportedly represent their Members, yet do not have signatures from those Members in support of This Project. The Project spends funds that the City could use more effectively elsewhere. It leaves Naming approval with Mayor Faulconer alone. The added parking spaces end up costing over $300,000 eaoand are reserved for valet parking and institute parking.
This Project is a clear example of what is wrong with the Politics in the City of San Diego, where the Public is ignored in favor of the rich political supporters.
@Kevin Swanson Villifying people who do not agree with you is happening all too much in our country these days. It is OK to civilly diasgree with the philanthropists, or "the rich and powerful", as you say. But to impune their motives without any evidence is reprehensible. I cannot see how contributors would personally gain (naming rights? - oh please). i personally agree that the project is not a good idea, based on the facts at hand. Let's stick to the facts. Let's debate the issue on the merits, not innuendo.
@bgetzel @Kevin Swanson Debating the project on what merits? Charging the Public over $300,000 each for additional spaces that are reserved for Valet and Institution use? Changing Balboa Park's landscape for more auto use without implementing either a parking plan or alternatives such as the Zoo Promenade Parking which have been incorporated into the Central Mesa Plan?
Having a mainly white male elite spend money on their favorite project that does not benefit a significantly different demographic, culturally and income-wise, that use Balboa Park?
Handing over the power to name structures within a Public Park to a Private Group with nominal veto power by one individual - with no checks and balances to determine the value or length of that naming right?
This Project does not really have any merits. Park land could easily be reclaimed by moving the Parking to structures such as the Zoo Promenade or a new structure on Inspiration Point.
@bgetzel @Kevin Swanson Is speaking the truth vilifying them? We are getting this design shoved down our throats because the rich and powerful want it. Is this the best design, the best use of private and public dollars? And what of the historic value of the bridge. Next we knock down the Museum of Man because it doesn't look good with the Timken. That old bridge and those old buildings are, well, old and useless.