Is our crown jewel a park or a parking lot?

Last week the Historical Resources Board voted unanimously to oppose the Plaza de Panama project and in particular the bypass bridge. Previously the House of Pacific Relations voted against the plan and chose the SOHO-approved Lewis plan. According to SOHO, the Lewis plan “no harm to the park’s historic features.” I read the Lewis plan and am appalled that a self-described historical preservation group is supporting building an additional road through Balboa Park along with an underground parking garage.

The Lewis plan doesn’t address how the construction of the new road or the underground parking garage will be financed. The Plaza de Panama Committee supports a plan that will purportedly be financed through “private donations and self-sustained bond financing.”

What is the real problem that Balboa Park is facing? Do we want more people utilizing the park’s many amenities? If that is the case, why are we increasing the parking supply? Shouldn’t we look for ways to reduce the demand for parking? Increasing the number of cars into the park is a self-limiting exercise unless the goal is to just incrementally pave over all of Balboa Park.

If lack of parking is the problem then the real solution is to just move all the museums and The Old Globe to Mission Valley and build a gigantic parking structure surrounding both the theater and the museums and ensure that the parking is free. This will leave the park to the residents who want some respite from a hectic city life.

I am also curious on what the cost of either the Lewis plan or the Plaza de Panama Committee-approved plan is. What is the interest rate of these “self-sustained” bonds? The parking spaces will purportedly cost $5 per spot. That seems like it will be an additional cost for anyone visiting our crown jewel. If a family has to choose between visiting the park or watching a movie in Mission Valley with free parking, I’m not sure the park is going to be a huge draw.

There was a somewhat similar issue that our big sister to the north experienced and that we should learn from. The Disney Concert Hall in L.A. built a 2,188-spot parking garage that cost $110 million and it was financed by L.A. County, which was already in a financial black hole. The initial cost was $50,000 per parking space. Today, it costs $9 to park at Disney Hall. That means a single parking space nets a little more than $3,000 per year. Which means it will take 15 years to pay for a single parking space. This doesn’t account for the interest rate being charged by the bond and assumes that every single parking spot will be filled to capacity all year round. Both the Lewis plan and the Plaza de Panama plan are boondoggles. Parking garages never pay for themselves. Anyone stating otherwise is delusional.

Instead of turning the entire park into a parking lot, how about we restrict automobile access to the entire park including State Route 163 (why is there a freeway cutting through the park?) and support efforts to increase mass transit and private shuttles access from specific hubs such as Old Town, the urban core neighborhoods and downtown. The more people that are in the park, the easier it becomes for emergency fire and ambulance access as it is easier for human beings to move compared with a clog of automobiles. If the goal is get more human activity into the park, let’s stop supporting efforts to turn the park into an asphalt jungle.

Sam Ollinger lives in City Heights.


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    Written by Sam Ollinger

    24 comments
    Lynn Naibert
    Lynn Naibert subscribermember

    This is the People's Park !!!

    Hawkeye
    Hawkeye

    This is the People's Park !!!

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones subscriber

    But more to the point, there is no need to reduce or eliminate car traffic through the plaza. Doing so restricts easy access to the park.

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones

    But more to the point, there is no need to reduce or eliminate car traffic through the plaza. Doing so restricts easy access to the park.

    Pat Seaborg
    Pat Seaborg subscribermember

    Without launching into a long story about the poor public transit options to traverse the park, can we agree that we could probably reduce car traffic if we had better public transit options? Make that a priority and we could do that right now..

    pcs
    pcs

    Without launching into a long story about the poor public transit options to traverse the park, can we agree that we could probably reduce car traffic if we had better public transit options? Make that a priority and we could do that right now..

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones subscriber

    That's worth a face plant or a chuckle, depending on how lightly you take wasting tax money.

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones

    That's worth a face plant or a chuckle, depending on how lightly you take wasting tax money.

    Lucas OConnor
    Lucas OConnor subscriber

    A more interesting question would be, where were all the proponents of the Jacobs Plan when SANDAG was deciding not to invest in non-car infrastructure to serve BP?

    lucasoconnor
    lucasoconnor

    A more interesting question would be, where were all the proponents of the Jacobs Plan when SANDAG was deciding not to invest in non-car infrastructure to serve BP?

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones subscriber

    There is no shortage of open space in the park. None whatsoever.

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones

    There is no shortage of open space in the park. None whatsoever.

    Erik Hanson
    Erik Hanson subscriber

    The Jacobs plan is now budgeted at $45 million.

    hardcover
    hardcover

    The Jacobs plan is now budgeted at $45 million.

    Richard W. Amero
    Richard W. Amero subscriber

    ed Paradise and put in a parking lot”. which is more a slogan than description. if projects now on the table go through, San Diego will have de-paved parking lots and put in green growing spaces and places for animals to romp at the Zoo and south of the Organ Pavilion.

    Richard W Amero
    Richard W Amero

    ed Paradise and put in a parking lot”. which is more a slogan than description. if projects now on the table go through, San Diego will have de-paved parking lots and put in green growing spaces and places for animals to romp at the Zoo and south of the Organ Pavilion.

    Janet Shelton
    Janet Shelton subscriber

    The reason for this changes has been given as the desire to move cars from the heart of the park. The real effect of these plans for major changes will be trashing the park to provide expensive parking.

    myearth
    myearth

    The reason for this changes has been given as the desire to move cars from the heart of the park. The real effect of these plans for major changes will be trashing the park to provide expensive parking.

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones subscriber

    I just don't see the problem that needs a solution. The park seems fine to me.

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones

    I just don't see the problem that needs a solution. The park seems fine to me.

    Judith Swink
    Judith Swink subscriber

    What we need is a much improved tram system to bring those who drive into the park from peripheral parking, and we need to reconsider the Organ Pavilion lot for a parking structure when an underground parking structure at Inspiration Point can be designed to accommodate far more vehicles. People arriving at Balboa Park using the bus or the new public transit being planned for Park Blvd.

    LibraryLover
    LibraryLover

    What we need is a much improved tram system to bring those who drive into the park from peripheral parking, and we need to reconsider the Organ Pavilion lot for a parking structure when an underground parking structure at Inspiration Point can be designed to accommodate far more vehicles. People arriving at Balboa Park using the bus or the new public transit being planned for Park Blvd.

    Sara Kazemi
    Sara Kazemi subscriber

    Funny you should post this now. This weekend (the day after Bike to Work Day) a car honked at me as I was riding my bike over the bridge that goes over the 163. I was going the same speed as car traffic and purposely was keeping a full car-length between me and the car ahead of me. The guy behind me kept accelerating and finally passed me only to tailgate the car that was in front of me. I gave him a big smile and a thumbs up.

    skazemi
    skazemi

    Funny you should post this now. This weekend (the day after Bike to Work Day) a car honked at me as I was riding my bike over the bridge that goes over the 163. I was going the same speed as car traffic and purposely was keeping a full car-length between me and the car ahead of me. The guy behind me kept accelerating and finally passed me only to tailgate the car that was in front of me. I gave him a big smile and a thumbs up.


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