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Morning Report: The On-Again-Off-Again Plaza de Panama Plan Is Off Again

Rendering courtesy KCM Group

The controversial Plaza de Panama project is on hold. Again.

Philanthropist Irwin Jacobs, who has long championed the Balboa Park makeover, confirmed that the plan to clear cars from the park’s center is unlikely to move forward anytime soon [1] following higher-than-expected construction bids.

“There is an excellent plan for how to proceed, but the costs are a little too high at this point,” Jacobs told Voice of San Diego’s Lisa Halverstadt.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who revived the project two years ago, said he remained committed [2] to other improvements in Balboa Park.

Meanwhile, City Councilman Chris Ward, who represents the district that includes the park, said he hopes the city will take a more methodical approach [3] when weighing Balboa Park projects and needs in the future.

San Diego Had Some Dubious Shout-outs in the State of the State Address

From Sara Libby: The good news from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s State of the State address in Sacramento on Tuesday is that the governor definitely is aware San Diego exists. The bad news is that all of his shoutouts to the region were for bad reasons.

In announcing he was scaling back the high-speed rail project, he acknowledged it never would have reached San Diego anyway. He mentioned SDG&E’s credit rating was downgraded. And he singled out San Diego’s hepatitis A crisis as evidence of the need to do more to solve the statewide homelessness crisis.

Notably absent from the governor’s speech: Much talk of climate change, criminal justice or single-payer health care. He did tackle many major issues, though, which brings us to …

Newsom Backs One Water Tunnel Plan, Dealing Blow to Brown Legacy

Former Gov. Jerry Brown last year scrambled to secure a plan to build two water tunnels that would deliver water during heavy rain events from Northern California to Los Angeles and San Diego, fearing his successor would otherwise kill a project his father started some six decades ago.

Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom did just that, announcing the state would instead build a single tunnel that would boast roughly a quarter of the water capacity the elder Brown envisioned.

In a new story, Ry Rivard outlined the project’s long history, the arguments that led to its demise and what officials are watching for now [4] as Newsom pursues his new, smaller vision.

A Busy Day for the County

Meanwhile, in San Diego, on the same day the governor used San Diego’s hepatitis A crisis as a statewide warning on the dangers of the homelessness, county supervisors accepted an award [5] from the California Association of Counties for its response to the 2017 outbreak that left 20 dead and sickened hundreds more. The group’s executive director dubbed the local response “a great example of taking an issue that was a crisis and meeting the needs of the community and doing it in a creative and comprehensive way.”

That’s despite a state audit released in December that panned the county’s response [6] to the 2017 outbreak.

Keeping More Artists in Town

Arts organizations are responsible for the health and well-being of a city’s cultural ecosystem. But there will be nothing to support if there are no artists capable of living here.

Voice contributor Julia Dixon Evans writes this week in the Culture Report that affordable housing was the topic of a recent community forum showcasing one group’s proposal for a new workshop and living space for artists [8] in Sherman Heights.

“I don’t want to hear stories of you moving to Tijuana or Carlsbad or L.A.,” Jonathon Glus, Commission for the Arts and Culture director, told the audience.

Plus: There was exciting news from UCSD’s department of theater and dance this week, when three playwrights were selected for the Humana Festival of New American plays. The works will premiere in March.

In Other News

Today’s Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.