New Traffic Plan Would Permanently Scar Balboa Park

by on August 1, 2016 · 1 comment

in Culture, Environment, History, Media, Organizing, Politics, San Diego

Balboa Park Cabrillo Bridg 1915By Bruce Coons / Save Our Heritage Organization

This originally appeared in the Op-Ed pages of the San Diego Union Tribune, July 23, 2016

Balboa Park’s grand and iconic entrance across the Cabrillo Bridge offers visitors one of the most breathtaking park entrances in the country. Designed a century ago by the famous New York architect Bertram G. Goodhue, this entry is a carefully planned sequence of stirring sights and experiences that celebrates panoramic natural beauty, art, and architecture.

If ever the paid parking garage and commercial development of the park that is being promoted goes forward—complete with freeway off-ramp; a giant ditch with 42-inch-tall safety railings and massive, concrete retaining walls; dangerously narrow, sunken S-curve roadway; and paid parking structure—the cherished entry experience will not only be forever lost, it will become a garish, concrete-and-asphalt nightmare that permanently scars Alcazar Garden, Palm Canyon, Spreckels Organ Pavilion, and the historic core.

Over $300 million is needed just for crucial repairs in the park, yet, instead of addressing the park’s urgent needs, a plan to spend more on building unnecessary and destructive new roads and buildings that require additional maintenance and expense is the city’s focus. This is irresponsible fiscal policy and does not make any sense.

Balboa Park Cab bridge bypassImagine if this parking project were to be built. Before you reach El Prado’s first triumphal arch, you are forced to make a 90-degree turn onto a freeway-style off ramp that has ripped through the historic Cabrillo Bridge. Traffic on the 45-foot wide road delivers noise, pollution, and rumbling vehicles to the Alcazar Garden, now one of the park’s most tranquil spots, in order to gobble up the Alcazar parking lot. This area becomes a tangled mess, a drop-off zone for freight, buses, valet service and passengers, crossing two harrowing lanes of dense traffic.

The road decimates Palm Canyon, where cut-and-fill excavation would yield about 12,600 standard truckloads of exported dirt and fatal disruption to some of the park’s earliest plantings. After negotiating a tight S-curve, you would tunnel under a roadway that ends in a cavernous, three-story parking structure with an as-yet-undetermined parking fee.

The primary drivers of the project are some of the park’s major institutions. They have provided verbal descriptions and computer-generated renderings that are grossly misleading. The skillfully crafted propaganda does not match reality or even their own drawings. The sponsors are guilty of one of the most egregious examples of developer deceit I’ve ever encountered.

When they claim they’ll hide the ugly freeway off-ramp with tall trees that will replace the enormous ones they plan to rip out, we all know it will take more than a lifetime for new trees to grow to such towering heights.

When they boast of taking cars out of the park’s center, they are actually increasing the number of cars in the park, with the parking structure as a magnet. This additional traffic runs counter to the city’s highly touted new Climate Action Plan.

When they brag that the project brings 6.2 acres of new parkland, they conveniently forget to deduct for their roadways and the huge Plaza de Panama, which was already returned to pedestrian use two years ago. Or, recognize that the zoo’s new parking facility reduces the need for new parking structures, or that ADA access will be severely impacted.

Nor is the new lawn they depict above their partially subterranean garage truly 2 new acres of parkland, as it will be significantly reduced with four new buildings and service shafts. The Balboa Park Paid Parking Plan’s illustration of children playing suggests a flat field, where in fact the artificial parkland rises several feet above ground at the northwest corner and grows to a plateau with flights of steps at the south end. The concrete parking garage is partly exposed to view to the north and east.

Park institutions and the mayor’s office are pushing this project, yet are they the ones who should decide what’s best for residents and visitors using the park? Seemingly unbeknownst to these entities, not everyone who comes to Balboa Park is seeking a museum experience with trappings of privilege. The increasingly prevalent attitude that institutional desires count more than the public’s clearly runs counter to the People’s Park, Balboa Park’s true identity for generations.

Unquestionably, this ill-conceived paving and paid parking project will destroy the historic character, scale, and natural landscapes of one of the most majestic urban parks in America. Thirty other environmental community groups and organizations including 6 neighborhood planning groups also have opposed this boondoggle. So, we ask, “Who makes the decisions for and about the park, the citizens or a clutch of self-interested parties? Is Balboa Park the People’s Park, or isn’t it?”

See the original article in the San Diego Union Tribune HERE

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Avatar Old Hippie August 1, 2016 at 8:58 pm

If billionaire Irwin Jacobs gets to have his way on this bridge plan, then I’ll spit every time I hear his name.

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