Editor's Note: Earlier this month, a San Diego Superior Court judge tossed out the San Diego City Council's approval of a project to build a proposed bridge to divert cars around the Plaza de Panama and Plaza de California in Balboa. Last week, San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria asked the city attorney to return to council with a list of legal and legislative ways to revive the project. The Lemon Grove Historical Society supports the park preservation efforts, led by Save Our Heritage Organisation, and recently wrote the following letter to the San Diego City Council.
Dear Mayor Filner and Council Members,
On behalf of our executive board, this is to signify our unwavering support of SOHO's effort to save and preserve Balboa Park, the crown jewel of San Diego County, from the depredations of Jacobs Plan, just defeated in court.
Comes now Mr. Gloria's hasty proposal to alter San Diego's Municipal Code to exempt the Jacobs Plan from the city's own historic preservation ordinance. This ordinance provides critically important protections to the City's historic resources--and there is no such resource more precious than Balboa Park.
Amending the ordinance would set a precedent for other projects and private interests seeking to alter and/or destroy historic resources. Surely you will not support this cavalier approach to civic heritage.
Please be mindful that the Jacobs Plan is personal to Dr. Jacobs. He conceived it and assembled a group of adherents to push it through. So confident was he of success that, as indicated in the San Diego Union-Tribune, he never saw the court ruling coming. This is a level of hubris that has no place in urban planning, where the interests of the people and their heritage should be paramount.
As you know, every major (and many minor) historic preservation organization in the city, county, state and nation opposes the Jacobs Plan with its proposed massive construction of a veritable freeway into the park, disregard for historical fabric, and car-centered vision. The plan would flood the park with more cars than ever before in history. It is difficult to fathom how anyone could support this while simultaneously professing concern for the park's integrity.
The Jacobs Plan is that of an industrialist accustomed to large office complexes and parking lots. It is not the vision of a preservationist, nor, indeed, of the Balboa Park Master Plan.
Along with millions of others, we seek to rid the Plaza de Panama of cars. This can be done immediately by eliminating all of the parking spaces in the plaza, placing barrier cones at the west end of the Cabrillo Bridge and another set of cones between the Spreckels Organ Pavilion and the House of Pacific
Relations/Palm Canyon, and allowing only pedestrians and emergency vehicles to traverse the bridge and the walkways and road curving past the Organ Pavilion into the Plaza. Trams would carry the elderly, disabled, and parents with small children in and out of the park, with the Inspiration Point parking lot on Park Boulevard as the pick-up/drop-off area. These three groups of visitors would be given priority. Others would be in a second group that could ride on trams, subject to seat availability. If you look at vintage photographs and archival film footage of the 1915 exposition, you will see pedestrians and the famous "electriquettes" carrying people around the exhibits and traversing the historic bridge.
Retain other existing parking areas for now. Consider the former "Gold Gulch" space (1935 exposition) adjacent to the Organ Pavilion parking lot as a possible site for an underground garage.
We urge you to vote against any proposal to amend the Municipal Code to facilitate the Jacobs Plan and exempt Balboa Park from protection. Should such a proposal go forward on the Council, we urge Mayor Filner to veto it. Then, we urge the council to do the right thing and refuse to override the veto.
Helen M. Ofield