stop the jacobs balboa park plan

stop the jacobs balboa park plan

Image from SOHO San Diego website

The San Diego City Council votes Monday on the Irwin Jacobs bypass bridge and parking garage proposal for Balboa Park. The $45 million dollar plan brings vehicles into the heart of the park via an unnecessary bridge and throws in some 30 foot retaining walls in Palm Canyon for good measure.  In an era where cities around the world are devoting more space to cyclists, pedestrians and public transit, it’s 1960 all over again in San Diego.

Do you really think this plan would fly in Central Park, where they simply close the roads to autos on weekends?  Or in Golden Gate Park?  I’ve just returned from Portland where this would be called out for the abomination that it is. Yet we’re less than 48 hours away from a likely City Council approval of a plan that could cause the park to lose its National Landmark status granted by the National Park Service.  I say “likely” because Council members know better than to cross Jacobs and his money/clout in San Diego.  One has to wonder just what our elected and appointed representatives wouldn’t allow rich folks to do on public land in this town – after all, the Port District’s overrode the objections of their own art commission to approve the permanent Kissing Sailor/Nurse statue on the harbor front downtown, once wealthy backers came up with the funds.

When I think of Jacobs’ car-first plan for Balboa Park (a new road right through the heart of the park – really?), I keep coming back to Robert Moses and what his highways did to New York City during the 1950’s and 60’s.  Like Jacobs, he refused to make any compromises to his road plans, which proceeded to divide and destroy established neighborhoods.  As described in the excellent public transit book Straphanger, it wasn’t until Moses tried to build a parking lot on Central Park’s Tavern-on-the-Green, and build a four-lane road through Washington Square Park, that community protests led by Jane Jacobs resulted in public pushback against his plans.  And just as Jacobs’s supporters would have you believe the Balboa Park plan opposition is nothing but a fringe bunch of preservationists, Moses complained of his protesters: “There is nobody against this, nobody, nobody, nobody, but a bunch of, a bunch of mothers” (the Tavern protest was a line of women with baby carriages facing down a bulldozer).

Don’t forget that a big part of Jacbos’ plan is an extensive valet parking service for the wealthy patrons of the Old Globe Theater.  Just as Moses made the overpasses on freeways a foot too low for buses and their low-income riders to reach Jones Beach on Long Island, it’s clear who’s going to benefit most from this plan.

If and when the bridge and garage are constructed, future generations will ask why we allowed wealthy private interests to do such damage to a San Diego public treasure, and the precedent we set for the rest of our civic institutions. Simply closing Cabrillo Bridge on weekends and for special events, and instituting shuttle service to exterior parking lots would achieve the plan’s main goal: removing cars from the Plaza de Panama.

The City Council will vote this Monday, July 9th at 2 PM.  A protest, led by SOHO San Diego, is set for noon that day, which you can sign up for on Facebook via the preceding link.


8 thoughts on “stop the jacobs balboa park plan

  1. +1 on missing your posts. Your blog was the highlight of my feed reader, Paul.

    Thanks for providing an update, and my best to you during your sabbatical.

  2. I also miss your posts and wondered what happened. Thanks for all the great posts, hope you feel like blogging again soon.

  3. Hi Paul!

    I completely understand. Hopefully that gets turned in February 2013. Balboa Park is our crown jewel.
    There are a couple of bright spots for urban San Diego however to get your enthusiasm back.
    The Public Market in Barrio Logan, The new waterfront redevelopment with a lot more green space.
    Ruocco Park is finished and beautiful, The historic Police Headquarters is now under construction and whatever becomes of it at least its a historic building being brought back to its glory. I’m hoping that Pizzeria Mozza is one of the new tenants.
    Our new Public Library downtown is looking very cool, and Horton Plaza Park is going to happen this year too. So at least some things are getting done after years of delays etc.
    I love your blog and always check for updates so I hope to see more of it.

  4. hi frank, thanks for your compliment! i’m taking an extended break from the blog after the jacobs bridge approval by the city council. approving the bypass without even doing a test closure of cabrillo bridge to vehicle traffic shows that our representatives weren’t interested in anyone’s view but jacobs. and his view is rooted in an outdated auto-first mentality which will negatively impact balboa park.

    there’s been several disappointing developments that have killed my enthusiasm to write positively about san diego, and nobody likes a whiny blog. i’m hoping that will change soon – we just got back from florida, a trip that reminded me how grateful i am to live in sd. thanks again.

  5. hi carrie, there is $250 million in deferred maintenance in balboa park: while jacobs has done a lot for san diego, the bridge/garage is clearly a vanity project. just as he’s not interested in public comment on his project, he’s not interested in the park’s more pressing needs – where’s the glamour in providing restrooms or fixing decaying buildings?

  6. I visit and work in Balboa Park a great deal. The place is falling apart from lack of maintenance. Picking up trash as part of my Earth Fair responsibilities, I found piles of human feces in several places. A 24- hour bathroom, refurbishment of the infrastructure and a bridge closure are needed much more than a new capital project the the city partly funds.

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