Mayor Puts Off Vote : Balboa Park Parking Plan Draws Fire

Times Staff Writer

A sharp rift emerged Monday between Balboa Park organizations and park planners over parking and traffic proposals that would ban cars from the central part of the park and close Cabrillo Bridge to auto traffic.

During a three-hour public hearing on the proposed Balboa Park master plan, members of the city Park and Recreation Board urged the San Diego City Council to protect the integrity of the 1,000-acre urban green spot by separating cars and pedestrians and removing auto traffic from the park’s central core.

Spokesmen for the 56 institutions situated in the park argued that such an action would endanger the economic health of the museums and other park tenants who depend on attendance to support their organizations.


Meeting Set for Park

Council action on the master plan was delayed until Sept. 21 after Mayor Maureen O’Connor announced that she would not vote on the controversial provisions “until I have a chance to go out there and see for myself” what the master plan proposals would mean to the park. The meeting will be held at night at the park.

O’Connor stressed that she was concerned about future years when the city’s population will double and the park will provide the only major open space for millions more residents and visitors.

Councilman Bill Cleator proposed that the council amend the proposed plan by keeping Cabrillo Bridge over California 163 open to provide auto access to a new 600-space parking garage in Archery Canyon to the south and a 90-space lot behind the Old Globe Theatre.

Others, including Councilwoman Celia Ballesteros, backed construction of a tiered parking structure south of the Organ Pavilion to accommodate 1,600 cars and the addition of 4,000 or more new parking spaces in Florida Canyon.

Park planners pleaded with the council not to change the master plan in a piecemeal manner to meet the desires of individual groups.

‘Grave Concerns’ Noted

“There are grave concerns that the master plan will now be disassembled through public hearings,” Robert Arnheim, a park board member, told the council. Such action could produce a document “that will do more damage to the park than good,” he warned.


Sierra Club and Citizens for Century 3 spokesmen agreed that more parking structures are needed but urged that they be placed outside the park’s central cultural complex and be served by an internal tram system that would take visitors to points of interest in the park.

The master plan, which has been under review for nearly seven years, stresses preservation of current structures in the park as well as an increase in open passive park areas.

Other issues that brought out vocal opposition included:

- Extension of 28th Street through Grape Street Park.

- Upgrading of Balboa Park Golf Course and construction of a large restaurant there.

- Relocation of the municipal gym to the Morley Field area of the park.

- Razing of the Centro Cultural de la Raza building, a renovated water reservoir.

- Moving of the Boy Scout, Girl Scout and Campfire organizations out of Balboa Park to another regional park.