Drop the shovel  — more court for Plaza de Panama plan

Critics consider the financing scheme as a "total scam"

Cabrillo Bridge
  • Cabrillo Bridge

A proposed road from Cabrillo Bridge that bypasses Balboa Park's Plaza de Panama and leads to a newly constructed parking garage must make another stop in San Diego Superior Court.

Earlier this month, Cory Briggs of San Diegans for Open Government sued the city over its plan to use its funding arm, the Public Facilities Financing Authority, without first obtaining voter approval.

City officials formed the Public Facilities Financing Authority in 1991 to help the city's redevelopment agency finance large capital-improvement projects. The Public Facilities Financing Authority, which includes the city, the former redevelopment agency (also known as the city council), and the San Diego Housing Authority, is considered to be an outside agency.

By existing as a separate entity, the Public Facilities Financing Authority uses city-owned property as the collateral needed to sell lease revenue bonds. The authority then leases the public land back to the city as a way to generate revenue. Critics consider the municipal bond scheme as a "total scam."

In 2014, Briggs sued the city for issuing the bonds and thus creating a financial risk to taxpayers. A judge ruled that the lease revenue bonds were legal.

The victory, however, was short-lived. In June 2016, voters approved Proposition B, making it more difficult for the city to issue the bonds without voter approval. In the measure's language, the city council could issue revenue bonds to pay for construction or replacement of water or wastewater facilities if there is a two-thirds council majority.

Yet, in its quest to begin the Plaza de Panama project, the city has again turned to the lease revenue bonds to generate $50 million toward paying for the parking garage and construction of a bypass road from Cabrillo Bridge.

The proposal to build a road that bypasses the Plaza de Panama was introduced in August 2010 by proponent and partial financial backer Irwin Jacobs. The plan, however, was not well received. Save Our Heritage Organisation sued the city over the plan in 2011. A San Diego Superior Court agreed with the group but a state appellate court later overturned his decision, allowing the project to proceed.

Proceed, it did (despite several obstacles), in December 2016, when the city council authorized the issuance of $50 million in lease revenue bonds from the Public Facilities Financing Authority. That same month, Save Our Heritage Organisation alleged the city neglected to study the environmental impacts of the bridge and parking garage; that lawsuit is currently ongoing.

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So why can't they build the parking garage, but just let vehicles enter off Park Boulevard? There's no reason to use the bridge approach, as it was never meant for vehicular traffic.

Yes, definitely allow emergency access and park vehicles. And let the bridge allow bicycles and Segways, besides pedestrians and wheelchairs.

Definitely emergency vehicles, plus shuttles from the west side of the park, into the Heart of the Park! Bicycles, pedestrians, wheelchairs, Segways and any other non motorized traffic!!

Yes, haven't you heard the "ads" on KPBS our supposed "public" radio that tells of your need to get parking passes now before too late! This is all a big scam that the Jacobs sons are into from Sacramento where they got into big parking deals as owners of the Kings B-ball team! It is all about getting their greedy little hands on more dollar$ and for a Mayor to become KING! Governor of CA! Watch out San Diego County residents you will pay for HIS try at the State HOUSE!

From what I've read, they intend to stop traffic entering the park. After driving east across the Cabrillo bridge, you will turn south at the Museum of Man arch, curve around the back and into the parking structure.

No more car traffic from Santa to the Museum of Man.

To stop traffic from entering the park, then ALL traffic should be stopped at 6th Ave. and Laurel Street on the west side of the park!!

Without the bridge, it is very difficult for a car to reach the park from the west. Going around north or going south will be very complicated, cost time and energy, and leave the driver in a poor mood to enjoy the park. Try to take a cab instead and it will be very expensive.

But if there was parking around 6th Av and Laurel, then a shuttle bus over the bridge might help.

Why complicated? On the north side, go west on University Ave. or Robinson Ave. to Park, then turn right. On the south side, go west on A Street, then north on Park. If that puts one in a "poor mood" then maybe that person shouldn't be driving at all.

Please kindly tell me how to avoid the traffic lights, the pedestrians, the construction and road damage, and the delivery vehicles along the way. At 6th and Laurel, I am 50 feet from the park with my family and the wheelchair, but you prefer I drive a few miles to get there? A shuttle bus could solve some problems. Feel free to share any useful suggestions of your own.

If you drive daily in SD, you have to deal with the usual traffic issues no matter the destination. Traffic in Mission Valley is worse than downtown. Decisions on Balboa Park parking cannot be decided based on some people who live close to 6th and Laurel. Most of us DON'T live near 6th and Laurel. You are looking at this based on your individual situation, but you have to look at the big picture. It's not about YOU.

Oops, senior moment. I meant go east there (not west).

What exactly is wrong with it now? The cars have been removed from the large area in front of the Museum of Art. Of course most of those parking spaces were for the disabled.

Are people (I mean the rank and file, not the silicon peddling elite) petitioning for more parking? I know it gets crowded, but even on Earth Day I am able to find a spot to park.

Parking is a big business. I'll take bets on the company that will get the parking concession (Ace). As soon as there is a fee for parking in the park, the zoo will begin charging for parking as well.(After 25 years I let my zoo membership go because the society is getting too cheap on the membership perks and commercializing the zoo too much).

This parking garage is the camels nose under the tent because if it gets built, then the domino effect will be to charge for parking everywhere. We know the zoo wants to underground their parking and expand (the zoo on top of the parking structure), so this is just the beginning or making a visit to the park a costly one.

Isn't $50 million to Jacobs like $.50 cent to middle class folk like me? I'm surprised, if this project is SO important to San Diego Billionaire Irwin Jacobs, why doesn't he just gift it to the City. There probably is a tax advantage for Jacobs in there too.

My views on this has changed over time. Large areas of asphalt, such as surface parking lots, are scars on the beauty of the park. The potential of a hidden parking garage, IF DONE CORRECTLY, can improve the overall experience of the park. But, San Diego can not afford this project while the rest of the city's infrastructure crumbles, falling further into disrepair. Our roads are third world disasters, many of our city building are dilapidated, many miles of sidewalks are cracked, uprooted, or worse, nonexistent. And our sewer and storm water systems are collapsing under the strain of capacity.

Our Mayor has promised infrastructure repair as a priority. He has done some, BUT THE BACKLOG OF REAIRS has not only grown during his tenure it's getting worse. Taking on MORE DEBT for Jacobs' vanity project while the city is so far behind in pubic infasture needs is more than foolish. Using questionable financing practices to fund it is downright disgusting.

Dorian Hargrove's story this morning in the City Lights section supports my opinion and details the facts regarding the City street infrastructure.

Funding this garage is madness when we have nearly $4 BILLION of public infrastructure repairs to be done.

Look when they were trying to get PETCO, prop.C, we against Prop.C had a study done: $240Million worth of UNFUNDED infrastructure needs...about in 2000,now it is 16-20 times that? Where did all the tax dollar$ go. The budget was less than $1Billion annually then! Where has the extra $2B annually gone for over a decade? : Contractors, paying off mis-spent bonds, and other new projects we can't afford...aka BONDs, that we the taxpayers/constituents can never purchase either, so RICH...see Irwin Jacobs (who owns KPBS) & Co.(Sons) can get even Richer while we become, pot-holed, unparked, unlighted, and homeless!

I agree with the criticisms of the Jacobs Plan as a whole and the merits of SOHO's lawsuit, but it seems the main point here—and the one that will make it rain for Cory Briggs—is Prop B.

Prop B is specifically intended to limit the issuance of municipal bonds for boondoggles by requiring a public vote for any project that isn't just a repair or expansion of existing and vital infrastructure, such as water and sewers.

Our civic bleaters are proving exactly why it was necessary to pass it, as they pretend putting taxpayers on the hook for their billionaire bipartisan campaign contributor's vanity project is "no different" than replacing a broken main.

Billionaires, whether Democrats or Republicans, love to see public funds spent rather than their own money. They are what we used to call cheapskates.

I would agree with that statement when the money being spent specifically benefits the millionaire or billionaire. The obvious San Diego analog is Dean Spanos and the Chargers. Whew, we dodged several bullets on that fiasco.

But this garage seems to be about legacy, not profit or wealth building. But for either reason, the cost of this project to the taxpayers isn't something we can afford right now. This is especially true considering the backlog of vital infrastructure repairs on the city's ledger.

When considering future generations of San Diegans and park patrons, it's wise to factor in the financial debt your saddling them with too. Let's get our fiscal house in the black, and with new smooth black topped roads, before we try drowning our children and grandkids with more and more red ink.

I suggested in 2011 under a San Diego 2015 & Balboa Park 2015 proposal (which never gained traction) that creation of an automated electric shuttle system for Balboa Park is feasible and removed the need for parking in "The Heart of The Park" when combined with a multi-modal structure on the Inspiration Point parking lot and an access tunnel underneath Park Boulevard and a shuttle bridge behind The Globe's administration building. An automated electric shuttle system could be configured to access all parts of The Park, providing stops at access points that include The Globe. As many of their productions are in the evening, using Zoo Lot and shuttles would actually reduce the steps for physically challenged. The bypass off ramp, roadway, and parking structure create more traffic through Balboa Park while excavating over 10,000 truckloads from next to the Spreckels Organ and transporting them to the Landfill on the Balboa Park East Mesa. The East Mesa is essentially designated as "not build able" because it was created by designating it as a trash dump, filling in a canyon, and creating a situation where the earth continues to settle with Methane gas being generated, A structure on Inspiration Point could have bus system access, light trolley access, auto access, bike access and provide rehearsal facilities and public use rooms - without removing 10,000 truckloads of earth. The Organ Pavillion Parking Lot could be restored to the 1935 Exposition Building that was there, as well as restoring the Pacific Palisades gardens and fountains instead of the unsightly parking lots that exist now. Isn't it truly time to plan and implement for a Balboa Park that will last for many future generations? Think not for yourself, think for those that will come.

I like it. It sounds like a Disney-quality project but San Diego would only have a Motel 6 budget for something like that.

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