The Plaza de Panama in Balboa Park. File photo

The latest legal challenge to the city of San Diego’s revived plans to remove vehicles from the center of Balboa Park was rejected by a judge, the City Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.

Superior Court Judge Gregory Pollack ruled Tuesday that it was OK for the city to file an addendum to its environmental impact report on the Plaza de Panama project, instead of embarking on a completely new study.

The project — which would involve building a bypass road and paid parking garage in the park so that cars wouldn’t have to travel into the central plaza area — was originally approved by the City Council in 2011.

However, the Save Our Heritage Organisation sued to block the project, contending that it would change the park’s historical character. Another Superior Court judge reluctantly ruled in favor of SOHO on a technicality but was later overturned on appeal.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the council revived the project last year, leading to the latest SOHO court challenge.

“Once again, a court has found that the city correctly followed environmental law in seeking to improve one of the city’s greatest treasures,” City Attorney Mara Elliott said. “SOHO’s lawsuits have served no purpose other than to delay a widely supported project, and to drive up costs for the taxpayers.”

In a separate legal matter, the city also prevailed in a lawsuit filed by the California Taxpayer Action Network last year over the way San Diego’s Tourism Marketing District is funded, the City Attorney’s Office said.

The TMD assesses a 2 percent fee on hotel room bills and uses the revenue to promote San Diego as a vacation destination. The taxpayer group called the levy an illegal tax.

Superior Court Judge Kenneth Medel ruled that since no network member had actually paid the tax, the group lacked standing to sue.

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.