The long-delayed makeover of the Plaza de Panama in Balboa Park could begin as early as the spring of 2019 thanks to final court approval on Monday.
Six years of legal challenges ended Monday when Superior Court Judge Gregory W. Pollack ruled on the legality of both the project’s proposed bond-funding mechanism and an agreement with a citizens committee led by San Diego philanthropist Irwin Jacobs.
The project is designed to restore the Plaza de California and Plaza de Panama to dedicated pedestrian spaces by limiting vehicle access and improving parking. Traffic would be diverted from the Cabrillo Bridge to an 800-car underground parking deck beneath a rooftop park. The lot would be built behind the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.
Originally proposed by former Mayor Jerry Sanders and approved by the City Council in 2012, Mayor Kevin Faulconer led an effort in 2016 to revive the dormant project.
“This project will mark the largest investment in Balboa Park in decades and transform the plaza to its original grandeur with acres of new park space for San Diegans to enjoy,” Faulconer said after the court decision.
City Attorney Mara Elliott said that, thanks to the ruling, “the city can begin the work of transforming Balboa Park into the cultural center and economic driver it is meant to be.”
Activist attorney Cory Briggs had challenged the legality of bonds that would be issued to cover about $50 million of the project cost. Another $30 million is being raised privately.
The city plans work collaboratively with the citizens committee to design the project, but will take the lead on construction. Contractors will be selected through a competitive bidding process. The city plans to break ground on the project as soon as spring 2019.
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