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Change is in the air

Posted: June 17th, 2016 | Balboa Park, Feature, News, Top Story | No Comments

By Margie M. Palmer

Cabrillo Bridge lights to be restored

The long-neglected light poles on Balboa Park’s landmark Cabrillo Bridge are about to get a makeover.

The poles and their fixtures were installed in 1914, when the bridge was constructed in advance of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. Since that time, they’ve been mostly untouched, except for a onetime paint job.

Over the decades, they have been altered and damaged. But when the project is completed this summer, the lights will be brought back to their original condition. Damaged and missing ornamentation will be replaced, and the poles will be repainted with the same color that was used during the 1935 Balboa Park Exposition.

The renovation was brought to life, in part, thanks to the collaborative effort of the Balboa Park Fund, Balboa Park Conservancy, the Committee of 100, and Friends of Balboa Park. Each of those organizations contributed $25,000, for a combined total of $100,000.

The light poles and fixtures were installed in 1914 when the Cabrillo Bridge was constructed. (Courtesy of San Diego Foundation)

The light poles and fixtures were installed in 1914 when the Cabrillo Bridge was constructed. (Courtesy of San Diego Foundation)

The project’s remaining costs were paid for by the city, said Adrian Granada, communications director for outgoing District 3 Councilmember Todd Gloria.

“The remainder covered by the city was just under $150,000, including $12,000 from the Council District 3 Community Project Grant funds,” Granada said.

A test pole and two glass globe fixtures are currently being sized and evaluated to make sure the color is historically accurate and that everything is sized correctly, he said.

Granada said that once city staff is pleased with the test light, it will take an additional six to eight weeks for the 60 fixtures, two per pole, to be fabricated and delivered.

“Thirty poles will be replaced and that will be done in batches of six. Each batch replacement is expected to take two to three weeks,” he said.

If all goes as planned, the test pole will be installed this month.

A representative from the San Diego Foundation (SDF), which oversees the Balboa Park Fund, said the organization is always excited to have the opportunity to invest charitable donations into the community in a way that helps enhance residents’ quality of life.

Since 1914, the light poles on Cabrillo Bridge have been painted only once. A project this summer will restore the poles and fixtures to their original condition. (Courtesy of San Diego Foundation)

Since 1914, the light poles on Cabrillo Bridge have been painted only once. A
project this summer will restore the poles and fixtures to their original condition.
(Courtesy of San Diego Foundation)

“The San Diego Foundation is excited to invest in Balboa Park and to also beautify a community gathering place,” said Dr. Emily Young, SDF vice president of community impact. She said the SDF has awarded more than $2.5 million to support the preservation, maintenance and beautification of the park.

“The Balboa Park Fund was established at the SDF by a long list of passionate donors who loved Balboa Park and who wanted to give back to the community,” she said. “Through these endowment funds, we invest their legacy for the benefit of the San Diego region both for now and for generations to come.”

Councilman Gloria — who just won election to the California Assembly in the June 7 primary — said the restoration will enhance the entrance to the city’s crown jewel.

“The restoration of the bridge’s historic lighting fixtures builds upon the $38 million retrofit completed by Caltrans last year,” Gloria said. “It will ensure this architectural landmark serves Balboa Park visitors for years to come.”

—Margie M. Palmer is a San Diego-based freelance writer who has been racking up bylines in a myriad of news publications for the past 10 years. You can reach her at margiep@alumni.pitt.edu.

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