Old Town nonprofit asks Superior Court to uphold Balboa Park laws; Plaza de Panama Committee says to move forward with project
By Anthony King | SDUN Editor
Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) filed suit against the City of San Diego on Monday, Aug. 13 as a result of the July 9 City Council approval of the Plaza de Panama Project. The lawsuit, filed in the City’s Superior Court, claims the City failed to “comply with local and state laws” in approving the project, a SOHO press release stated.
Called the Jacobs Plan due to primary financial and vocal backing from Qualcomm cofounder Irwin Jacbos, the Plaza de Panama Project will see the construction of a “Centennial Bridge and Road” at the east end of the Cabrillo Bridge to divert traffic from entering the Plaza de Panama and instead into an underground parking structure, to be constructed behind the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.
Earlier this year, SOHO won a lawsuit filed against the city for entering into a Memorandum of Understanding, thus prematurely expressing approval for the project.
“We expect to prevail again because the new violations of law that threaten Balboa Park are again blatant,” SOHO Executive Director Bruce Coons said in the release.
“It is undisputed that the Jacobs plan would irreparably damage the iconic 1914 Cabrillo Bridge by cutting through its historic fabric for a new, freeway off-ramp style bridge and road system,” Coons said.
Three aspects of the lawsuit conclude the City, due to California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) regulations, is required to implement alternative strategies in addressing parking issues in Balboa Park because the project “would cause significant adverse impacts to the iconic architecture and cultural landscapes” of the park.
The suit also alleges the city violated Municipal Code by authorizing “substantial alteration” of the Cabrillo Bridge, and challenges the project’s paid, underground parking as being inconsistent with a “free and public park,” as laid out in a 1870 California Legislature declaration.
SOHO has asked the Court to issue a “peremptory writ” of mandate, which would force the court to enforce the laws protecting Balboa Park.
“Once again, SOHO is threatening to harm Balboa Park if it didn’t get its way, by delaying long-needed improvements and holding our 2015 celebration hostage,” said Mayor Jerry Sanders, reprinted in a Plaza de Panama e-newsletter. Sanders supports the Council-approved project.
“All San Diegans should be extremely disappointed, as I am, by this narrow-minded, special-interest group for trying to kill a project that will only further beautify this great park,” Sanders said in the newsletter.
The Plaza de Panama Committee, which was established to oversee its implementation, said they are committed to moving forward with construction despite SOHO’s lawsuit. The first phase of the four-phase project is expected to begin in October, with the parking structure and bridge constructed in the second phase, lasting from December 2012 to January 2014.
Asking for donations to support the lawsuit, Coons said, “It is SOHO’s obligation to spearhead this litigation on behalf of the many thousands of San Diegans that object to this flawed proposal and whose concerns and suggestions were ignored by Mr. Jacobs, the Mayor and the City Council.”