Balboa Park: The Next 100 Years


Balboa Park is often referred to as the crown jewel of our city. Its historic architecture, lush landscaping and renowned cultural attractions combine to create a magical atmosphere that has been recognized as one of the world's greatest urban parks. I feel a responsibility, not just to Third District constituents, but to all San Diegans and to future generations, to protect, preserve and enhance Balboa Park.

The upcoming Centennial of the 1915 Panama California Exposition, which defined the park as we know it today, and put San Diego on the map as a city of significance, provides a host of opportunities to revitalize the park and generate new interest and excitement for its place in our community. This should be a catalyst for new investment from the private sector as well.

The Latest

A committee established and funded by the San Diego Tourism Marketing District (TMD) to kick-start the planning process for a centennial celebration of the 1915 Exposition has delivered its findings and recommendations. The document, titled "Planning Framework, 2010-2015" was presented to the Board of Directors of the TMD on November 19, 2010.

The stated intent of the document is to provide a logical and integrated path to achieve the mission of the 2015 Centennial Celebration, and should serve as a blueprint for organizing the 2015 event. The Planning Framework is the result of the work of the TMD Steering Committee for the 2015 Centennial Celebration and was funded by a $50,000 grant from the TMD. The Steering Committee commissioned a study, conducted over the summer of 2010. The study attempted to amalgamate nearly a decade of ideas, opinions and documents addressing a long-anticipated centennial event in Balboa Park to celebrate the milestone 1915 Exposition: the event that many say put San Diego on the world map.

The final document is based on over 40, one-on-one interviews with Balboa Park stakeholders that sought to capture aspirations, perceptions, ideas, concerns, challenges, and products, as well as planning, organizational and institutional histories relevant to 2015. Mayor Sanders and I were among the interviewees.

The study recommends several immediate next steps in order to meet the timeline necessary for a 2015 event. These next steps include identifying an Executive Director, establishing a Host Committee, securing preliminary funding significant enough to begin serious planning, and negotiating of an operating agreement (Memorandum of Understanding) with the City.

Additional specific findings and recommendations included in the Planning Framework:

  • The formation of a separate not-for-profit corporation to serve as a Host Committee;
  • The duration of the event should be one year, from December 31, 2014, through December 31, 2015;
  • The financing should be 66% contributed (philanthropic, sponsorship) revenue, and 34% earned income;
  • The core programming will be the principal responsibility of the Balboa Park cultural institutions;
  • The geographic focus of the event(s) will be Balboa Park with selected other regional venues;
  • The development and implementation of a comprehensive circulation, parking, bicycle/pedestrian access plan;
  • That the visitor experience be awesome

Download the PDF icon Planning Framework document .

On September 14, 2010 in front of the majestic Botanical Gardens, I joined with Mayor Jerry Sanders to introduce San Diego to the inaugural leadership of the newly formed Balboa Park Conservancy. The Conservancy, created through a multi-year public process aimed at ensuring the Park?s long term viability, will provide marketing and fundraising support to the City?s crown jewel. Modeled after successful organizations in New York, St. Louis, San Francisco and Denver, the Balboa Park Conservancy, with the guidance of the 11 dedicated civic leaders introduced in September, will strengthen the public park through improved infrastructure and program development. I look forward to working with the Conservancy and am confident its members share my commitment to preserve our Park for generations to come.

The Conservancy grew from a task force Mayor Sanders and I announced in October, 2009.

On October 13, 2009 I joined with Mayor Sanders and many philanthropic and cultural leaders to announce an important step to sustain and strengthen Balboa Park as a public park. A new task force will develop a new nonprofit public-benefit entity to work with the City's Park and Recreation Department on fundraising and park management.

Ongoing investment and oversight of the park will guarantee its strong future, and the task force worked to get us closer to that result.

This task force was part of a lengthy process in planning for our park's continued viability. After nine months of public hearings, the Balboa Park Committee determined that the park would best be served through the creation of a new nonprofit organization connected to the City.

To ensure we build an appropriate fundraising and governance foundation for Balboa Park, Vicki Granowitz answered the call to chair a task force to engage the public in a dialogue about a potential organization's design.

This diverse group of stakeholders held public meetings over six months. Topics discussed included: the relationship between the City and park support organizations; potential changes to the municipal code, council policies and the City Charter; and the structure of the new governance body. The role of the public organization was also be considered.

What's Next

The Mayor and I continue to meet regularly about what role the City will play in organizing the Centennial and what capital projects, like restoring the Plaza de Panama for pedestrian use, might be accomplished to improve the park and honor its history.