Mayor Faulconer Announces Ambitious Plans to Preserve and Enhance Mission Bay Park, Balboa Park & Other Regional Parks

Regional Parks Would Receive Hundreds of Millions of Dollars in New Investment Under Two Separate Proposals Advanced by Mayor Faulconer

Balboa park.

Thursday, June 30, 2016 - NEWS RELEASE

San Diego – With the goal of enhancing and preserving San Diego’s regional parks for generations to come, Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer today announced a two-pronged approach for a grand restoration of the City’s major parks that would provide hundreds of millions of more dollars for Mission Bay Park and regional parks, including Balboa Park, as well as transform Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama into San Diego’s premier public space.
 
The two major actions include:
  • An initiative for the November 2016 ballot that would extend 2008’s Proposition C – co-authored by then-Councilmember Faulconer to direct a portion of Mission Bay lease revenue toward capital investment in Mission Bay Park and regional parks – for an additional 30 years. This will result in hundreds of millions more in future dollars available for Mission Bay Park and regional parks, including rehabilitating historic structures in Balboa Park. It also expedites high-priority infrastructure projects for Mission Bay Park.
  • Moving forward with the long-delayed Plaza de Panama project to transform Balboa Park for future generations. The project includes the creation of more than six acres of parkland, gardens and pedestrian-friendly plazas; major aesthetic improvements, including reflecting pools, in the plaza; and increased parking. The project would be financed through a combination of parking revenues, City funds earmarked for capital projects and private philanthropy. No Mission Bay lease revenue would be used for this project.
“Just as our forbearers who created Mission Bay Park and Balboa Park did before us, it’s now our opportunity to leave our generation’s mark on San Diego’s park space and historic treasures,” Mayor Faulconer said. “Our regional parks are among San Diego’s most valuable assets. We’re taking two major steps that will lead to an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in Mission Bay Park, Balboa Park and other regional parks to ensure they are preserved and enhanced for future generations to enjoy.”
 
Mayor Faulconer was joined for the announcement by City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, City Councilmembers Mark Kersey and Lorie Zapf, Councilmember-elect Chris Ward, former Mayor and San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Jerry Sanders, Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, and members from the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, Balboa Park Conservancy, Friends of Balboa Park, and Balboa Park and Mission Bay Park Committees.
 
“Balboa Park is a jewel in the crown of San Diego’s parks and historical landmarks and these plans will provide for the funding to address the deferred maintenance and infrastructure issues that will ensure the park’s legacy continues for generations,” Sanders said.

Mission Bay Revenue Ballot Initiative

The proposed ballot measure would amend Charter Section 55.2, which was approved by voters as Proposition C in 2008. Proposition C required the City to divide excess Mission Bay lease revenue (anything above $20 million) for capital investment in Mission Bay Park (75%) and regional parks (25%) through 2039.
 
The proposed initiative makes several changes to preserve and prioritize capital investment in Mission Bay Park and regional parks, including:
  • Extending the funding stream for an additional 30 years to 2069, making hundreds of millions of future dollars available for Mission Bay Park and regional parks.
  • Amending Charter Section 55.2 to implement cash management best practices to improve efficiencies and expedite the completion of high-priority infrastructure projects for Mission Bay Park, such as bicycle trails, lighting, public restrooms and playgrounds.
  • Increasing the share that Balboa Park and regional parks receive in lease revenue from 25% to 35%. This would bring in about $3.5 million annually for improvements in regional parks, such as Balboa Park, Sunset Cliffs and Mission Trails. The funds can be leveraged for projects, such as maintaining Balboa Park’s historic buildings.
Mayor Faulconer’s proposed initiative will go before the City Council’s Infrastructure Committee at its 2 p.m. meeting today and, if approved, will soon go before the full Council for consideration to be placed on the November ballot. It would need a simple majority of voters for approval.

Plaza de Panama Project

This long-stalled project would remove traffic from the historic heart of Balboa Park; create 6.3 acres of parkland, gardens and pedestrian-friendly plazas; and increase parking.
 
Originally approved by the City Council in 2012, the project was held up by a legal challenge that was overturned with a victory by project proponents at the appellate court level – a ruling that was affirmed by the California Supreme Court. 
 
“The judicial system erroneously delayed these park improvements, but ultimately justice was done,” City Attorney Goldsmith said. “Now the project can move forward and we can reclaim these plazas and promenades for future generations to enjoy.”
 
Mayor Faulconer, who supported the project as a Councilmember, has brought elected, business, community and Balboa Park leaders together to revive the dormant project and finally transform the Plaza de Panama into one of the city’s great public spaces for generations of San Diegans to enjoy.
 
“I wish to thank Mayor Faulconer, members of the City Council, the Balboa Park institutions, and supporters throughout the region for undertaking this major improvement to the jewel that is our wonderful Balboa Park,” said Dr. Irwin Jacobs, the volunteer Director and Chairman of the Plaza de Panama Committee. “The Plaza de Panama Committee members are excited to be active participants in this project and will help raise the philanthropic dollars needed for a timely completion. Although we were not able to realize the Plaza de Panama project as a component of the Centennial celebration, its completion just a few years later will forever remind us of the inheritance bestowed by the visionary founders and be a source of enjoyment for ourselves and future generations. We are proud to be part of this San Diego public-private initiative.”
 
The Plaza de Panama Project includes:
  • Removing cars from the heart of the park. Five areas currently lost to parking and traffic – the Plaza de Panama, Plaza de California, West El Prado, Esplanade and the parking lot behind the Spreckels Organ Pavilion – will all be restored to their historic use as pedestrian park spaces.
  • A total of 6.3 acres of thoroughfares and parking lots will be transformed into pedestrian plazas, promenades and a rooftop park that better realize the remarkable Balboa Park experience. 
  • A completely car-free Plaza de Panama with major aesthetic improvements, including reflecting pools and more pedestrian amenities.
  • A three-level underground parking garage behind the Organ Pavilion with a 2.2-acre rooftop park and 797 parking spaces.
  • Improved parking with an increase of more than 30 percent in the number of parking spaces of accessible parking spaces in the core of the park, including in the parking structure and a reconfigured Alcazar parking lot.

The original 2012 cost estimate of $45 million for the project will need to be revised to reflect updated state development regulations, the applicability of prevailing wage and a less competitive bidding market. The project would be financed through a combination of paid parking revenues, City funds earmarked for major capital projects and private philanthropy, led by the Plaza de Panama Committee. No Mission Bay lease revenue would be used for this project and voter approval is not required. More details will be presented in July when Mayor Faulconer asks the City Council to vote on the final actions to move forward with the project. 

CONTACT: Craig Gustafson at (619) 453-9880 or [email protected]