City attorney calls on SOHO to drop Balboa Park suit - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

City attorney calls on SOHO to drop Balboa Park suit

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - City Attorney Jan Goldsmith Wednesday called a lawsuit filed against the city over a controversial plan to remove vehicles from the center of Balboa Park "meritless" and asked that the plaintiff dismiss the court action.

Opposition to the plan has been organized by the Save Our Heritage Organisation, also known as SOHO, which agrees with the goals but not the details.

Last week, the City Council approved a memorandum of understanding that will allow the Plaza de Panama Committee to begin raising $25 million to pay for its share of the project.

In so doing, the council members signaled their willingness to work with the committee, but did not approve the final project, according to the City Attorney.

SOHO claimed in its lawsuit that even committing to the vision was a violation of state environmental laws.

But the law requires more than that to bring the California Environmental Quality Act into play, Goldsmith said.

The group also asked for the memorandum to be rescinded and an injunction preventing the city from proceeding with the project.

"This isn't the time for a lawsuit," Goldsmith said. "This is the time for evaluation (of the project) and looking for other options."

He said the memorandum is not a binding commitment, and he would not have signed off on the deal if it was. He accused SOHO of trying to shut off "public discourse" on the issue.

The matter has been handed to Superior Court Judge Judith Hayes, but a hearing has not been scheduled.

SOHO lawyer Susan Brandt-Hawley said the state Supreme Court recently ruled that deals similar to the memorandum violate the environmental act.

"The totality of the circumstances creates momentum that precludes an objective (environmental impact report) process," Brandt-Hawley said. "SOHO looks forward to making its arguments to the court."

The group's primary complaint is the proposed construction of a bridge that would carry vehicular traffic off the Laurel Street Bridge and around the center of the park. Plans for a partially underground parking garage have also drawn opposition

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