Backers of Balboa Park traffic plan unveil video - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Backers of Balboa Park traffic plan unveil video

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Mayor Jerry Sanders and Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs Monday unveiled a video they hope will sway public opinion in favor of a plan to remove traffic from the center of Balboa Park.

The basic idea of keeping vehicles out of the Plaza de Panama, Plaza de California and nearby areas is uncontested. However, opposition has centered on the proposed construction of a bridge that would re-route traffic from the west side of the park around those central plazas.

Opponents, led by a preservationist group, believe the new bridge would spoil the park's scenery and send cars to areas that are currently quiet.

"I think this video will help people who haven't been able to visualize the changes to the park grasp the entire concept," Sanders told reporters.

Jacobs said that while alternatives have been proposed, the only realistic ways to remove vehicles from the center of Balboa Park are to build what's being called the Centennial Bridge or close off traffic entirely over the existing Cabrillo Bridge.

He and Sanders said shutting off traffic from the entrance at Sixth Avenue and Laurel Street would have detrimental impacts on traffic and parking in neighborhoods west of the park.

"(The bridge) is an integral part of the plan," Sanders said.

The video should help people see the overall benefits of the plan -- including the new bridge -- even if they disagree with an individual part, Jacobs said.

The 10-minute video, which will be placed online and made available to community groups, shows how the park was developed over the years. Time-lapse sequences are used to show conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians; and computer animation is used to display how the changes would work.

The narrator says removing cars from the center of the park would create a "grand public space" of 6.3 acres and return the area to its "historic use" by pedestrians.

An environmental impact report, which includes data on some of the proposed alternatives, is scheduled to be opened to public comment in January, and the City Council could take up the issue in July.

Jacobs, who has donated money toward planning, said he hopes to work out differences with opponents and have construction begin by the end of next year. He aims for completion in time for a yearlong celebration of the park's centennial in 2015.

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