Opponents of Balboa Park parking plan to file suit - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Opponents of Balboa Park parking plan to file suit

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The preservationist group that spearheaded opposition to a plan to remove vehicles from the center of Balboa Park announced Tuesday it would sue to stop the proposal.

The Plaza de Panama plan was approved by the San Diego City Council on Monday by a 6-1 vote, with Councilwoman Sherri Lightner the lone dissenter.

The Save Our Heritage Organisation issued a statement that said the lawsuit would allege violations of the city's municipal code, an 1870 trust dedication to keep the park free in perpetuity and state environmental guidelines.

The group strongly opposes the planned construction of a 405-foot-long bridge to carry traffic away from the Plaza de Panama and Plaza de California, and a proposed underground 797-space parking structure that would cost drivers $5 for five hours.

"Balboa Park, a national treasure established by state statute in 1870 to be held in trust forever (as) a free and public park -- and for no other and different purpose -- deserves all of the protections of local and state law," said SOHO Executive Director Bruce Coons.

He said council members and Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, who has funded development of plans to transform the park, have ignored his group's concerns and suggestions. He and other opponents believe the bypass bridge will be an eyesore and ruin the park's historical significance.

SOHO supports the idea of removing traffic from the center of Balboa Park but Coons said alternative plans were better than the Jacobs proposal.

The group also solicited donations to back its legal fight.

Councilman Todd Gloria said the council selected the approach that best balances the needs of the park's various stakeholders.

"I believe the benefits of the project, including removal of all cars from the heart of the park for greater pedestrian safety and access, reclaiming more than six acres of parkland for the exclusive use of the people, increasing the amount of parking in the park and reducing the number of vehicle-pedestrian conflicts and the potential for accidents, outweigh its costs," Gloria said.

City officials hope to have the changes finished in time for the 100th anniversary of Balboa Park in 2015.

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