Judge: Parking will not change at Balboa Park - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Judge: Parking will not change at Balboa Park

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A judge Monday affirmed his earlier tentative ruling that the San Diego City Council violated the city's municipal code when it approved a bitterly contested plan to remove cars from the center of Balboa Park.

In a lawsuit filed by preservationists, San Diego Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor decided there was no evidence to support a finding by the council that the project area would have no reasonable beneficial use if the plan wasn't approved. The finding was necessary because of the park's historic status.

He had found in favor of Plaza de Panama plan supporters on two other issues raised in the Save Our Heritage Organisation's suit, but his decision on the third point effectively derails the project for the moment.

In an updated ruling following oral arguments on Friday, the judge said he couldn't find in favor of the plan even after he adopted the city's interpretation of the municipal code. He said the fact that the park operates now shows there is a beneficial use without the plan.

SOHO primarily objects to a proposed bridge on the west side of the park that would carry traffic around the Plaza de Panama and Plaza de California and toward a mostly underground parking structure that would be built behind the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. The organization contends the bridge would be unsightly and place the park's historic status in jeopardy.

SOHO otherwise agrees with the basic concept of removing vehicles from the park's core.

The judge's ruling sets aside the City Council's approval of the project, but he conceded the issue would probably be appealed. He also said he was reluctant to make the ruling, since it could cost millions of dollars of funding put forth by Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs.

Mayor Bob Filner said last week he would try to get the two sides together for mediation talks after the ruling was issued. He said he believed he could accomplish the basic goal with six traffic cones.

The plan's supporters had hoped to complete the project within two years, in time for a planned yearlong celebration of Balboa Park's 100th anniversary.

The various sides in the dispute either couldn't be reached immediately for comment or planned to issue statements later.

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