SAN DIEGO, CA - On August 13, Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) sued the City of San Diego in Superior Court regarding its failure to comply with local and state laws in approving the Balboa Park Plaza de Panama project. Earlier this year, SOHO won its lawsuit challenging the premature Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and "we expect to prevail again," said SOHO Executive Director Bruce Coons, "because the new violations of law that threaten Balboa Park are again blatant."
The City concedes that the project would cause significant adverse impacts to the iconic architecture and cultural landscapes of Balboa Park, a national historic landmark, including impacts to the Cabrillo Bridge. The lawsuit contends that there are other ways to resolve parking issues with fewer impacts to the natural and built environment, and so the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires the City either to implement such alternatives or to deny the project. Given every opportunity and despite great outcry from San Diego citizens and local, state, and national historic preservation experts, the City failed to do so and violated CEQA.
SOHO also alleges that the City's approval of the Plaza de Panama project violated its own Municipal Code. The Code allows substantial alteration of the historic Cabrillo Bridge only if "no reasonable beneficial use" of Balboa Park would otherwise remain. Instead, as pointed out by California State Historic Preservation Officer Milford Wayne Donaldson, even "if there was no project, Balboa Park would continue to serve the public as it has for almost 100 years."
A final allegation in the lawsuit points out that in 1870, the California Legislature declared that Balboa Park must be held by the City of San Diego "in trust forever" for "the use and purposes of a free and public park." SOHO challenges the project's inclusion of a paid-parking garage inconsistent with a "free" park.
The Court is asked to issue a peremptory writ in the public interest to enforce the many laws that protect Balboa Park.
Coons further states that "It is undisputed that the Jacobs plan would irreparably damage the iconic 1914 Cabrillo Bridge by cutting through its historic fabric for a new, freeway-off ramp style bypass bridge and road system. It is SOHO's obligation to spearhead this litigation on behalf of the many thousands of San Diegans that object to this flawed proposal and whose concerns and suggestions were ignored by Mr. Jacobs, the Mayor and the City Council.
SOHO is seeking donations to its legal fund to help protect "the people's park."
To make a tax-deductible donation to help save historic Balboa Park, visit sohosandiego.org/giving/pdeplegaldefense.htm or contact SOHO at (619) 291-9327.