Timeline: Plaza de Panama

The path to a car-less Balboa Park is strewn with legal controversy

By Lauren Steussy
|  Monday, Jun 10, 2013  |  Updated 9:21 AM PDT
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1915: The original Plaza de Panama was built for the Panama-California Exposition as a temporary establishment.

October, 2003: The Balboa Park Land Use, Circulation and Parking Plan targeted parking as a “challenging issue” to be resolved. It suggested using the parking lots instead for “people space.” The plan was never approved though.

July 2006: A Parking Management Plan was presented to the city as a way to suggest ideas for moving parking to remote locations and using shuttles.

January 2010: Mayor Jerry Sanders brought up the Plaza in his State of the City address to address parking and traffic congestion. Soon after, Qualcomm co-founder formed the 11-member Plaza de Panama committee to explore designs.

August 2010: A preliminary plan to renovate the plaza was unveiled.

June 2011: The city’s Rules committee submitted a vote of “no confidence” in the project. Jacobs then announced that he would be suspending his work on the project and sent a Memorandum of Understanding to the Rules Committee.

July 2011: The San Diego City Council voted to approve a Memorandum of Understanding with the Plaza de Panama Committee, moving the plan forward. Jacobs came back on board.

August 2011: Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) filed a lawsuit against the City of San Diego for “failing to comply with state environmental laws” and conduct an environmental impact report.

November 2011: Despite the lawsuit, the committee unveiled detailed plans of the Centennial Bridge and parking lot.

December 16, 2011: A judge heard the arguments from SOHO regarding the city’s vote and a lack of environmental impact report. 

January 19, 2012: A court agreed with SOHO that despite being promised the environmental impact report, the city approved the Memorandum without one.

January 22, 2012: Jacobs’ committee announced that they made an environmental impact report public. The report was dated January 19, but didn’t available until the following weekend.

February 7, 2012: California’s State Historic Preservation Officer, Milford Wayne Donaldson, wrote a letter to the National Park Service requesting that the federal service intervene Jacobs’ plan. He asked the service to review the project. 

March 11, 2012: Qualcomm's Irwin Jacobs and SOHO's Bruce Coons discuss the project sitting side-by-side in a television interview.

May 2012: A controversial National Park Service memo brings to light the debate over whether the project would harm Balboa Park's historical designation.

June 7, 2012: The San Diego Planning Commission hears public testimony and then approves the proposal.

July 9, 2012: The San Diego City Council approves the plan after hours of public comment.

Oct. 2, 2012: The San Diego City Council passed a parking structure bond requiring park users to pay $5 for a few hours of parking.

Jan. 28: A judge issues a tentative ruling that the City of San Diego and The Plaza de Panama Committee violated municipal code.

Feb. 4: The judge upholds his tentative ruling and orders the City to throw out the permit needed for the Plaza de Panama renovation.


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