San Diego

Community Leaders Call for $9.5M ‘Rebirth’ of Balboa Park

The councilmember whose district houses Balboa Park said the area needs upgrades, including for its roofs and restrooms

Balboa Park has been an iconic landmark in San Diego for the past 100 years, but now local leaders are calling on a set of multi-million-dollar improvements to bring the park into the next century.

San Diego City Councilmember Chris Ward represents District 3, which houses Balboa Park, and on Monday, he spoke to the press about a “cultural gem” that’s been neglected.

Ward and other park advocates are asking for $9.5 million for “major structural and mechanical” improvements, including restroom and roof repairs, according to Peter Comiskey, the executive director of the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership.

“Anyone who even visits the park once knows that how awful the restrooms are,” Ward said, standing feet away from the park’s southern Palisades restrooms, which he called “embarrassing.”

The chair of the Balboa Park Conservancy, Joyce Gattas, echoed this sentiment.

“Based on my experience, it’s hard to get donors to fund some of the more basic and less glamorous improvements, like leaky roofs and disgusting bathrooms,” Gattas said.

Fixing Balboa Parks’ roofs, Gattas said during light rainfall Monday, would prevent water damage to its valuable collections.

The $9.5 million would come from the budgeted funds for the Plaza de Panama project which was cancelled due to rising construction costs and legal delays in February 2019.

The Balboa Park team said it also wanted to begin a long-term strategy to find a dedicated funding stream for park projects.

One of these projects would include Comic-Con’s museum. In 2017, it was announced that the Breitbard Hall of Fame was moving to Petco Park, leaving the Federal Building free to house the new Comic-Con Center for Popular Culture.

John Bolthouse, executive director of Friends of Balboa Park, said Monday the building still needs to be “brought up to the standards” that Comic-Con needs for its museum set to open in 2021.

“Balboa Park is actually more than just Council District 3. Balboa Park is the entire City of San Diego. Balboa Park is the entire region. Balboa Park is an international asset. It’s something we should all be proud of,” Bolthouse told the press.

He said if Balboa Park is granted the $9.5 million, it would be a “rebirth” for the area.

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