Parking Lot Removed in Plaza de Panama

Parking is gone, gone, gone at Plaza de Panama but the drive-through, access road stays

The fight over the parking lots in the Plaza de Panama at Balboa Park takes a new turn.

Early Monday, a fleet of city trucks and army of work crews rolled in and began stripping the pavement of parking signs and concrete stall blocks and removing giant planters.

There'll be re-surfacing, and then installation of benches, tables and other amenities for strollers.

El Prado and Pan American will still be connected by an access road but gone are the days of drivers endlessly circling and hovering for parking spaces to open.

This work will be done mainly at nights through June 21st and will costing around $300,000.

The historic heart of Balboa Park began as a pedestrian promenade for the Panama-California Exposition nearly a century ago.

For the past several decades, it's mainly been devoted to dozens of parking spaces

This new solution to the gridlock in the park comes from Mayor Bob Filner who describes it as a low-tech workaround to the $45 million makeover proposed by Qualcomm billionaire Irwin Jacobs.

That plan called for a bypass bridge off El Prado, a paid parking garage of 800 spaces, underground behind Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

Timeline: Plaza de Panama

A Superior Court judge found it in violation of historic preservation codes -- a ruling that's now on appeal at the 4th Appellate District.

Also on appeal, at City Hall, the re-location of the Prado restaurant's valet stand, some 200 yards to the east.

Meantime, the mayor is planning to start closing Cabrillo Bridge on weekends in early September.

"We're going to have continual community meetings, and have ways to -- we're explaining it to the groups," Mayor Filner said.

That suggestion has upset some park tenants who say more public input is needed, if not an environmental impact report.

Meantime, there are those who mourn the loss of close-in parking to the main attractions in San Diego's "crown jewel."

One Bankers Hill resident who identified herself as Barbara said she thought the mayor would be more understanding to residents' concerns.

"We understand if there's gonna be big events, we work with that. But the city is just saying 'You know what, we've got the power, we've got the backing to do it -- so we're gonna do it. And if you don't like it? Well, tough," she said.

The mayor said officials are finding a more accessible spot for re-locating the Prado restaurant's valet stand than one that the owners didn't like a lot farther east.

There'll be nearby ADA parking and free tram service.

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