School's Bid for Balboa Park Space Raises City Charter Issue,

Another in a series of controversial issues involving historic Balboa Park is heating up at City Hall right now.

Should a public school be allowed to move into the park -- even though San Diego's municipal charter doesn’t permit that?

The idea has been docketed as the city's 1933 charter is being reviewed for possible amendments. The voters would have to approve those changes during next year’s ballot cycles.

The proposal was submitted by the Museum School, chartered as a K-8 program 17 years ago in the San Diego Unified School District, operating since 2003 in Banker's Hill.

Its staff and student body of 230 are outgrowing its current site and are hoping to relocate nearby.

Executive director Phil Beaumont outlined the concept Thursday in an interview with NBC 7: "We thought, wouldn't it be a wonderful to see if there's an opportunity for a collaborative experience in the park that would benefit all the organizations in the park as well as the Museum School and the community at large here?"

Beaumont estimated that classes take walking field trips to the park as often as 100 times a year, so it’s a familiar destination that’s in high demand, not only among the kids, but parents who help chaperone them.

“There's a lot of work to be done from here,” he acknowledged. “First of all, making sure that we secure the potential funding that's in place for us. And then working collaboratively with organizations that have sufficient facilities at the moment, to see whether we can make something happen that would serve them and serve us and the students."

Administrators hope to co-occupy park space with current tenants, which they declined to identify for the time being.

It seemed to them a straightforward enough request, and the proposed charter amendment for educational purposes didn't attract much notice at first.

But the larger implications soon came to the attention of park activists who began raising long-term concerns about unintended consequences.

Now it's a three-alarm controversy.

"If you let one locate in the park, you know there are going to be two,” said Hillcrest attorney David Lundin, president of the Balboa Park Heritage Association. “ And if you allow two in, the next hundred years, there are going to be thirty."

And that's just how exponentially community opposition to the idea seems to be growing.

"There's this one line item on a city charter that unless somebody actually read it and looked at it, wouldn't have an understanding,” said Paradise Hills resident Kevin Swanson. “So getting the word out is important."

Folks at the Museum School are alarmed at the suspicions and pushback to what they thought is a modest proposal.

"This isn't about bringing private development into the park; this is about public education,” Beaumont told NBC 7. “ This is about public access to San Diego's park, and I think it's a win-win for all."

The City's Charter Review Committee had been scheduled to hear the issue Thursday, but continued it to a special evening meeting June 11 in the more spacious council chamber.

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