Volunteer Balboa Park Centennial Planner Quits: Was He or City Red Tape at Fault?

The organizer of a grass roots weekend of events during next year’s Balboa Park centennial celebration has just pulled the plug on his efforts — blaming city bureaucracy.

Attorney David Lundin cited “recent arbitrary and capricious actions by staff” in a letter to volunteers, friends, the news media and city officials.

The centennial commemorates the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, which brought San Diego worldwide recognition.

"It's 'turn the clock back,' it's period music, period costumes,” Lundin told NBC 7 in early November. “It reflects on 'How did the park get built in 1915? Why is it cool? And how can we preserve and maintain it to make it better over the next 100 years?'"

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"Mr. Lundin at times has wanted special treatment and waivers of fees,” Wormser said in an interview Friday. “And he has wanted space to store equipment and a lot of things that we just can't do with the use of public property and public access."

Responded Lundin: “The real question is why city and special events leadership never said ‘What can we do to help expedite this and make it successful?”

Wormser said she recognizes that first-time special event organizers face a learning curve they may not be fully prepared to undertake.

"Sometimes it's a challenge to do not only all that the city needs, but to find sponsors and funding sources and participants in the events,” she explained. “And all of those came together. And sadly, sometimes the city is blamed for that."

City Hall observers see the original Centennial planners as having undergone a similar experience.

"I think maybe what we've learned is that it's easier to get these things moving from inside city government,” said Andrew Keatts, who covers civic issues for the Voice of San Diego.

"The city seems to have succeeded, to put together some additional events and make some things happen,” Keatts pointed out. “But important to note — it's way scaled back from what the initial discussion was."

In all, the city expects to spend more than $33 million getting the park ready for the Centennial, most of that, on infrastructure and facility upgrades.

CalTrans has invested $38 million in further retrofits to the Cabrillo Bridge, leading into Balboa Park from the west.

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