Paying to Park at the Park

San Diegans will get their first chance to voice their opinions about the proposed renovation of Balboa Park next month and no doubt the concept of paid parking on the public land will come up.

The plans announced Monday by San Diego city leaders and Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs will replace the cars, roadways and parking spaces that currently cram the park’s inner core with landscaping, trees and pedestrian-friendly gathering places.

Jacobs has volunteered to do the heavy lifting on fundraising for the $33 million makeover that includes an 800-space partly underground parking structure.

That structure could offer paid parking – a first in San Diego’s largest public park. When we talked with people visiting the park Monday, none said the cost of parking would be too large a burden to bear.

“Parking definitely is an issue here in Balboa Park,” said Scott Granger of Pacific Beach.

Granger, who works inside the park, also spends a lot of his free time attending events in the park and is willing to pay for a parking space.

“If that’s what it’s going to take,” Granger said. “If it’s reasonable, I’ll chip in a few dollars.”

“Things change,” said Richard Thomas of Valencia Park. “If it wasn’t free now, it’d be free tomorrow. If they’re going to start paying for it, it might help out our deficit.”

“If we have to pay a little bit, it might be worth it,” he said

The design got an overwhelming endorsement from Valerie Reynolds of golden Hill.

“I love it,” Reynolds said. “I don’t think the asphalt is such a great thing."

As for paying to park?  “I don’t mind. I’ll park for free on 6th or Park and walk,” she said.

The project's first hearing in the public approval process is next month, before the Balboa Park Committee of the Park & Recreation Board.

Backers hope to get all permits by February and the project completed December, 2014, before the Pan-Am Expo centennial celebration begins.

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