City Council Approves Jacobs Plan

Seven-and-a-half hour City Council marathon ends in 6-1 vote in favor of Balboa Park overhaul.

The most controversial decision in the San Diego City Council since the Chargers ticket guarantee finally came to a head last night at around 9:30 pm, and when the council had completed its vote, the Irwin Jacobs plan to transform Balboa Park had its official go ahead.  The $45 million plan to eliminate vehicle traffic from the Plaza de Panama, build the “Centennial Bridge” that will circumvent the centerpiece of the park itself, and lead into a brand spanking new $16 million parking structure that will introduce paid parking into Balboa Park for the first time in the park’s history now has the formal approval of the City Council.

Despite overwhelming public opposition to the perceived privatization of San Diego’s crown jewel, the City Council voted 6-1 to approve the plan pushed by the billionaire founder of Qualcomm, the eighth largest employer in San Diego, with even the council’s most liberal members giving the plan the green light.  Todd Gloria, Marti Emerald, and David Alvarez shocked opponents of the project by joining Carl DeMaio, Lorie Zapf, and Kevin Faulconer in voting ‘Yes.’  Sherri Lightner, criticized by many San Diego Democrats for being too conservative, was the lone ‘No’ vote.  Council President Tony Young was out of town, but word in the chamber was that he would have joined the majority in voting ‘Yes.’

An overflow crowd gathered to weigh in on the most contentious issue to come before the City Council in recent memory, with a line of anxious residents still extending outside the door when Council President Pro Tem Kevin Faulconer called the meeting to order at 2pm.  Local dignitaries gathered inside the Council Chambers to lend their voice to the debate:  NBA Hall of Famer and native San Diegan Bill Walton, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis joining Dr. Jacobs and Mayor Jerry Sanders in support of the project that Jacobs has spearheaded from the beginning; Congressman Bob Filner and former City Attorney Mike Aguirre denouncing the plan.  Seven and a half hours later, Dr. Jacobs’ efforts were validated.

Few in the chamber had any argument with proponents’ desire to remove vehicle traffic from the Plaza de Panama, the main entryway from the western side of Balboa Park and the center point of the park’s museums and main access point for the Old Globe Theater, and open it to pedestrian traffic only.  Rather, the manner in which the Plaza de Panama Committee proposed accomplishing this goal was in dispute.

But the most contentious aspect of the committee’s plan was the paid parking structure that would be located just to the south of the Organ Pavilion.

The park has always been, and has always intended to be, free and open to the public, a public asset owned and operated fully by the citizens of San Diego and to be enjoyed by all.  There has never been a charge for public access, and now for the first time the public will be assessed a fee to park their cars.

On the surface it doesn’t sound like a terribly unreasonable proposal.  As Mayor Sanders pointed out, over 80 percent of the parking spaces available to visitors will remain free of charge, and only the new three story structure will require a fee.  To opponents of the plan, even that remains unacceptable.

At a projected cost of just over $14 million, with an additional $2.5 million in financing to cover the first three years of debt service, the city will be required to issue lease revenue bonds to build the 797 space, three story parking structure that is estimated to yield an additional 260 parking spaces for Balboa Park and will include 6.3 acres of open space park on the structure’s roof (similar in concept to the Sports Deck at San Diego State University).

According to the real estate advisory firm Keyser Marston, the parking structure will generate an estimated $1.3 million, which will more than cover the $1.1 million in debt service the city will be responsible for.  Those figures include income from visitor parking, special events, valet parking, and $60,000 per year in fees generated from monthly parking (more on that in a minute).  The firm also factored in operating expenses for the garage and the new and improved free tram service that will operate throughout the park.

The city’s Independent Budget Analyst, however, disagrees.  Those projections are overly optimistic, they say, despite the insistence by plan supporters that the revenue calculations are extremely conservative.  Any shortcomings in revenues from parking fees will have to be covered out of the city’s general fund, leaving the taxpayers of San Diego on the hook for a project that opponents say is unnecessary to begin with.

The Keyser Marston report, the IBA states, did not account for the availability of nearly 1,260 spaces at Inspiration Point, nor did they include the San Diego Zoo parking lot just to the north.  The Keyser Marston study also assumes the sale of 100 monthly passes at $50 each to museum and park employees, which seems farcical but was deemed an acceptable conclusion by the IBA.  Taking into consideration these and other revised assumptions, including security and maintenance costs for the parking garage which the Keyser Marston study did not include, the IBA projects a potential operating deficit of $968,000, all of which would have to come out of the city’s general fund.  (See the IBA report here.)

Plan proponents seem to think that park visitors will happily fork over the $5 for five hours to park their cars when there are other free options nearby, an assumption that is simply ludicrous on its face.

Tensions on both sides

It looked like the fix was in, despite opponents of the Jacobs plan heavily outnumbering supporters among those gathered in the City Council Chambers and in the two overflow rooms.  City Clerk Liz Maland opened the public comment period with 16 straight speakers in favor of the plan before finally allowing six opponents to voice their view.  She then yielded the speakers lectern back to proponents.  To those watching on cable TV or via webcast, it wouldn’t become clear until after the 6pm break that the overwhelming majority of speakers were there to urge the council to vote ‘No.’

There were heated charges levied from both sides of the issue.  Save Our Heritage Organisation Executive Director Bruce Coons did his cause no favors when he admonished the City Council to “show some leadership for once in your life,” repeatedly denigrating council members and supporters of the project.  Dan Soderberg, vice president of SOHO, complained that the project “has been nothing but autocratic and divisive,” while also accusing that “the City Council has not protected the public’s right to participation.”  They were crass and abrasive, and probably did more harm to the opposition’s cause than good.

Bill Walton

Coons also drew the ire of City Councilperson Lorie Zapf for his assertion that the Plaza de Panama project will ultimately lead the council to eventually make all parking in Balboa Park paid parking.  Zapf accused the activist of making false and misleading statements, noting that there are no such intentions.  She is correct, however, Coons’ larger point was that since in his view there would be only a limited demand for spaces in the parking structure, the City Council would ultimately be compelled to institute paid parking elsewhere in the park in order to make up for the revenue shortfall.

Several commenters raised the specter of the five story garage built with public funds in North Park, a structure operating at a loss for the city.

SOHO’s Susan Brandt Hawley was far more eloquent, making several arguments about the legality of the project, including that the plan violates the City Municipal Code in that voting against the plan would not bring irreparable financial harm to the property’s owner (the city).  “Developers want to do what they want to do,” she said, noting that in her opinion Jacobs was in effect holding the city hostage since he would be willing to donate for the plan he spearheaded and that plan only.

“Giving away $25 million shouldn’t be this hard,” Jerry Sanders told the audience.  “The opposition had plenty of time to get their act together,” he said, and urged the City Council “to summon your own courage and leadership” and support the project.

“This is what we need for our future,” said DA Bonnie Dumanis.

“In my opinion what you have before you is a world class opportunity and a gift that’s been carefully thought out, with millions of dollars being spent in the face of great opposition and adversity, and at this point with no expectations in return for that,” snooted Dean Oliver, a member of the Plaza de Panama Committee.  “Please don’t be distracted today,” he told the council in an arrogant and pretentious tone, “by those who in reality have no true achievable dreams for greatness for Balboa Park.”  (Watch the video if you haven’t seen it.  Oliver’s remarks come at about the 1:07:00 mark.  The air of superiority is really quite astonishing.)

“My predecessor as mayor,” joked Congressman Bob Filner, “I heard when he first started, said we’ve finally got to the point of getting cars out of Balboa Park.”

Bob Filner outside of City Hall, 7-9-12

“We passed the Master Plan 23 years ago, and it did just that,” he said referring to his time on the San Diego City Council.  “I don’t think it’s responsible for a public body to depend on financing for a major project on the philanthropy of a single person, no matter how great, how distinguished, and how much we love him.”

“And, as the Independent Budget Analyst pointed out, there’s virtually no confidence that the paid financing will meet the bond issue,” Filner said.

Mike Aguirre, as he is wont to do, provided perhaps the most cringe worthy moment of the afternoon, saying “We cannot allow a plutocrat to control the government,” and accused the City Council of being under the complete control of Irwin Jacobs.

Among the most striking things to come out of the comments was the complete lack of a compelling reason to support the Jacobs plan specifically.  Supporters spoke of the “world class opportunity” in front of us, and the incredible generosity of the benefactors, with one staffer from the City Manager’s office insisting that it would be fiscally irresponsible to turn down the $25 million gift regardless of the merits of the project or its shortcomings.

Proponents spoke of the need to “restore Balboa Park” and eliminate vehicular traffic from the Plaza de Panama.  But none could justify the need for paid parking, and none could specify why the Jacobs plan was the far superior alternative.  It is more elaborate and far more costly, and has the potential to drastically alter Balboa Park as we know it today, but no one could offer a single convincing rationale in favor of it.  They could merely offer that more time and money ($5 million) had been invested in it, and that no other alternatives had been so vetted.  There’s a reason for that.

In the end it didn’t matter.  The City Council had made up its mind long ago, and they chose to accept Dr. Jacobs’ gift along with his stipulations for giving it.


Former City Council President and candidate for Congress in the 52nd District Scott Peters issued the following statement:

I congratulate the Mayor and City Council and the citizens who’ve worked hard to come up with a plan to improve the walkability of Balboa Park. The park is a tremendous historic resource, but it was built when our city was much smaller. The Plan adopted maintains the Park’s cultural integrity while also making it more accessible to the residents of our growing region. The dozens of institutions within the park rely on foot traffic to survive, and this plan will help them significantly.”

San Diego is fortunate to have philanthropists like the Jacobs who are so generous with their resources and their time, and dedicated to making our city a better place.

Correction:  This post has been updated to attribute comments made by Dan Soderberg that were originally credited to Bruce Coons.



Andy Cohen

Andy spent 15 years working in the highest levels of the San Diego professional sports world, including both the Padres and the Chargers. He began his foray into writing while a volunteer for Francine Busby's 2010 Congressional campaign, eventually becoming a contributor to the now defunct SDNN. He has reported on local and national politics for both the OB Rag and the San Diego Free Press. When not reporting news and events, he offers political and policy commentary from a liberal perspective, occasionally turning back to his sports roots. While he does not hide his more liberal political bent, Andy always strives for fairness in the telling of a story.


  1. avatarDoug Porter says

    And what are we going to call the City funding to subsidize the parking lot when it loses $$$? “The Carl DeMaio Tax!” <<<<< Bob Filner will certainly be a quoteworthy Mayor. And thanks to all you great people who sent tweets out from City Hall yesterday; it was probably more fun reading the chatter than it was being there.

    • avatarAndy Cohen says

      Having sat through all seven and a half hours of testimony, I can PROMISE you it was more fun reading the chatter than it was being there……..

  2. avatar says

    Andy, you were there for the rest of us, and we owe you a hearty thanks for sitting through this important process. I’ve done it in the past and you can literally see your life passing by while in those Chambers.

  3. avatarGoatskull says

    While I’m against this plan as much as anyone, having Mike Aguirre on your side is never a good thing. He’s has to be one of the biggest jack asses on the plant. Just ask anyone who’s worked with/for him. I know a few.

  4. avatarAlana Coons says

    “has been nothing but autocratic and divisive,” You have misquoted Bruce Coons, that was in fact another eloquent speaker Dan Soderberg. I’m sure as a casual observer some of us sounded overly harsh, but after two years of being treated like the unwashed masses simply because we dont use valet, the anger and disdain for these developer lackeys was impossible to contain. We have had to litigate again and again this council (and won all of the cases) because of their consistent disrespect for their office and for the public good. So yes, we were angry, we were way, way beyond angry. It just doesn’t get more important than Balboa Park when talking about our major cultural, aesthetic, historic resources. Keep the enormity of what the council just gave away in context. Mr. Cohen, perhaps you don’t understand what actually occurred. Balboa Park has been sold out; your elected officials sold out the public and Balboa Park and for a cheap price at that, Jacobs is only providing a few million, they could have at least negotiated a fair price. Oh, that’s right they did… but for their future political careers not for the park or the people. And its not a gift so please stop using their spin, its a tax deductible investment into purchasing what was until yesterdays decision a free and public park’ . Bruce did misspeak in only the one detail that you quote, his presentation notes were actually to ask the council to exercise leadership, and while he sincerely regrets his choice of words in the heat of battle, the reality is this council has rarely, if ever, shown true leadership. Sometimes the truth is ugly, but it is still truth.

    • avatarSari Reznick says

      Thank you for your eleoquent response. This was a done deal from the beginning and only a lawsuit can overturn this irresponsibile plan. It just sticks in my throat that those who profess to love the arts, collect art, show art, would support this bypass road! It is aethethically WRONG, historically incorrect, and along with the rest of the overkill project, will ruin Balboa Park. For Carl DeMaio to quote Big Yellow Taxi–will I really have to laugh!

  5. avatarJudy Swink says

    For those not voting in the 52nd Congressional District, the quoted “former City Council President” is Scott Peters.

    Andy – mostly a very good article but I’d like to correct one statement you make. Most people agree with removing *parking* from the Plaza de Panama, not removing all cars (moving as well as parked). There certainly is a constituency for closing Cabrillo Bridge altogether but most of the people I know – and I know a lot of people who have had a lot of involvement in Balboa Park planning for up to 50 years – want the consensus-based plan adopted in the 1989 Balboa Park Master Plan. Allow cars to enter from the west only most of the time, and traverse the southwest corner of the Plaza, with dropoff & valet in that corner, and with 2-way traffic when the park shuttle isn’t running.

    Many of us agree that this plan could be modified to include “managed traffic” as is being done in numerous urban parks around the U.S. (Golden Gate Park & Central Park are best known examples). This would prohibit driving through the Plaza during specified daytime hours (and not necessarily every day) and allow cars through early mornings and in the evening/at night when pedestrians are few & far between. This is also what any of us who have traveled in Europe have experienced in the historical center of numerous cities in France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and the Czech Republic (my personal experiences).

    I also disagree that most people (myself included) were there primarily on the issue of paid parking – most of us deplore the impact the bypass bridge and roadway-in-a-ditch will have on the ambiance of the park and the historical element of approaching the Central Mesa across the Cabrillo Bridge. For us, paid parking is more an issue of the faulty economic assessment which we believe will result in one more draw on a General Fund that is insufficient for the basic public services it supports (barely).

  6. avatarJudy Swink says

    The number of people who turned out for the Council hearing was amazing. In addition to the two overflow rooms on the 12th floor, the City Clerk directed that the Silver Room in Golden Hall be opened up and the hearing piped in there as well.

  7. avatarDan Soderberg says

    The quotes you used “has been nothing but autocratic and divisive,” “the City Council has not protected the public’s right to participation” was from my speech not Bruce Coons.

    After two years and 200 public meetings the project was only “massaged and refined,” Those are the words of lead project designer Mark Johnson. Public participation was only limited to viewing their PowerPoint presentation with a question and answer period. Yes they did cherry pick some refinements from public meeting, but that hardly constitutes a vigorous public process. It had nothing to do with exploring alternatives which real public review does.

    Compare that to other civic projects. Mike Singleton’s plans for Fiesta Island developed from 13 alternatives. It was public participation that drove the project from 13 alternatives to one.

    Downtown Public Library. It was developed from 3 vastly different alternatives. The final project emerges from the participation of 700 community members who said what they wanted in the library. If left to the planners or the City, the current project likely wouldn’t have the dome element. It was the people who said they wanted the top floor of the library to be public space–not for administration and offices. The designers admitted it was an idea that would never had occurred to them.

    And finally the Master Plan for Balboa Park was a shining example of a civic project driven by public input. It was the public who evaluated the bypass bridge concept when it was proposed back then. They rejected it for the same reasons talked about today.

    For the current project, the public was given no opportunity to nix the bypass bridge concept. And in comparison to how public process and input should work, the current process has been nothing but autocratic. That has resulted in the huge lack of community consensus for this project. And yes, it has been a divisive–very much so.

    Perhaps Councilmembers were not happy to hear my comments. But I had meet with several of them in advance and told them what I just explained. Also they received my ten page letter explaining that as well.

    Having attended all those public meetings for the project, I stand behind my statements because they reflect exactly what I saw transpire.

    • avatarAndy Cohen says

      Duly noted, and I stand corrected. It was a little tough to keep up with which speaker said what, particularly when they didn’t give their names as they were asked to.

      Still, Mr. Soderberg, like Mike Aguirre, you did your cause no favors. Your combative, abusive, accusatory attitude and statements did nothing but cause the members of the City Council to tune you out. You were disrespectful and mean spirited; in short, you were everything the proponents of the plan accused the opposition of being.

      A more diplomatic approach might have won over a council member or two (probably not, but you never know). But as a leader, your vitriol only served to hurt the cause of those opposed to the Jacobs plan. Like Mr. Aguirre, you came across as nothing more than a barking buffoon.

      • avatarDan Soderberg says

        Mr. Cohen, perhaps look at yourself first and the language you are choosing to use.

        • avatarEva Thorn says

          Andy, I mostly like your article. I have been down there as well the entire time and you paint a pretty good (and objective) picture of those 8+ hours in the chambers. There were some people who’s comments made one cringe and you mentioned a few, can’t mention all, but inappropriate remarks were made by both sides (like the one gentleman who spoke in support of the project and apologized to the council for comments some opponents had made). However as you state yourself sometimes it is hard to keep exact track of who says what. While reading the comments / arguments between you and Dan Soderberg I can’t help but wonder if you got mixed up there? I do not remember him at all being disrespectful (and he did state his name).

      • avatarDan Soderberg says

        Here are my supposedly mean spirited, barking buffoonery, remarks to City Council.

        Dear Councilmembers

        I am Dan Soderberg, Chair of the Neighborhood Historic Preservation Coalition. (NHPC) logo on Council screen

        You have all received the Neighborhood Historic Preservation Coalition letter detailing our opposition to this project.

        Briefly here are our five main points.

        ONE– We oppose the project because of its severe impact to historic resources.

        The project would substantially alter a National Historic Landmark. LET ME READ THIS INTO THE RECORD RIGHT NOW. (Text on screen) The City Municipal Code only allows such an alteration if there would be “no reasonable beneficial use” of Balboa Park without it. That is mandated by Code section 126.0504(i)(3). However — it cannot seriously be argued that the Park will be useless without this project; it has been a park for 100 years, it will continue to be a park for the next 100 years. The finding of “no beneficial use” cannot be made and so the project cannot be approved as proposed. It’s right there in the Municpal Land Use code.

        TWO– We find the project’s EIR fatally flawed and is a text book example an EIR skewed for the desires of the project sponsor.

        THREE– We find the Plaza de Panama Project fails to meet today’s best policies and practices for urban park planning.

        FOUR– We vigorously oppose the specter of paid parking in Balboa Park.

        In light of the IBA report which clearly indicates the paid parking structure will not be the cash cow the developers say it is going to be, we will he looking for which Councilmembers will walk the walk to protect San Diego Taxpayers from yet another financial burden.

        FIVE– We are profoundly disturbed by this projects lack of adequate public process.

        They claim 200 public meetings, but the project didn’t change.

        Public process should produce a degree of community wide participation and consensus. That was the Hallmark of the Balboa Park Master Plan. This project has been NOTHING but autocratic and divisive.

        Our letter provided you with real life examples of civic projects that fully embraced full public participation. This project has been a colossal failure of public process from day one. No negotiation, no willingness to compromise. Through 200 public meetings they only cherry picked modifications and refinements THEY wanted.

        On the issue of the City embarking on a path of partnering with philanthropy on public projects, why hasn’t the Mayor or City Council adopted any kind of frame work or guidelines to protect the public’s right to participate in the outcome of a civic project. Instead all power was given to one individual who dictated exactly how this project would end up.

        There has been a colossal failure of leadership to bring the developers and the community together to negotiate and compromise on a project plan. (Picture on screen showing Jimmy Carter, Sadat and Begin at Camp David Peace Accord)

        Those of us from the neighborhoods who showed up to every public meeting for two years, have done our due diligence. We have offered to negotiate and compromise. We have brought forward great ideas and alternatives. For example Master architect and significant builder of modern San Diego William S. Lewis, F.A.I.A. On his own initiative drawn from a LONG LIFE and a legacy career in the history of San Diego has produced a wonderful plan.

        But that plan, along every other idea or alternative was met with the same negative knee jerk rejection. They have battled, and battled, and battled community derived alternatives every step of the way.

        My friends, this is the United States of America. This type of autocratic process is an abomination to the principals this country was founded on.

        For this City Council to approve this deeply flawed plan justified by an equally flawed EIR, and to endorse this abomination of public process will be a huge disservice to the citizens San Diego–setting a horrible precedent for all civic projects from this date forward.

        • avatarMichael Thomason says

          Dan, We (Suzie & I) couldn’t agree with you more. That whole meeting yesterday was the worst case of a ‘Travesty of Justice’ that I have ever had the misfortune to witness.
          I sat there and listened to all the arguments and came away thinking that we must have travelled back in time to when the ‘mobs’ ran cities like Chicago & New York!
          ‘Do as I say, or else!’
          Only in this case it wasn’t the mob – it was one man – Irwin Jacobs!
          I just wonder how much favor ($$$$$) changed hands between those with a vested interest?
          And will the park now be re-named Irwin Jacobs Park, or Jacobs Folly?

      • avatarjohn eisenhart says


        Historically, the elite’s code word for dismissing the public’s concern is to be critical of the tone and manners of the message without listening to the CONTENT of the message. The Mayor started the proceeds the same way he started the MOU meeting a year earlier. Denouncing critics as making “vile” comments. Simple put if you oppose the power structure and exercise your democratic rights. you are vile.
        Not really sure why Dan S. comments were taken as offensive in any way. He brought up important points about the process. So lets discuss Mike’s comments. Were the content of Mike Aguirre’s comments truthful? Is Irwin Jacob’s a Plutocract? Is he destroying democracy in San Diego. Did he influence (control) the council’s vote through lobbyist, promise of future support?
        Yes, Yes, and Yes. Mike spoke the truth to power and made is point with the police coming into the chamber to make sure he was subdued if he continued. The crowd ( including myself) cheered wildly. Why? – because the public’s input has been ignored, marginalized and belittled. We are tired of the system putting on a buffet of lies and need more people like Mike to shove the lies back in their face.
        What has happened to indie journalist like yourself? Are you a fighter for truth and justice for the people or an apologist for the elite? (your sister paper has the moniker Freaks, Uppity Women and Politicos- why? because social change is never polite.) Mike Aguirre and Dan Soderberg buffons? No , just people with a soul who refuse to sell out. That deserves respect in my book.

      • avatarCarol Beam says

        Mr. Cohen, your comments to Mr. Soderberg are over the top and basically ridiculous. Your article was fairly even-handed, but this attack on Dan Soderberg is just wrong in someone who is supposed to be a journalist.

        I was at the City Council meeting until after Bruce Coons spoke, as I had an appointment. So, I didn’t hear Mr. Aguirre. From what I hear, he’s a flame-thrower. But I thought the Mayor and Dean Oliver set the tone with their insulting and scolding comments to the opposition.

        I did find Bruce Coons urging the City Council to “show some leadership for once in their lives” to be somewhat cringe-worthy, and two women who went down in the elevator with me mentioned that they thought that statement was insulting to the City Council. But, it was obvious to anyone who was there that Mr. Coons is a passionate advocate for Balboa Park. I almost started crying when he was talking. But, I feel passionately about the Park too.

        The Jacobs/Sanders plan and the process surrounding it is just wrong, and must be stopped and changed if at all possible.

        • avatarAndy Cohen says

          Please note my condemnation of Dean Oliver’s statements specifically. His arrogance was truly disturbing and disheartening.

      • avatarDan Soderberg says

        Mr. Cohen, I must yet again point out errors in your revised “corrected” report. Although it is true I do serve as SOHO Vice President, I was not speaking to the Council in my capacity as SOHO VP. I was representing the Neighborhood Historic Preservation Coalition. I clearly stated that. How is it my role as SOHO VP, which was never entered into Monday’s public record by anybody, including myself, should become a part of your report? Why not say, as the public record shows, that I represented NHPC? I’m not sure why you chose to leave the impression I was speaking for SOHO.

        Secondly upon a closer look and review, I never said “the City Council has not protected the public’s right to participation.” That’s your paraphrase. It was not correct for you to close it in quotations. Instead I had asked a question, “Why hasn’t the Mayor or City Council adopted any kind of frame work or guidelines to protect the public’s right to participate in the outcome of a civic project?”

        So let’s have one more look. First you incorrectly quoted Mr. Coons. Then you seemed to beg my indulgence about that by saying how tough it was for you correctly affix quotes correctly because people didn’t say their names. (But I had). Then you highlighted one sentence which was actually a paraphrased sentence, not a quote. Then the issue of what I consider misleading the reader about whom I represented on Monday.

        Honestly, Mr. Cohen, is your journalistic work so tight and solid that you have earned the credential to go around calling anyone you write about a “barking baffoon?”

  8. avatarDavid Lundin says

    As a result of a 6-1 vote of the City Council on July 9,2012, we now have PAID Parking for Balboa Park for the first time in 97 years.

    The Jacob’s Plan for a new parking garage brings this new TAX for enjoying the Park.

    Initially, the fee is only for the Garage. But human nature and behavioral economics tells us NO ONE will use the Paid Parking Garage so long as there is one empty, free parking space remaining. People are that way. So the revenues “projected” by City Staff to pay the construction bonds will never materialize.

    Look to the City – Owned garage in North Park at the Birch Theatre. That garage is surrounded by free on-street parking. The same idiots made the same silly projections for this White Elephant. The revenues can’t pay for the bond debt, or the operations and maintanence costs. Same thing will happen in the Park.

    So the ONLY cure for this totally predictable economic behavior will be the immediate imposition of uniformly priced PAID parking for every space in both the Park and the Zoo. A Minimum of $5.00, and probably more like $5.00 an hour. More on “Free” Tuesdays and special Events, like Winter Nights. More for the Summer “Free” concerts at the Organ Pavillion.

    So Seniors and young families will be priced out of the Park. The many Volunteers at the Museums and ZOO will be priced out of volunteering.

    And then there is the destruction of the Cabrillo Bridge by the addition of the ugly By Pass bridge…

    Write your Councilperson and urge them to reconsider this Park Tax immediately!

    Todd Gloria failed to defend the Park in his District. He showed he is willing to do anything if someone else pays the bill. He will NOT appear in the next round of the “Profiles in Courage” awards at Harvard.

    He should be ashamed of his performance at the July 9 hearing.

    Carl DeMaio voted for the fee. Tell him what you think about this in November.

    Bob Filner strongly OPPOSES this Plan and the Parking FEE. He believes the Park should be open and have free access to all–The People’ Park.

    DeMiao wants lots of $25.00 valet parking available for his friends when they do dinner at the Prado, or have opening nights at the Old Globe or Galas at the Museums.

  9. avatarMark Roberts says

    Send this POLITICIAN an E Mail–tell him what you think of Paid Parking in all of Balboa Park and the Zoo! Tell him what you think of destroying the historic beauty of Cabrillo Bridge. Tell him what you think of covering Palm Canyon with fill dirt and a road. Tell him what you think of letting a Billionaire control the decision-making for the People’s Patk.

    It only takes a minute to tell this clown what you think of paying $10.00 a day to park as a volunteer at the Zoo or in the Museums. Or as a senior with an annual membership in the Zoo or the Museums. Or as a young family with kids.

    Todd’s priority is to provide $25.00 Valet parking for dinner at the Prado, Opening Nights at the Old Globe and Museum galas. He likes his donors. He is getting ready to run for higher office and he needs their money.

    Being Gay and having a nice personality and smile does not mean he is doing the right thing for us and our treasured Park.

    • avatarAndy Cohen says

      Councilman Gloria asked some very good, pointed, and probing questions when he was given the floor (so to speak). He appeared to take the concerns of SOHO and other opponents of the Jacobs plan very seriously. He pulled no punches. It was therefore a pretty big shock when he ultimately voted in favor of the project. Until that point he had given every indication that he had some serious misgivings about the project.

      • avatarSari Reznick says

        Yes, I was pleased that he tried to cover all the bases, but it was quite clear from almost the beginning that he was doing a CYA type of thing.

        I think you did a very good job covering the tone and content of the meeting. I was there for @ 6 hours and then went home and watched it on the internet.

        I really appreciated the fact-based discussion from the SOHO attorney; however, as far as the anger or accusatory tone used by some, believe me, even if people had been more “civil”, it wouldn’t have done a thing to sway those, like Zapf, to vote against this Plan. And, who set the tone–hizzoner the Mayor –in his opening comments he talked about “vile” and “idiotic” comments that had been made against the Plan. What a way for the head of our City to talk!

      • avatarJudy Swink says

        Andy – in your second sentence in the above response to your comments on your own article, your write that “He [Gloria] appeared to take the concerns of SOHO and other opponents of the Jacobs plan very seriously.” The active verb here is “appeared”. But, the reality of his intentions was made clear when he asked staff who had come up with the “Goals & Objectives” that informed the Jacobs Project (and effectively blocked consideration of all other alternatives). Staff danced around with a non-answer when a simple (true) response would have been “Irwin Jacobs”, and Todd didn’t call them on their non-responsiveness as Donna Frye often had to do when staff tried to send up smokescreens.

        The goals and objectives were never presented for public discussion and vetting, to seek consensus on goals and objectives. Instead, the approach was an absolute adherence to All of the goals and objectives, ensuring that only the Jacobs plan would be “selected” because none of the others met Jacobs’ goals and objectives.

        As has been stated elsewhere, the 1989 master plan & 1992 precise plan were based on consensus reached over almost a decade of sometimes contentious public discussion. During that process, a bypass bridge/road was rejected by a majority of the public even though it was the City Manager’s recommended alternative. This occurred because Bob Filner represented the Council district that includes Balboa Park, and the final result was largely thanks to his recognition that the public preferred the simpler, less costly choice of removing parking from the Plaza and routing one-way traffic from the west through the southwest corner of the Plaza.

        This is in direct contrast to the shameful actions of Todd Gloria who gave lip service to questioning aspects of the Jacobs plan but whose votes on both the MOU and the approval of Jacobs’ plan on Monday give the lie to the sincerity of those questions. So, yes, he *appeared* to ask good questions but it was clear to most of us in the chamber that it was no more than a performance.

        I’d also like to express my deep disappointment in both Marti Emerald (whose professional experience should have helped her to see clearly that this was a set up and not supported by the hundreds of San Diegans who spoke out or wrote about their distaste for the Jacobs plan) and David Alvarez (who has previously impressed me with his measured and objective approach on Council and as chair of NR&C).

        I’m also disgusted with all of the Planning Commissioners. They failed in their responsibility to vet the details of the project in the context it was proposed for, instead saying almost to a person that they dislike the bypass bridge but – after all – there was money being provided so they ought to vote yes. And they did…..

    • avatar says

      Todd Gloria has always and only followed the money and power.

      No one on his staff will give such emails more than a glance before auto-replying or deleting them.

      My friend, I agree we should still send the outraged emails to Todd, but let’s all recognize that this sweet and earnest little political prostitute has some sugar daddies to service. You’ll get lip service at best, not the job you elected him to do.

      • avatarJay Coffman says

        You know, I did get replies from every previous email I sent Todd about issue in our community. Yet I never got one thing from him over the Jacobs’s Folly issue even though I wrote him about eight times.

      • avatarCarol Beam says

        I am not in Todd Gloria’s district, but I called his office twice on this issue, as the Park is in his district. The first time, the person I spoke with acted like they were doing me a favor in talking to me, and acted completely disinterested in my opinion. The second time I called, I spoke with someone who seemed sympathetic to my views and listened to me until I finished talking.

  10. avatarKristen Aliotti says

    Thank God for Mike Aguirre. Whatever he says and does, it’s better than 99% of the rest of the condescending gobbledygook we have to listen to at these events. I appreciate his presence and I am deeply grateful for his point of view.

  11. avatarPatrick T McArron says

    Regarding Scott Peters letter of congratulations very few would disagree that San Diego is fortunate to have philanthropists like the Jacobs who are so generous with their resources and their time, and dedicated to making our city a better place.
    What many of us object to is the manner and method used to impose a particular project on the people of the city. While the goals of the Jacob’s plan may very well be laudable, the plan itself is not “superior” to the many other plans that were proposed. It was inevitable that city council would vote in favor of the project for numerous reasons, none of which were founded in proper democratic process. The ends do not always justify the means. IF the bypass does actually get built then for the sake of aesthetics make it look like it belongs and is of the same design as the existing iconic Cabrillo Bridge.

  12. avatarJeri Dilno says

    I was one of four no votes on the Balboa Park Committee, the first public agency to vote on the by-pass bridge plan. I was present at all 17 public hearings and kept a tally of the public comments which ran an average of 2.5 to 1 in opposition to the plan. For the most part the public comment during those hearings was constructive and offered many alternatives. The proponents had the advantage of longer and more sophisticated presentations because they were well funded.

    Your comment in the article: “Among the most striking things to come out of the comments was the complete lack of a compelling reason to support the Jacobs plan specifically,” sums up my opinion about the process which was flawed from the beginning. The plan was presented 2 years ago as a “fiat accompli” and the only changes during the process were primarily cosmetic.

    My no vote at the BPC was a reflection of my charge as a “member at large,” which I understood to represent the public. The process of public comment and review in the 17 community meetings was primarily window-dressing. I was unable to attend the council meeting, but watched it intently live on public access TV. The anger you describe in your review of the opponents was not present when many of those same speakers expressed their views at several of the public hearings. Where you detected anger – this being (I assume) your first hearing of the proponents – I detected frustration.
    As you noted: “Proponents spoke of the need to “restore Balboa Park” and eliminate vehicular traffic from the Plaza de Panama. But none could justify the need for paid parking, and none could specify why the Jacobs plan was the far superior alternative. It is more elaborate and far more costly, and has the potential to drastically alter Balboa Park as we know it today, but no one could offer a single convincing rationale in favor of it. They could merely offer that more time and money ($5 million) had been invested in it, and that no other alternatives had been so vetted. There’s a reason for that.

    In the end it didn’t matter. The City Council had made up its mind long ago, and they chose to accept Dr. Jacobs’ gift along with his stipulations for giving it.”

    I agree and submit that is the source of the frustration expressed by the opponents. In my opinion, the public vetting process was never a reality.

    • avatarAndy Cohen says


      Thanks for the background on the BPC. It’s very helpful.

      As to the “frustration” that you addressed: It is still my contention–and it always will be–that the kind of comments and insults hurled by the likes of Bruce Coons, Mike Aguirre–and yes, Mayor Sanders too–are not helpful, are not constructive, and only do damage to the speaker’s credibility and any organization they represent along with the cause they are advocating. There are much better and more effective ways of advancing a point of view.

      • avatarJeri Dilno says

        Yes, there are more effective ways of making a point, rather than anger. However, (aside from Mr. Aguirre, who seems to be consistently angry and was not at any of the BPC hearings) I have heard many of the speakers who spoke at the council meeting present their concerns in a constructive manner, offering alternatives and suggestions. They were met with polite smiles and little or no action. It is not surprising that frustration evolved into anger.

      • avatarAlana Coons says

        Right… so Andy shall we use your fine example of “better and more effective ways of advancing a point of view?”
        Sounds like you have a personal bone to pick with Bruce,since you are so far out on this or… maybe you are just trying to get yr blog numbers up with provoking more comments?
        I mean are you for real? Bruce Coons “the likes of” my god, we should only dream that San Diego had more of “the likes” of Bruce Coons.

  13. avatarJanet O'Dea says

    Dear Andy,
    Thanks for the article and I must say I missed Dan’s presentation when I got to the meeting he had already delivered it. I don’t disagree with any of it though in the context of the process that has occurred. I know that there are some reporters that are just picking up the goings on but as you can see from some of these other comments
    it all feels like a set up. Listening to the city clerk read name after name of people who were not present just so that they could pack the record made me cringe. – because this is accepted as business as usual but it is not factual is it? They weren’t there but they weren’t asked to account for themselves. When the opposition ceded a minute of time the city clerk waited to make sure that the person ceding time was present and accounted for … but all of those other names for the proponents were read off and they were not even in the building. Andy, there is a bag of dirty tricks that are played over and over again to manipulate the public and the stuffing the speakers slips with people who do not show up and stating that they simply do not want to speak is one of them. Further, if it is really a good idea and a fair and open process these then why does the process have to be manipulated in this manner and why is there so much discontent? Brings me back to Sunroad. The city, our tax payers are the losers tiem and time again because we have to waste our time on a bogus process that is called fair and open by the manipulators ….why? because of the sheer number of meeting (not the quality of them or the acceptance of any of the ideas brought forward). Then in order to seek a remedy to the broken process there is no other choice but to litigate. Citizen have to pool our funds to sue in essence ourselves…. supporting a legal fund that defends the manipulation instead of keeping pools and libraries open… now that is grossly hideous. Here is what I hoped for at the meeting. The city council members would have been responsive to the public and simply not voted to approve. Instead one could have helped by being on the fence even if they said to the proponent,” we just don’t have the votes to pass this project. Would you like to work with SOHO on some modifications so that we can revisit this next month?.” That would have given me hope for those on the council and maybe would have for the first time in a long process given the public a real voice… This final result was needless to say heartbreaking for anyone who cares about our city and especially who cares about the way it functions.

  14. avatarCharles Kaminski says

    The IBA (Independent Budget Analsysis) report indicated:
    1. The PdP Committee could unilaterally withdraw from the project is their (the Committee) budget is exceeded by 3%. Given the unknown conditions throughout the park where this plan is proposed, I would guess it will be xceeded by at least 55.
    2. The garage roof top park is NOT COVERED by the $45M. It comes from park and Recreation budget aka the General Fund.
    3. The tram will cost %534K and does not travel to the west or the east. the existing tram does at a cost of $330K. More costs not attributed to the $45M.
    4. The IBA report suggests a staggered parking rate; eg: for events with 1000 attendees perhaps $10; for events with a large area and or attendance perhaps $20.
    5. Valet parking is $100/month: a bargain given the $5/5 hours and such.
    6. Does the plan also have a “premium valet space”; someone showed me an illustration. can anyone confirm?
    7. The tram ends at El Cid statue. I guess that means the disabled and others need to schlep still further to get into the cultural institutions? That appears to be a net zero gain.

    • avatarDionne Carlson says

      I ‘m not quite sure what you mean by “premium valet space”, but I have a full set of the latest plans, and I can tell you this:
      The proposed project is overly valet-parking-centric. In particular when you look at the plans for the Alcazar Garden parking lot. The Alcazar lot allocates the entire southern periphery for valet stacking, may add infrastructure (a booth) specifically for valet (last meeting I attended they were talking about the design for the booth, however I’m uncertain they still plan to go forward with that), and provides 16 (paid) parking/valet stacking spots for valet. Yet the Plan for the Alcazar lot only allocates only 8 (free) passenger drop-off spots on the north side of the lot in the pick up/drop-off zone. Since the Alcazar lot will be the ONLY passenger drop-off spot in the park that is close-ish in to the core (until you get down into the organ pavillion lot), only 8 spots for free drop-off seems too few, especially when compared to twice that number for paid valet.

      In the proposed Organ Pavillion parking structure, 100 of the paid parking spaces are allocated for Valet parking.

      Regarding the tram, it will run on too short a route to be of much use. It is proposed to run from the South end of the Organ Pavillion lot to the El Cid Statue. More useful would be trams/people movers that ran from the outlying parking lots and (even more importantly) Transit, into the core of the park.

  15. avatar says

    With this 6 to 1 vote including Emerald, Alvarez and Gloria – with Young MIA, I’ll never be able to look at this City Council again as a group of people who represent the citizens of this city. I’m mostly ashamed that I thought these folks were on our side. What happened? Marti? David? Is it just too tough to go against the big money in this town? Guess so. Be on notice – this was one of the most important votes you took during your stints on the Council and we will not forget how you voted.

    • avatarCarol Beam says

      Marti Emerald appeared to give a disapproving look any time members of the audience booed or made audible comments during any the pro-Jacobs plan presentations.

      David Alvarez is my City Council person, and he looked like he was actually afraid or feeling intimidated.

      • avatarChar-Lou Benedict says

        I hope to play poker with Marti Emerald some day. She smiled at every proponent and had a sour look for every opponent no matter what they said. It actually was fun to watch. At least our other city councilors didn’t wear their votes on their faces.

        My favorite comment of the day came from Dean Oliver who after been interrupted by the audience said that he would be more gracious (my words) when listening to the opponents. However, within five minutes or less after his speech – he left the building!

  16. avatarJay Coffman says

    In defense of Bruce Coons. How long should someone have to sit still and be subjected to insults before standing up for his cause? In case you weren’t there, the Mayor, covered by his bodyguard, started off the proceedings by publicly insulting the people opposed to the project. He was followed by several other pro-Jacobs’s Folly supporters who made snarky comments about the opposition. When the crowd responded, Kevin Faulconer chastised the opposition but never tried to reign in the proponents. He also paid no attention tot he proponents insulting comments. Bruce can easily be excused for being short with the other side.

    It is also frustrating to have to sit through this farce after spending two years trying in good faith to be heard evan a little bit and being ignored and dismissed at every turn. The process was a joke and we had to sit there and listen to them reinvent history by saying they did such a fine process. We commented on the EIR and were summarily dismissed. A lot of us sat through the Planning Committee “Hearing” even though their agenda spelled out in black and white in the last item was that they would recommend approval of the project. Likewise, we sat through hours of testimony with the proponents getting generous amount of time to speak while we got one minute–later cut in half–to say what we wanted to say and then we had to watch the council members one by one read from statements obviously prepared BEFORE the hearing.

    The proponents seem to believe they can be excused from following the law just because some rich guy is offering to give them some money so long as they are willing to put in even more of our money. Hello…

  17. avatarMark Roberts says

    Todd abandoned the public, and did an awful thing. Mr. Coons had every right to be passionate. And his statement that ALL parking in the Park and the ZOO will be paid is factually correct. Behaviorial Economics is based on fact. Ms. Zapf of course relied on her own opinions only, unburdened by facts. Remember, she was the one who advocated a statute prohibiting Gays from holding public office.

    Todd’s NO vote could have stopped this thing, as the Council tends to follow the leader when a project is on one’s District. And Todd was the “leader” here.

    PAID Parking will be the rule in the entire park immediately, and in the ZOO lot.

    Volunteers in the ZOO, the Museums and the Globe will not pay $5.00 an hour to volunteer !

    Seniors, young families and students cannot and will not pay $5.00 foe a casual visit to the Park.

    “Free” Tuesdays just became $5.00 -$25.00 Tuesdays.

    The “Free” Organ Pavilion concerts on Sunday afternoons and in the evenings in the Summer Series just became $20.00 concerts.

    Annual Members of the ZOO and the Museums, who could visit any time for free with their membetrhips, will not visit at $5.00-$25.00 a visit. Visits will decline, memberships will decline, support will decline.

    SOHO will litigate this and will win. This will never be build. Mayor Filner will do all he can to to ensure this also. But we should all never forget these politicians who put their political supporter–Jacobs’ Billions–ahead of the People and their Park.

  18. avatarRobin Lakin says

    Just where would we be if no one stood up and raised their voice or used a frustrated tone against oppressors? We’d have no vote for minorities or women. No Civil Rights. No unions. Child labor. Mr. Jacobs in fact could not live in La Jolla. And so BRAVO to those at the City Council meeting who in a respectful and mature manner, raised their voice or used a tone of frustration at the atrocious manner in which we have been dismissed in this important issue.

    “Nuff said about that. Per the negative remarks here about the behavior of Mr. Coons and Mr. Soderberg, while I was not present to witness their comments at this meeting, I have never known Mr. Soderberg to speak in a degrading or disrespectful manner. I have known Bruce Coons for nearly 12 years. Probably not nearly as long as most people, but having worked for and alongside him, in all these years I have NEVER once heard this man raise his voice or speak to someone in a disrespectful manner, even to those who fully deserved it. He is one of the most deliberate, careful and fair individuals I know, a true example of a person who thinks before he speaks.

    Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for outgoing mayor Jerry Sanders, who should still consider his own example as an elected leader of this city before opening his mouth. I am embarrassed for him and our city that he would disparage his citizenry legally defending their rights as ‘vile’ behavior.

    I am grateful to people like Dan Soderberg and Bruce Coons, along with all the other opponents of this destructive plan, who stood up to defend our treasured landmark and our rights. Especially if they had to raise their voices and use a tone of frustration to do it.

  19. avatarShelley Plumb says

    At this moment, I am very happy to be represented by Sherri Lightner who has always maintained that the public should not have to pay for public parking in public places.
    Thank you, Sherri.

  20. avatarDon Schmidt says

    Mr. Cohen, I think you’re confusing “Free Press” with “My Personal Opinion Blog Where I Do Little Homework”.

    Specifically, I take issue with your comments regarding Mr. Soderberg’s and Mr. Coons’ testimony. Have you EVER taken up a long term land use battle in this city? It’s literally killed people from the stress (please take notes as you’ll be better prepared for future “articles”).

    It takes a lot of committment, passion and energy to take something on like saving Balboa Park. You get attacked and kicked around, at times you get less support than what you are promised and your health and personal life suffer, but you keep moving forward because you know what you are doing is the right thing to do for the right reason.

    I can assure you that Mr. Coon’s and Mr. Soderberg’s comments came from the heart and from passion to try and preserve this city’s crown jewel, Balboa Park. In fact, they have something rare in this city, they speak the truth and have cajones and backbones. Apparently, there was confusion on your part on what they were saying and how they were saying it. Like others have said here, the descision on how this was going to go was decided a long time ago, so pardon the community if it got fed up with business as usual. So many of us have been in this movie so many times, we all want to throw up. Pardon the community when the word BANAL seems to describe planning in this city for the last 30 years, and it only seems to be getting worse. THAT’S what you should be getting caught up on, researching and investigating if you want this space to be considered journalism, not just some blog.

    BTW, if you want to be taken more seriously, you can start with finding someone more serious to quote from other than Scott Peters. As someone who survived this two terms in District One, I can honestly say the man is about as significant as a flea on a dog’s ass. You have a lot of catching up to do on getting the pulse of the San Diego community. You better start cracking.

  21. avatar says

    This whole, well-orchestrated process leading up to the 6-1 S.D. City Council vote on 7-09-12 was hard to take. Let’s hope that the legal challenge to that decision is successful.

  22. avatarSali Weiss says

    It saddens me to know that the ‘plan’ for the park was so convincingly brought forth that NO one else was able to submit input prior to railroading it through. I’m sorely disappointed in the counsel-members, especially Todd Gloria, who, I thought, would be more responsive to looking at alternatives. The powers that be were in such a rush to be coerced into Jacob’s proposal just because he dangled $$$$ in front of them, that they didn’t take the TIME that would really be needed to consider considerable alternative proposals. sigh… love of money IS the root of all evil!

  23. avatarmicaela shafer porte says

    parking garages and public bathrooms, the new “el dorado” of the san diego developers?
    $58, 000/ per parking space, nice going developers….

  24. avatarChristine says


    it seems like you are really missing the main point and I gotta say this is kind of bad journalism. How could you write this entire article and leave out the destruction of a historic landmark? why do you think developer after developer stood up and demanded this project? not just for some parking garage as you say.

  25. avatarChristine says

    and how could you say Aguirre was cringeworthy? did you not hear the roar of applause? Aguirre stole the show. Were you at a different meeting? Im so sick of this irresponsible journalism on this issue. You are misleading people w/ this piece and you should fix it or you dont have much of a future ahead of you w/ this site cause no one will read it.

    • avatarDoug Porter says

      Apparently you missed the follow up article Andy wrote. Go back to the front page of this site and read it. This article that you commented in is Old News now