The Starting Line – San Diego Zoo Expansion Plan: Make 61% of Balboa Park’s Parking Paid

Now that (it appears) plans for construction of a paid parking garage adjacent to the Plaza de Panama are moving forward, the San Diego Zoo has dusted off an eight year old project involving construction of a fee based 4800 space underground garage and will eliminating the free 2500 space surface lot currently in use.

Construction of these two facilities will result in a net total of 9,146 spaces, 5597 of which will cost $5 per four hours of use by automobiles. Preliminary estimates of the cost of this construction are in the $200 million range and proponents of the plan are still studying the means to raise the capital.

The Plaza de Panama plan was put forth by billionaire philanthropist Irwin Jacobs, who offered to foot the bill for some of the costs, with balance being paid for via parking fees applied to bonds purchased by the City of San Diego.  The plan was controversial, and opponents are still hoping that a lawsuit can halt construction.

One of the questionable aspects of the Panama plan involved speculation on the City’s part about the actual revenues generated by the 797 stall fee paid parking lot which, after consideration is given for spaces lost in the reconfiguration of traffic, results in a net gain of only 260 slots. The elimination of the free parking at the Zoo (along with other spaces lost in that construction) makes the numbers for the Jacobs garage look much more promising.

San Diegians already subsidize the Zoo to the tune of $8 million annually via a property tax stream. The city collects a minimal rent ($140k) annually.  This arrangement exists because boosters believe that the 3.5 million visitors to the facility generate enough economic activity to offset the government subsidy.

The announcement for the latest proposal came via a very carefully controlled roll out  with members of the Balboa Park conservancy and the UT-San Diego editorial board being given a ‘first look’ at the revived plan.  Today’s newspaper features a front page article putting a positive spin on the Zoo’s parking scheme, stressing an alleged paucity of parking in Balboa Park.  It will be very interesting to see if any opposition develops.

School Measure (Proposition Z) Endorsed by Nathan Fletcher

Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher today endorsed a measure being put forth to San Diego voters that would raise $2.8 billion in construction bonds for the San Diego Unified School District.  Fletcher, who finished third in the June primary for Mayor of San Diego and made national headlines when he bucked the 2-party system to re-register as an Independent, joins Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs, Classroom Teachers, the PTA and San Diego Taxpayers Advocate in support of Prop. Z.

An early morning press release has the Assemblyman praising Prop. Z for its ‘Ironclad Taxpayer Safeguards’, saying:

“I was very pleased that the School District unequivocally banned the use of high-interest, long term bonds in Prop. Z.”

“Prop. Z also requires annual audits and an Independent Citizens Oversight Committee.  Every single Prop. Z project is listed on the ballot and online, so we can see exactly how the schools in each neighborhood will benefit.”

“I want the voters to rest assured that these stringent safeguards will insure Prop. Z funds are spent as promised.”

While Fletcher may seem okay with the idea of a school bond measure on the ballot, UT-San Diego columnist Roger Hedgecock doesn’t agree.  Today’s paper features an op-ed that may have set a record for the most distortions and outright lies ever told in a single column.  Space, time and circumstances (I have surgery this week) prevent me from acting on my impulse to refute this wingnut’s screed point by point.  Suffice it to say I was left aghast at his audacity. And I realize that a vast majority of the UT’s remaining readership consists of people who would never vote for a school bond anyway.

Poll: 11% of Voters Who’ve Already Voted Are Undecided ????

The spinmeisters were at it yesterday in the wake of a 10News/SurveyUSA poll on San Diego’s Mayoral contest.  The October 15th survey of registered voters shows Congressman Bob Filner leading City Councilman Carl DeMaio by seven points (47-40%), with Filner’s lead down from a September survey and identical to an August poll.  This means the race is ‘virtually tied” according to partisans favoring the GOP camp.

Or you can even say DeMaio is leading, if the numbers of the “already voted” respondents are considered, since that group favors the City Councilman by 5 percentage points.  Of course 11% of that “already voted” group is still “undecided”, according to the survey. So may I suggest an approach once suggested by a certain New York Yankee: “It ain’t over ‘till its over.”

Brand Canned by UT-San Diego

The take over of the North County Times by Doug Manchester’s Mission Valley minions was official as of October 1st.  A hundred or so employees have been reassigned or put out to pasture and those of us on the UT-SD end of the deal have been treated to a series of full page, full color ads about how wonderful this move is for us southerners and north countyites.  So it comes as no surprise that, as of yesterday, the North County Times nameplate is no longer in use; now it’s the North County edition of UT-San Diego.

Molly Munger Pulls Anti-Proposition 30 TV Ads

The gillionaire advocate for Proposition 38 announced yesterday that her campaign is calling a halt to commercials seeking to portray a competing ballot measure (Proposition 30) as a poor choice for voters interested in restoring funding for education.

Attorney Molly Munger, whose fortune flows from her family’s interest in the Berkshire Hathaway investment portfolio, is backing Prop 38, a PTA endorsed initiative that would increase income taxes to fund K-12 education.  Gov. Jerry Brown backs Proposition 30, which would combine higher income taxes for wealthy Californians along with a ¼ cent increase in sales taxes that would be applied to both K-12 schools and community colleges.

Munger’s negative advertising campaign prompted a torrent of letters from backers of Brown’s plan urging PTAs and other members of the pro-38 group to pressure their financial backer to withdraw the commercials.  Munger told a Los Angeles TV station Monday morning that, while the criticism of Prop 30 may have pleased those who favor only her measure, it made other Prop 38 supporters uneasy — namely, those who are urging a ‘yes’ vote on both initiatives, saying: “We needed to show respect for both groups of voters that make up our coalition”

On This Day:  In 1859 abolitionist John Brown led a raid on Harper’s Ferry, VA (now located in West Virginia)  In 1916 Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in New York City. In 1971 Isaac Hayes’ “Theme From Shaft” was released.

Sort of Important Notice: The Starting Line (this daily column) will be taking a break tomorrow, Wednesday, October 17th. My surgeon insists that I can not write while under anesthesia for a ‘procedure’ (that means it’s not major), even though I assured him that I used to do it all the time back in the 60’s and 70’s.  See you on Thursday, unless….

 Eat Fresh! Today’s Farmers’ Markets: Coronado (1st St. & B Ave., Ferry Landing) 2:30 – 6 pm, Escondido  (Grand Ave. btw Juniper & Kalmia St.) 2:30 – 6:00 pm , Mira Mesa  (Mira Mesa High School 10510 Reagan Rd.) 3–7 pm, Morena District   (1240 West Morena Blvd.) 3 – 7 pm, Otay Ranch – Chula Vista (2015 Birch Rd. and Eastlake Blvd.) 4 –8 pm, Pacific Beach  (Bayard & Garnet) 2 – 6:30pm, UCSD/La Jolla (UCSD Campus, Town Square at Gilman/Meyers) 10 am – 2 pm (Sept. 25 through mid-June; closed for winter, spring and summer breaks)

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Doug Porter

Doug Porter was active in the early days of the alternative press in San Diego, contributing to the OB Liberator, the print version of the OB Rag, the San Diego Door, and the San Diego Street Journal. He went on to have a 35 year career in the Hospitality business and decided to go back into raising hell when he retired. He's won awards for 'Daily Reporting and Writing: Opinion/Editorial' from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Doug is a cancer survivor (sans vocal chords) and lives in North Park.
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  1. avatarJudy Swink says

    An important question, not clearly addressed by either the Zoo or the Conservancy, is whether or not they will seek City-issued bonds to build the Zoo garage (which was the sticking point that kept the plan from being implemented after adoption in 2004). Here are some comments regarding why it’s unlikely that either parking structure will pay for itself.

    The Golden Gate parking garage (800 spaces, opened 2005, cost $62.9 million of which was a City bond issue for $26.5 million) does not pay for itself. The City of SF continues to subsidize it because parking revenues have been inadequate.

    According to the minutes of the SF Recreation & Park Commission (2-16-2012) during a presentation asking for fee increases, use of the garage has declined subsequent to the high in 2008 when a new cultural institution and use is greatest during the spring and summer tourism season.

    Quoting: “Currently we’re not able to cover our expenses even though our expenses are right on budget. The rate increase is necessary to carry the garage during the winter months and between special exhibits … There were 34% fewer parkers in January 2012 than in 2011. January revenues were 27% below January of the preceding year”. After-hour parking would increase to $15 (an hour?) with maximum daily rate unchanged from $24/$28. There are also monthly rates, presumably for employees etc.

    The request was for an increase from $3.50 *an hour* to $4.50 *an hour* on weekdays, with a weekend rate increase to $5.00 *an hour* (not $5.00 for 5 hours as proposed for the Organ Pavilion garage). The San Diego $17 million bond issue is backed by the General Fund if revenues are not sufficient to pay the bond debt service plus operations and maintenance. Why should we believe our experience with parking garage revenues will be any different? Not only that, why did their 800 space garage cost $62.5 million in 2005 dollars when “our” 797 space garage is purported to be only $17 million? Even considering higher interest rates and a different economic climate almost 10 years ago, that’s a huge difference in cost.

    • avatarDoug Porter says

      see? i knew there would be some smart people out there that could add to this story. thank you so much for your input

  2. avatarbob dorn says

    I’m wondering if this garage, at least nominally dedicated to the Zoo, will be open for museumgoers and people just wanting to go for a walk in the park? Could we get Irwin Jacobs to site his offramp to the garage on Park Blvd., so that Cabrillo Bridge won’t be destroyed and the museum walls turned into sound baffles?

  3. avatarJohn Anderson says

    And here I was inclined to believe that the underground structure that is part of the Jacobs Plan would actually remain the only pay parking in Balboa. This is a sad swing of momentum for the future. What’s next – admission to enter the park itself?