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City to replace 144 Balboa Park spaces with gathering place

Posted at 5:48 PM, Feb 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-10 21:07:21-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- A parking lot in the southern portion of central Balboa Park will be turned into a gathering place, with a goal of breathing new life into a quieter part of San Diego's Crown Jewel.

The City Council voted unanimously Monday to remove 144 spaces in what's called the South Palisades lot, and instead replace it with an area that will be a place for people to congregate.

A rendering of the planned gathering space at the site of the current South Palisades lot at Balboa Park

The lot is currently surrounded by the Starlight Bowl, Auto Museum and Air and Space Museum. It is often one of the last places in the central part of Balboa Park that people can actually find parking.

"We went through (other parking lots) twice and there were no parking spots, and there were lots of them over here," said Frank Page, who was visiting Balboa Park with his wife Donna on Monday.

The city plans to begin construction in March. It will add 131 parking spots in two lots in other parts of the park to make up for the loss.

"A lot of people don't even know about this quadrant down here, the Palisades area, because it's kind of a ghost town," said City Councilman Chris Ward. "The status-quo with all of this empty parking is not even working right now."

But despite the support at City Hall, concerns do remain.

Jim Kidrick, CEO of the Air and Space Museum, said the city must expand the nearby Organ Pavilion parking lot first - especially with the anticipated Comic-Con museum opening steps away.

"The worst thing we can do is piecemeal any of these elements," he said.

But proponents say the Palisades overhaul could be the catalyst for other new parking.

Roger Showley, who heads the Balboa Park Committee of 100, a preservation group, said two major parking projects approved years ago still have not been built.

"If you approve this funding, park stakeholders will feel increased pressure to find short, medium and long-term solutions to parking circulation problems," Showley said.

The project will cost $600,000 and is expected to be completed in mid-summer.