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Gloria defends Balboa Park funding

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Responding to criticism from Balboa Park support groups, San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria last week said the city has spent $62 million over the past several years to spruce up the park for the centennial anniversary of 1915's Panama-California Exposition.

Gloria -- whose district includes Balboa Park -- said he is committed to getting even more money for the park to help replace its 100-year-old water and sewage pipes, fix its inefficient sprinkling system and address the long-running backlog of building repairs and maintenance.

"The drumbeat that there needs to be more investment is a welcome indication that San Diegans want to see more attention given to Balboa Park," he said.

In 2008, a report on the park calculated it needed at least $238 million in 2007 dollars (the equivalent of $271 million today).

Gloria said since that report was issued, City Council has spent $62 million -- or nearly a quarter of the money that was then requested -- on such projects as upgrading the irrigation system at the Balboa Golf Course, improving access for the disabled and conducting some repairs to the museums and other buildings atop the park's central mesa.

Other changes are "actively being planned," including a new clubhouse for the golf course and earthquake-proofing upgrades to the California Tower, Gloria said.

On the other hand, other projects are not close to finding funds, such as the fate of the Arizona landfill, a decades-old, methane-spewing garbage dump hidden beneath the turf near the golf club, or a long discussed plan to reclaim the 20th and B site of the city's old Central Operations Station as part of the park.

Gloria described other items listed in the 2008 report as being merely "aspirational goals" rather than the immediate needs that the council is focusing on, such as deep potholes in city streets or cracks in the sidewalks.

At a City Council meeting on May 7, Carol Chang, president of the Balboa Park Conservancy, said that while the city has conducted a number of repairs over the past several years, others problems keep popping up.

"As for infrastructure needs, take a drive down Park Boulevard through Balboa Park. Watch for potholes — you’ll either see them or hit them," said Mike Kelly, president of the Committee of 100, a support group for the park. "Why haven’t we dealt with these out of consideration for our Centennial visitors?"

Kelly said his group created a presentation for the City Council four years ago detailing some of the infrastructure problems in the park, ranging from clogged toilets at the Casa del Balboa to rotting timbers at the Balboa Park Club. So far, he said, almost none of the problems have been fixed.

Kelly said he realizes that the City Council has a number of other priorities, including millions of dollars worth of repair projects that were deferred during the recession because of lack of funding.

"But I bring up items like this just so they know that things aren't being done," he said.

Gloria said if San Diegans or visitors want to see improvements in Balboa Park, they should consider donating to groups like the Friends of Balboa Park, the Balboa Park Conservancy, and the Committee of 100.

Those three groups, which rely on a combination of grants, investment income and donations, raised a total of $656,485 in their most recent fiscal year, based on filings with the Internal Revenue Service.

A large portion of the money those nonprofits collected went to overhead -- paying for lawyers, accountants, fundraising events, marketing and so forth. Among other things, the Friends of Balboa Park spent $201,240 on projects to promote the park and $106,496 on a water sustainability project, while the Committee of 100 spent $18,200 to support a project in the park's Sculpture Garden.

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City of San Diego Executive(s):

Sherri Lightner

  • Council President Pro Tem

Kevin Faulconer

  • Mayor

Todd Gloria

  • Council President

Myrtle Cole

  • City Council Member

Mark Kersey

  • City Council Member

Lorie Zapf

  • City Council Member

Scott Sherman

  • City Council Member

David Alvarez

  • City Council Member

Marti Emerald

  • City Council Member

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