Prevent Commercial Development in Our Balboa Park

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To Mayor Faulconer, Councilpersons Ward and Gomez and the Balboa Park Conservancy:

A Message from Kate Sessions, the Mother of Balboa Park and each of us:

Our Park is under constant threat from bad planning, decades of neglect, and bone-headed proposals to commercialize the Park to make it "self-sustaining" through so-called "win-win, public-private" proposals to commercialize portions of Balboa Park with retail shopping, more restaurants and ever a hotel or two--all on dedicated Park Lands.

The current Mayor, his politically appointed minions at Park & Recreation ,and the "leadership" of Balboa Park Conservancy are now seriously urging hotels, more restaurants and increased costly & exclusionary commercial uses of Balboa Park's public lands for revenue- producing commerce. The Mayor will present his proposal at a Public Meeting on July 11, 6 PM at a venue in Balboa Park. Please attend and help defend Our Balboa Park.

These plans must be rejected. Balboa Park is a public park, never intended to become economically "self-sustaining" with intrusive commercial development. Funding the  Park's is a fundamental municipal obligation. No less an obligation than funding streets, sidewalks, sewers, libraries and beaches.

We should pause and look back in time when wiser minds prevailed. Please join in this Petition rejecting commercial development of even one square foot of our Balboa Park.

This is the threatening proposal from the Mayor and Casey Smith of the Park and Recreation Department posted April, 2019, targeting the Inspiration Point area of our Park:

“The City is seeking proposals that serve the best interest of the public while maximizing the economic viability of the Property and ensuring a sustainable revenue source to the Park. This could include the development of a variety of cultural, recreational, and performing arts purposes, which should include (either individually or a combination of) activity centers, museums, center for cultural and performing arts, restaurant space, hotel accommodations, park-related concessions, park-related rentals, park-related shops and other ancillary uses aimed at activating and complimenting the Park and surrounding area both during the day and night.”

The Balboa Park Conservancy has favored this concept, believing the Park must be commercially developed to pay the bills. We disagree, and believe our Balboa Park  must "be forever a Public Park."

George Marston put it best in his letter sent to our local newspaper paper in 1925 when additional structures were proposed for these dedicated Park Lands: " . . . the time is coming when the building of hospitals and schoolhouses or even libraries and museums must cease or else we shall have a city there instead of a park."

In his design narrative for the Park, landscaper Samuel Parsons warned of the pressures often placed on public parklands. He expressed his distain for structures in a park:

"Another general principle which cannot be too urgently insisted upon...is that no building should be allowed within its boundries that does not subserve the legitimate purpose for which the Park was ordered. Public comfort,rest and shelter should mark the limit, and even these may become so numerous and obtrusive as to disturb the restful beauty of nature."

It's been more than 100 years since former president Theodore Roosevelt stood on the platform at the brand new Spreckels Organ Pavilion in 1915 and made what he called "an earnest plea" to San Diego.

The Panama-California Exposition, he said, "is so beautiful that ... I hope that not only will you keep these buildings running for another year but you will keep these buildings of rare, phenomenal taste and beauty permanently."

Many of the buildings that Roosevelt praised are still with us. But their paint is peeling, their walls are cracked ,aggressive mildew and dry rot are attacking the structural integrity of buildings.

The neglect of the Park is ironic, considering how much emphasis city officials place on tourism. The Park attracts more than 7 million visitors annually, more than any other San Diego attraction other than all beaches combined. Far more than the Convention Center.

A November 2020 "Fund Our Park" Ballot Initiative would increse the hotel tax by a small amount to fund a permanent dedicated income stream for the Park's great needs. This is the proper way to fund Balboa Park. Commercial development is not.

When considering any proposals to alter the Park, think of what Sessions, Marston, Parsons and Roosevelt would think. Hotels on Parkland ? Retail malls ? More restaurants and commercial vendors ?

Our Park and the next generations of Park-Lovers thank you. 



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