San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs unveiled a visionary $33 million plan to remove cars from the central square of San Diego’s historic Balboa Park. They hope to raise the funds to complete the plan by the park’s 100th birthday in 2015. The plan would open up the heart of the park to a pedestrian friendly climate where children could play free of fear of passing vehicles in a clean and inviting atmosphere. To bring this vision to reality, the city would have to remove sixty seven spaces of free parking.
As you would expect, the media is very concerned about those sixty seven parking spaces.
To make matters "worse," if Sanders and Jacobs are unable to raise the $33 million from private interests, they might have to charge for parking in the planned 900 space parking garage. Can you imagine? Charging people to use a public parking garage and re-investing in the area that will be effected by the thousands of cars using that garage on a daily basis.
Let the freak out begin.
First, NBC’s San Diego affiliate doesn’t even mention the visionary changes proposed for the park in a story entitled "Paying to Park at the Park" choosing to focus like a laser on the horror of people being forced to pay to park their private property on public land. Unfortunately for their narrative, they weren’t able to find anyone who was upset to be quoted in their story.
Next up is the San Diego Union-Tribune. In "Plaza Plan for Balboa Park" the paper of record places the parking issue in the sub-headline. However, the story bounces back and forth between the two issues of a car-free central area of the park and the fear that someday people will have to pay a small fee to visit the park in their cars.
The Union-Tribune article also details the sad history of attempts to make people pay for renting public property for car storage in the park. Most recently, a public outcry from entitled car drivers killed plans to charge a modest $5 fee for car storage in the park and at San Diego’s public beaches. This time, there seems to be more support for having drivers pay their fare share, although the quotes from park activists, tax watchdogs and other civic groups is muted.
A poll on the website shows support for car-culture warriors over the benefits of a car-free central park and charging people who choose to travel to the park with hundreds of pounds of metal that need to be stored in a public space.
There’s plenty more examples of this, just run a google search for "Balboa" and "Qualcomm." I don’t know whether I should be happy that this syndrome isn’t specific to Los Angeles or sad that no matter where you live a proposal to really open up some open space for families and children could descend into a debate about how much free parking for cars is enough.