Another voiceofsandiego.org reader sent in the following comments:

San Diego, California and the nation have a once in a lifetime opportunity to build an iconic Performing Arts Center (PAC), with signature design by a world-class architect, worthy of the “front porch” location of our uniquely beautiful, precious resource – our downtown waterfront – as centerpiece of its redevelopment. The PAC will help achieve world-class prestige in the arts and as a great city. It will have enormous cultural and social benefits for all San Diegans and visitors.

It will have great economic benefits, increasing jobs, economic activity, tax base, tourists, hotel guests, conventions, cruise visitors, etc. It would be financed mainly by philanthropic donations.

Performances and attendance will greatly increase at the waterfront PAC. San Diegans and visitors (with growing downtown and convention, cruise and air visitors) will be drawn to the majestic center. Our waterfront is convenient by rail, coaster, trolley, freeway, cruise ships and air to California, United States, Mexico and worldwide visitors. The PAC will attract world renowned companies (e.g., American Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet, etc.), which perform worldwide, but bypass San Diego, lacking suitable venues. Russia’s famous Kirov Ballet, Opera, Orchestra, and Chorus perform worldwide (including Orange County PAC, Costa Mesa), but never here.

The PAC should host a dynamic schedule of classical and contemporary music, opera, ballet, drama, dance, musicals, jazz, concerts, comedy, cabaret, film, and theater. The PAC should have three separate halls: concert hall, with large pipe organ; opera house for opera, ballet, theater and musicals; and theater for plays, experimental works, lectures, jazz, contemporary music, film, family theater, etc. The PAC should partner with schools in arts education for youth and adults, and include a children’s art academy.

“Great architecture could make the PAC a signature icon, recognized world-wide, that we’d all be proud of. The Architecture of Soundstates, “From Santiago Calatrava’s magnificent opera house in Valencia to Frank Gehry’s extraordinary LA Disney Concert Hall (called “a serene, ennobling building that will give people in this city of private places a new sense of the pleasures of public space”), the sound of music is being rethought, refreshed, and transformed by master builders throughout the world. In Singapore, the Canary Islands, and Los Angeles, some of the most acclaimed figures in contemporary architecture are designing spectacular buildings to celebrate music and civic dynamism. Gehry’s Disney Hall in LA; Calatrava’s opera houses in Valencia and Tenerife; Christian de Portzamparc’s Philharmonie in Luxembourg; Rem Koolhaas’ Casa da Música in Porto, Portugal – and dozens of other new venues are both catalysts of urban regeneration and cultural attractions in their own right.” Kansas City PAC “represents a unique milestone in our community and region, an opportunity to establish KC as a place of excellence, promoting lifelong enrichment and learning through performing arts.”

The PAC should be (sic) centerpiece of downtown our waterfront redevelopment now being planned. Not to do so will forfeit future opportunity and benefits of a signature waterfront center that America’s Finest City deserves.”

Response:

The idea of putting a world class public performing arts center on San Diego’s downtown bayfront has been discussed for some time now. Parties have asked the Port of San Diego to consider sitting a new PAC on the old Lane Field site on Harbor Drive just north of Broadway and I’ve heard that Port Commissioners have indicated some support for the idea of such a facility on our bayfront.

In a recent KPBS radio interview, Doug Manchester was asked about this idea. He said he supports such a facility on our bayfront, and would even be willing to contribute to such an effort, but instead of entertaining the idea of including such a facility on the NBC or Lane Field sites, both of which his company is planning to redevelop, he suggested that it be placed on the old Navy Pier when it is redeveloped some day in the future. Apparently he strongly supports the arts, just not when it gets in the way of profits.

Other San Diegans may not feel the same, and they need to speak up if they want to see such a facility built on our bayfront someday. The upcoming state legislative hearing, CCDC workshop, Bayfront Coalition C-3 alternative planning public workshop, and City Council hearings will give them an opportunity to do so, and I sure hope they take it. Too often San Diegans only wake up to large development projects in their front yards, only after the steel is in the ground and buildings are halfway built. By then it’s almost impossible to do anything about them. The time to be heard is when project plans are being developed and reviewed, and now is that time if you are concerned about what will happen on our downtown’s waterfront.

In the past, I’ve argued that the joint city/Navy/CCDC/Port district’s North Embarcadero Visionary Plan isn’t really a visionary plan at all since it doesn’t envision the buildings the joint partners plan to build along our bayfront. It only shows the public pretty drawings of streetscapes and landscaping schemes, and as such is only a partial vision, perhaps developed to push the public into supporting more commercial development on the bayfront. It is now time for the joint agencies to finish the visionary plan and develop a downtown bayfront precise plan, which will allow the public to see exactly what is being proposed to be built along the bayfront from Lindbergh Field south to Seaport Village. That kind of transparent public land use planning has always been missing, which is why downtown developers have gotten rich while the public has often gotten the shaft.

DON WOOD

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