Yesterday I posted a sharply critical letter the leaders of the Zoological Society of San Diego sent to Mayor Jerry Sanders and philanthropist/Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs. The Zoo’s president and CEO wrote that they were “thrilled” with the discussion Jacobs and the mayor have provoked about the future of Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama, but then spent a couple of pages trashing it.

Jacobs has sent a response. You can read the text of it here.

At the heart of the Zoo’s criticism was its reiteration of complaints about limited parking within Balboa Park. Zoo leaders wondered why the city would be considering investing $39 million or more of taxpayer and charitable contributions to a plan that wouldn’t alleviate the Zoo’s parking woes.

Here’s Jacobs’ response to that:

I must note that our project is not proposed as a complete solution for the entire park, if such a solution exists for a dynamic entity such as this great public park with much available park space on the east side of Park Boulevard, but rather is a plan specifically to eliminate cars from all of the Plaza de Panama during normal park hours, to more than offset the loss of parking spaces, and to provide additional car-free park land and palisade areas in the heart of the park.

In its letter, the Zoo said that the mayor, Jacobs and other city leaders supporting the plan should compromise and support its alternative vision of the Park Boulevard Promenade and an underground parking facility. It’s a project the Zoo estimated would cost $106 million.

Jacobs said that wasn’t a compromise, that’s a “competing vision.”

Further, The Park Boulevard Promenade, in the absence of our bypass bridge, does not eliminate cars from the Plaza de Panama. To do so would require either closing Cabrillo Bridge, which we do not advocate, or allowing cars to continue to circulate on Plaza de Panama with, I assume as part of your alternative plan, valet parking drop off and pickup on the plaza. Car traffic would then continue on West El Prado by the Museum of Man as well as the landscaped promenade south of the Plaza de Panama – #8212; no improvement from today’s traffic.

Jacobs also appears to note that the Zoo tried to represent other Balboa Park institutions with its letter. And many other stakeholders were cc’d on the Zoo’s letter.

In our many public and private meetings thus far, we have encountered an overwhelming majority of participants, including the directors of many of the institutions you have cited, in support of this great improvement to Balboa Park.

Jacobs ended his letter with a zinger.

Finally, with respect to your observation that ‘Finite parking in Balboa Park has placed a de facto cap on attendance that threatens the financial health and wellbeing of all park institutions’, it remains a fact that convenient parking will always be finite.

Again, read the whole text of his letter to the Zoo here.

Standing disclosure on Plaza de Panama posts: Irwin Jacobs is a major supporter of VOSD. You can contact me directly at or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!):

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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