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Fledgling plans to remodel Balboa Park have run into a snag: San Diego Zoo officials say the plans wouldn’t provide enough new parking, which puts a cap on how many people can go to the zoo and the other park attractions.

There’s talk of building a parking structure south of the organ pavilion and reverting the parking area south of the art museum back to pedestrians. But, zoo officials write, “We question the wisdom of spending $39 million for a net gain of only 272 parking spaces.”

There is another plan in the works. For now, columnist Scott Lewis writes, “It will take quite a bit of leadership in coming months to either effectively ignore those concerns or incorporate them into the vision the public’s been offered about a true gathering spot in the park’s heart.”

Score One for the Whistle-Blower:

A firefighter has won a $424,000 lawsuit against the city over his whistle-blowing. There’s much more to the story, including allegations of a fraudulent email, possibly bum legal advice and abuse by firefighters of a firefighter. (U-T)


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In the Center of a Storm at 14:

“The curly-haired suspect in the sweatshirt faced the flash of news cameras, looking impossibly small,” begins a story by the LAT. “‘When did you start to kill?’ he was asked. ‘How much did you earn?’ ‘How many did you execute?’ He said he began killing at age 11. A drug cartel paid him $200 a week. He’d killed four people.”

The arrest of the boy, who was born in San Diego, raises this question: “Could a boy who stands barely chin high to a grown man be a bloodthirsty cartel assassin?”

UCSD Grad Student Faces Deportation:

A UCSD graduate student, now working toward his Ph.D., is in danger of being deported. He came to the U.S. as a child after his father, a prominent lawyer and congressional candidate in the Philippines, was shot in the face and sought asylum. “His only hope appears to be for Congress to pass a private immigration bill that could grant him citizenship, a legal maneuver that is rarely successful.” (LAT)

Guns for Gift Cards:

They came with 163 pistols, assault rifles and shotguns. They — including a 79-year-old woman — left with $9,000 in grocery gift cards. The third gun exchange sponsored by a southeastern San Diego nonprofit brought in a haul of weapons from people who came from all over the county. The guns will be destroyed.

Service Outages:

• Elementary school teachers in National City have given their union the go-ahead to call a strike if labor negotiations remain stalemated. If there’s the strike, it would be the first at a local district since the latest round of budget cuts ramped up tensions.

• In North County, the city of Vista is threatening to turn off half of its residential streetlights — about 1,800 of them — starting in March unless residents cough up more money to keep them on. There won’t be a vote, though, unless at least 2,500 property owners sign petitions. (NCT)

• Local ex-Navy sailor Joseph Rocha, one of the major players in the movement to allow gays to serve in the military, told us last year that he wants to return to service despite horrific experiences that were confirmed by an investigation. Will he and others be able to do so now that don’t-ask-don’t-tell is virtually dead? Slate says the answer is: “probably.” But it will be complicated.

Bla Bla… Blob:

Fact Check TV examines claims about the San Diego school district’s budget and reports that a giant blob once threatened downtown.

Sculpting a Dream in Escondido:

An Oregon native got a few “Um, are you nuts?” looks when she talked about opening an arts studio in Escondido where she’d create sculptures from clay. After all, it was about two years ago, not exactly a prime-pickings time to start a business.

Now, as arts blogger Dani Dodge reports, Fire and Mud Studios is still here, offering classes and workshops. And all the sacrifices — haircuts, pedicures, new clothes — have paid off.

Also in arts: brightly colored La Jolla murals appear in Behind the Scene TV.

Better Here than There:

• Not everyone’s so fortunate on the startup front here, but it could be a lot worse. An annual survey of the best U.S. cities for business says San Diego ranks in a tie for 37th place (out of 150).

In the state, only San Francisco ranks higher, in 33rd place. L.A. is No. 61. Stockton, Modesto, Riverside, Fresno, Sacramento and Bakersfield are ranked at or near the bottom, each with a jobless rate of about 15 percent or more. The best places to start a business: Washington D.C., Omaha and Boston. (MarketWatch)

Eleven percent of San Diego county residents smoke, a new report says, fewer than the statewide average of 13 percent. Still, our rate is higher than that in L.A. (SacBee)

Hello, Sailor:

Finally, a bit of military oddness: a Department of Defense blogger has tracked down an animated cartoon from that 1970s that was produced by the Navy to fight venereal disease. It’s called “The Return of Count Spirochete.” (The count is syphilis in a vampire guise.)

There’s psychedelic music, an Oscar-like award ceremony, a history lesson, plenty of ugly spotted creatures and a few unfortunate encounters.

Or, as you might like to call it, high school.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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