Imagine having 7,000 automobiles race past your front porch every day.
That’s what life is like for the Museum of Man, one of Balboa Park’s premier cultural institutions.
Our front door opens onto the Plaza de California, a beautiful Spanish Colonial Revival plaza that was built a century ago in the shadow of the magnificent California Tower.
If the Plaza de California was located in any other part of town, its 14,500 square feet would be a magnificent public space that would be cherished by all — and protected at any cost.
Instead, it has two-lane road running through it, bringing a daily of barrage of noise, exhaust and danger to pedestrians. As a result, it’s an empty shell, bereft of any of real activity or life.
At the Museum of Man, we’ve lost track of the times that our visitors, looking up at the California Tower, have wandered into traffic and nearly been mowed down.
I invite you to look at this video of a typical weekend day in the Plaza de California.
Some people say this situation is perfectly fine. I can’t believe it’s what famed architect Bertram Goodhue had in mind when he designed the Plaza de California and the surrounding buildings.
As president of the board of trustees of the Museum of Man, I can tell you that the opportunity to restore the Plaza de California is one reason my institution strongly supports the plan proposed by Dr. Irwin Jacobs and the Plaza de Panama Committee.
Their plan will reroute traffic away from the Plaza de California, West El Prado, Plaza de Panama and the Esplanade, allowing them to become thriving pedestrian spaces like those found on the east side of the park.
If you have never stood inside the Plaza de California, I urge you to visit it soon — and imagine what it could be without a busy road cutting through it.
Imagine the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture enhanced by handsome paving and colorful umbrellas. Imagine tables and chairs, maybe a romantic café. Imagine your family there on a typical San Diego afternoon, enjoying the sunshine and the ambience.
Please write to your City Council member, urging that we restore the original purpose of the Plaza de California, as well as the other spaces in Balboa Park’s central core, by removing the traffic and honoring the vision of Bertram Goodhue.
I’ll even provide a link for that.
Mayer is President of the Board of Trustees of the San Diego Museum of Man in Balboa Park.