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The city’s been buzzing over a proposal to give Balboa Park a rare remodeling. A bypass, an underground parking garage, a giant pedestrian plaza and more are all part of the plan, which some local preservationists can’t stand. Now, we’ve compiled a series of images, including aerial photos and diagrams, to show you what Balboa Park may become if the project’s supporters have their way.

The City Council will tackle the park’s future next week.

In our commentary section, the Museum of Man’s board president says it’s time for cars to disappear from a big chunk of the park, leaving a walkable plaza between the Museum of Art and the Organ Pavilion: “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.” A reader, meanwhile, wants to both bypass the bypass and close the entire Cabrillo Bridge to traffic: “Life is sweet at four miles an hour.

Meanwhile, our commenters are mixed over the value of the plan and skeptical about our objectivity. (One of the top proponents of the plan is a major donor to voiceofsandiego.org, as we noted.)

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I’ve been wondering about the brouhaha over the future of parking at Balboa Park. I’ve never had a problem finding a space, although it might be in the boonies and not within the ideal three or four feet from where I want to go. (Call me lazy. OK, you can stop now.) How often is the parking actually full? And what about all the parking at the Naval Hospital?

The debate over the parking issue may ultimately dwarf the current brouhaha, notes one commenter, since there may be a “real battle over paid parking.”

Bill Horn’s Whopper of a Claim

Bill Horn, a longtime county supervisor who represents part of North County, is one of the most conservative officials in local politics. But his past includes a dash of liberalism: in the 1960s, he was a student civil rights activist and, he says, was arrested during a series of protests. He’s repeated his story about the protest, at one point saying he “went to jail over the rights of the minority … to be heard.”

Was he arrested and jailed in San Diego, as he claims? No, finds San Diego Fact Check: “He participated in the protests but overstated the sacrifice he made decades ago.”

Horn also exaggerated his ties to a prominent civil rights leader. And then there’s the matter of his spokesman’s statement that two men — including ex-football star Rosey Grier — could corroborate the story. Unfortunately, the spokesman said, they’re both dead and reachable only by seance.

In fact, they were reachable without a Ouija board. They’re both alive and well and we talked to them to get their sides of the story.

Pot Proponents on Brink of Victory

Thanks to a successful petition drive by supporters of medical marijuana shops, the City Council has 10 days to either repeal its ordinance severely limiting the dispensaries or call an expensive special election.

One City Council member wants a repeal in order to force even stronger regulations, while another warned that the repeal could backfire by forcing the shops to adhere to code enforcement rules. Pot supporters, however, had feared the ordinance would make it impossible (or virtually impossible) to legally run marijuana dispensaries in the city. (U-T)

$13 Million Later, Swindler Expected to Plead Guilty

Two years ago, we exposed an epic real estate scam that involved condos in North County and netted a man almost $13 million. Now, he’s expected to plead guilty this month after he’d been charged by the feds with money laundering and wire fraud.

“In the case of the more than 80 condos we looked at in Escondido and San Marcos,” Kelly Bennett explains, his “team obtained mortgages for far more than the units would have sold for otherwise and pocketed more than $100,000 per condo under the guise of ‘marketing fees’ before letting them fall into foreclosure.”

In City Pension Debate, the Power of One

Here’s a choice that sounds like it might be promising: under the proposed city pension reform initiative, many new employees would be able to choose between a 401(k) or Social Security for retirement. (The pensions that employees have now would no longer be an option.)

Choices are good, right? Here’s the catch: it’s theoretically possible that just a single new employee could make the choice for everybody.

Scott Lewis explains: “If employees are left with the choice, only a few of the newest ones hired after the measure passes, or even just one, will determine the future of Social Security at the city. The council could try to make sure the decision is postponed to allow for more new employees to come aboard and make the choice. But the longer it waits, the more people will end up working several months or years without knowing what their long-term benefits will be.”

To a 14-Year-Old, ‘At What Age Did You Start Killing?’

The U-T launches a multi-part series that explores the life of a teenager accused of being a hitman for a Mexican drug cartel. He goes on trial Monday. Mexican authorities say he “helped a drug cartel behead and mutilate the bodies of a student, a cook at a university, a gas station attendant and a small-business owner.”

A Scary Serpent Lurks in Borrego

An artist from Riverside County has just completed work on a gigantic metal sculpture of a fantastical serpent on a piece of property in Borrego Springs. It joins a spread of other metal sculptures commissioned by a local property owner.

The 350-foot serpent comes complete with a big forked tongue and Medusa-esque tentacle-type thingies. The U-T doesn’t mention its name, but certain of our readers might have a perfect one in mind: My Ex-Spouse.

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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