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The Sanders/Jacobs bypass bridge and traffic recirculation plan for Balboa Park can only be characterized as simply the most destructive project proposed for the historic core of Balboa Park in at least 50 years.

There is a particularly good reason a bypass bridge off the south side of Cabrillo Bridge (arguably San Diego’s most iconic and recognizable structure) has never been moved forward for approval in almost a hundred years of incredibly shortsighted ideas for the Park. That is, because this is the worst place possible location to tack on such a project, in the very middle front entrance to the National Historic Landmark, the fortified Spanish “Dream City.”

Save Our Heritage Organisation has advocated for decades to remove parking from the Plaza de Panama. We have all agreed on that point. There are literally dozens of ways to accomplish this that are quick, inexpensive and efficient, and would have little impact to the things that make Balboa Park special the world over. What was presented as a simple renovation of the Plaza de Panama is clearly not the goal of the Balboa Park Plaza de Panama Traffic Circulation and Parking Structure Project. Removing the cars from the Plaza de Panama is not even in the project’s title, let alone the so-called goal of making the core pedestrian-friendly. It’s not. The goal, if ever it was an adage of “first do no harm,” has been completely lost in this debacle.

While multiple alternatives abound, there are a couple of easy, cheap and reversible options that can be tried immediately.

Routing the traffic around the southwest corner of the Plaza de Panama is part of the Balboa Park Precise Plan and has already been approved. Phase one of that plan is also SOHO’s plan, with additional simple solutions such as relocating the existing Plaza de Panama parking to new spaces behind and next to the museums.

Another idea used successfully in other cities is a managed traffic plan, which would remove the parking in the plaza and would open the bridge to pedestrian-only traffic during certain hours or days and open it to automobiles the rest of the time.

This is a character-defining moment for San Diegans. It is a watershed moment, one that is as clear an issue as we are likely to ever see. This issue will forever separate people into two categories: those that care about Balboa Park and those that care about something else.

If this bypass were to be built, we would all detest it the rest of our lives and future generations would surely curse those responsible.

Where one comes down on this issue will define them from this point forward and history will indeed record who was on the wrong side of this issue. Politicians will be remembered at the polls, businesses at their bottom line and Balboa Park institutions on their balance sheets and membership rolls, and the marred legacy of formerly well-thought-of prominent citizens.

San Diegans must stand up and oppose the bypass road and protect Balboa Park, San Diego’s greatest treasure. SOHO is not talking about living in the past, as detractors like to proclaim, we are talking about San Diego’s future.

As they said in the Old West, “there’s some things a man just can’t ride around.”

Bruce Coons is the Executive Director at Save Our Heritage Organisation. He lives in Point Loma.

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