We’ll be regularly polling the candidates in the 2012 San Diego mayor’s race on key issues as they arise in the run-up to the election. These posts hopefully will provide a quick way to understand where everyone stands.

First up is local philanthropist Irwin Jacobs’ $40 million plan to eliminate cars from Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama, build a bypass ramp off of Cabrillo Bridge and replace lost parking with an underground garage. Last month, City Council approved an agreement for Jacobs to pursue planning and environmental studies for the project. Mayor Jerry Sanders is a supporter, saying it’s the best way to open up the plaza to pedestrians. But local preservationists are opposed because they believe the changes are too extreme and planners could achieve similar goals with fewer alterations to the park’s natural landscape.

Here’s the question we asked: Do you support philanthropist Irwin Jacobs’ plan to renovate Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama?

City Councilman Carl DeMaio: Yes.

Explanation: As we approach the centennial celebration of Balboa Park in 2015, we must look for ways to invest in the park to ensure this landmark treasure is in prime condition for both the celebration and its second century. While I am not yet sold on the particular design presented, I support proceeding forward with the next stage of the process by requesting the necessary environmental impact reviews and requiring more specific financial projections and commitments to protect taxpayers. The project reflects my core philosophy of engaging private philanthropy and public-private partnerships to carry-out visionary projects for San Diego.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis: Yes.

Explanation: The vote to enter into a memorandum of understanding will begin the process of studying the proposal for Plaza de Panama as well as other feasible alternatives. With nearly a quarter billion dollars in deferred maintenance in Balboa Park and many competing needs for scarce tax dollars for other city services, it is time for the city to invite philanthropists to help us realize our vision for Balboa Park.

Congressman Bob Filner: Declined to answer.

Explanation: Frankly, I think it’s an insult to ask us for “yes” or “no” and then four sentences. These are complicated issues and deserve more than these kinds of answers that you’re asking for.

Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher: Yes.

Explanation: I support Irwin Jacobs’ plan and his financial commitment. Restoring this central part of our park to pedestrian use is a fitting way to honor the 100th anniversary of this civic treasure. We ought to support philanthropic leaders who are willing to step forward to develop innovative solutions to San Diego’s problems. With effective leadership, we should be able to bring everyone together to resolve concerns regarding historic preservation and parking to ensure a solution that works for all San Diegans.


This post included only the four major candidates, but we do plan on getting all declared candidates involved as we move forward.

We’re still looking for a name for this feature. Please post your best suggestion in the comments feed.

Disclosure: Irwin Jacobs is a major donor to voiceofsandiego.org.

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He covers San Diego City Hall and big buildings. What question should we ask the mayoral candidates next?

Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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