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A discussion of the future of Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama was the center of Sunday’s episode of “Politically Speaking” on NBC 7 San Diego. I appeared on the show, along with the Plaza de Panama plan’s chief opponent, Bruce Coons from the Save Our Heritage Organisation, a preservationist group, and Mike Kelly from the Committee of One Hundred, which works to preserve the park’s existing original buildings.

The big news prompting the discussion was a judge’s final ruling last Monday that the city violated its own laws in approving a $45 million remodel of the park’s western entrance. The judge ordered the plan’s permits revoked.

Host Gene Cubbison mentioned the city will try to pursue an exemption to the law for this specific project. (U-T San Diego had more on this exemption in this story.) Neither the project’s chief backer, Irwin Jacobs, nor City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, accepted Cubbison’s invitation to Sunday’s discussion. City Councilman Todd Gloria and Mayor Bob Filner also declined.

Kelly said he’d support such an exemption if it brought the city, Jacobs and other parties to a compromise.

“If it’s just going to allow them to go ahead and do what they had planned in the first place, I would not,” he said.

Kelly highlighted his group’s preferred plan — closing the entire Cabrillo Bridge to traffic and bolstering a shuttle system to bring people into the heart of the park.

We discussed some of those considerations in this segment:

Cubbison asked us to discuss how any future plans might be funded. Jacobs had offered to personally contribute or privately fundraise $30 million of the plan’s cost. I also pointed out a couple of big hurdles for figuring out what comes next for both the Plaza de Panama and Balboa Park ahead of the 2015 celebration:

• Key philanthropic groups in the park were planning around this project, and were watching the outcome of this plan as a bellwether for philanthropy in the park. As Roger Showley pointed out in a U-T story, “for the first time in modern San Diego history, San Diego said no to a public-spirited billionaire, a man ranked 311th on Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans.”

• The mayor has changed. Former Mayor Jerry Sanders supported the plan. Current Mayor Bob Filner does not.

Watch this video.

What do you hope comes next in Balboa Park? Leave us a comment below.

I’m Kelly Bennett, reporter for Voice of San Diego. You can reach me directly at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0531.

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Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.

Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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