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The impetus for a plan to remake Balboa Park’s western entrance was the impending centennial celebration in 2015.

A judge’s ruling this year seemed to doom that plan: Even if proponents appealed, there’d be no way to construct the new features in the park in time for the expected celebrations.

But today, one of the chief consultants on the Plaza de Panama plan, Gordon Kovtun, said the committee’s decision to appeal (announced this weekend) is not connected to the 2015 timing.

“Right now our focus is on the appeal and we’re not anticipating to start the Plaza de Panama project prior to the Centennial,” Kovtun said.

The plan, led and largely bankrolled by philanthropist Irwin Jacobs, would rid park plazas of cars and parking and build a new parking garage behind the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. In February, Judge Tim Taylor ruled that the city erred in approving the project last July.

We had a few questions about the announcement and the news in the U-T, so we asked Kovtun of KCM Group, a construction management company.

What would be your ideal timeline for this process?
I understand that appeals take between one to two years but clearly the hope is for a prompt resolution.

When the judge announced his decision, city sentiment seemed to be that any appeal would be too complicated because of the 2015 deadline. How would constructing the plan affect planned 2015 celebrations?
The Plaza de Panama project is not dependent on the 2015 Centennial Celebration.

When did you decide to appeal?
The Plaza de Panama Committee and its supporters have always disagreed with the ruling but the appeal was filed on May 24th.

What will Irwin Jacobs’ involvement (financial or otherwise) be going forward?
I cannot speak for Irwin Jacobs involvement but perhaps that is a question best asked after the outcome of the appeal is known.

Should you win your appeal, how do you plan to deal with any opposition from SOHO, the mayor or others?
The appeal should remove the last roadblock from a project like this.

♦♦♦

On KPBS today, Mayor Bob Filner — who spoke in opposition to the plan at City Council before he was elected mayor — said he thought the plan is “moot.” Filner announced a plan to close the Cabrillo Bridge to cars on weekends and rid the Plaza de Panama of parking.

But Kovtun said there’s room for both.

“We’re not competing with the mayor’s plan,” he said. “The mayor’s plan is temporary.”

Disclosure: Irwin Jacobs is a major supporter of Voice of San Diego.

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Kelly Bennett

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

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