The top candidates to represent the City Council district that includes Balboa Park both say they’ll push to get the park dedicated funding to fix its growing needs.

District 3 candidates Anthony Bernal and Chris Ward say the park – beset with crumbling buildings and a lack of cash to implement plans approved decades ago – deserves its own pot of money, and at the very least more city investment.

“Until there’s a dedicated funding source for Balboa Park, it’s always going to fight for funding,” Bernal said.

Balboa Park competes with the city’s other regional parks for funding, and the lack of dedicated cash to support it has helped bolster a needs list estimated to total more than $300 million.

Bernal and Ward want that to change.

Bernal’s already decided a bond bankrolled by a tax hike would work best.

A Balboa Park bond, which would need to be approved by two-thirds of voters, is the best route to investment in the park for years to come, he said.

He acknowledged that would be a hurdle.

“It is a high threshold but I believe that there are stakeholders in every neighborhood of the city that could get on board and support this regional asset,” Bernal said.

Bernal also wants to explore other funding options and help identify top priorities for the park. He said he’d work with the city’s independent budget analyst and staffers in the city’s Park and Recreation and Public Works departments to do that.

Ward isn’t committed to any particular funding option just yet.

He pledged to form a working group in his first 100 days in office to explore sustainable funding options for the park.

Ward said the Balboa Park stakeholders pulled together for that review would also prioritize the park’s needs. For instance, should the city bankroll a conversion of the city lot at 20th and B streets into parkland, as the 1989 park master plan envisioned, or focus on infrastructure needs?

“I know that I, as a new Council member, I would be foolish to think I know better than (longtime stakeholders),” Ward said.

Ideally, Ward said, the group could identify a dedicated funding source for the park but he’d be open to other alternatives.

He’s not convinced a bond that would solely support Balboa Park could pass.

Yet that concept’s been informally floated in multiple venues recently.

David Lundin, a prominent critic of the Balboa Park Centennial debacle, has started a fledging group to promote Balboa Park’s many needs and potentially, a November 2018 bond vote.

City Councilman Mark Kersey has also publicly questioned whether at least some city property tax money that now flows to the San Diego Zoo could help bankroll a Balboa Park bond. A deputy city attorney has said that wouldn’t be possible without a public vote or the zoo’s cooperation.

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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