Welcome to San Diego Blog | November 9, 2011

Balboa Park San Diego

There are innumerable reasons for visiting Balboa Park San Diego.   Whether enjoying nature, culture, a culinary opportunity, architecture or just a jog or bike ride, Balboa Park is truly a jewel in San Diego.

As a San Diego resident, do you find yourself taking Balboa Park for granted?  I just returned from a trip to San Francisco and spent hours in Golden Gate Park and The Presidio. 

Great cities reserved important spaces for great parks–New York’s Central Park, Grant Park in Chicago, Balboa Park is certainly noteworthy among these.

Favorite Balboa Park Experiences

The diversity of museums and exhibitions at Balboa Park would require a sabbatical to experience.  There are over a dozen museums in Balboa Park. 

The San Diego Museum of Man contains a collection of Pre-Columbian, Andean and Mayan Anthropological treasures.  Like many of the museums in the Balboa Park Campus, the buildings are as noteworthy as the exhibits.

The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center is an interactive, hands on extravaganza of over 100 displays.  It also has San Diego’s planetarium and IMAX Theater.  One of those museums where kids are wide eyed and adults scratch there heads and say, “I didn’t know that…”

The San Diego Zoo at Balboa Park is renowned for its 4,000 animals and its conservation efforts.  However, the park’s topography and the vision of the planners in creating the setting for the zoo is truly special. 

Another of the experiences most enjoyed at Balboa Park  is dinner or drinks at The Prado.  The Cohn Group restaurant is terraced into another of Balboa Park’s canyons.  The setting is as good as the food. 

With approximately 1,200 acres of  land mere moments from Downtown, visits to Balboa Park need not be about any of the Museums or Exhibits.  It’s a great place for a walk or bike ride.  There are innumerable sports fields–including cricket, soccer and the San Diego Lawn Bowling Club!

There’s also 27 holes of golf.  For a resident or visitor it is among the lowest green fees in San Diego.

Balboa Park San Diego History

2015 will be the 100th anniversary of the Pan American Exposition for which Balboa Park was created.  Much has changed in 100 years in San Diego.  San Diego is now the 8th largest city in America (I can’t even guess how large SD was in 1915?).

The preservation of architecture and landscaping in Balboa Park is truly world class, befitting San Diego’s standing nationally and internationally.

A need for thoughtful planning moving forward

For decades there has been an awareness that a park built long before cars were invented has not served the needs of pedestrians and automobile traffic very well.  Leaders in San Diego have made a commitment to remove cars from key areas of Balboa Park prior to the centennial to ensure a better experience for visitors.

 Conceptually, all parties agree that getting cars away from some of the park’s pedestrian areas will improve safety, aesthetics and the experience of Balboa Park.  The challenge is how to do so without damaging the land and changing vistas and views that have existed for 100 years.

Qualcomm founder and philanthropist, Irwin Jacobs, has offered a gift of millions to see this project completed.  But the plan that he stands for would significantly change the landscape around the Prado Bridge and canyons on the park’s west side by building a “bypass bridge.”  Cars would then be diverted to a large parking ramp behind the Spreckels Organ Pavillion.

An alternative thought is to create parking near the entrance to Balboa Park from the Prado Bridge and move people into the park by trams.  However, many view this as a major inconvenience for activities in the park.

Time is starting to run out for completion of this major project by 2015.  As a downtown San Diegan I view this as an absolute imperative–we have to figure out a plan for integrating pedestrian and auto traffic in the park.  If you’ve given the issue some thought or have ideas, I’d love to discuss this over a cup of coffee sometime.

Give me a call at 858.432.3203 or e-mail david.manes@welcometosandiego.com



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Written by: Dannecker & Associates

Categories: Uncategorized

  1. Kevin Swanson says:

    Balboa Park is not Disneyland or a National Park – and that is what trams seem to be used for today. A unique experience of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park were the 200 “electrichette” vehicles used by the mobility challenged. Closing the Cabrillo Bridge to private autos, closing the Promenade, El Prado, and Plaza de Panama to private autos, building a multi-use parking structure at Inspiration Point overlooking the City and Bay, and creating a fleet of “electrichette +” vehicles for access throughout the Park – now that might be Visionary by looking toward the past! As a downtown resident you could benefit from an improved public transportation plan that includes access around the outside of Balboa Park along 6th Avenue and Park Boulevard (think 100 years ago!)
    They actually had some pretty good ideas on transportation. Today we could implement them using electric vehicles that at some point could be using fuel cell technology for power. There are self-driving vehicles on the road right now, and a fleet designed for 3-5 mph use within Balboa Park could be a demonstration project for the technology to be showcased.

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