12 Oct Court Upholds Plaza de Panama Project, Issues Sweeping Rejection of All SOHO Claims
After years of litigation and delay, the City of San Diego Plaza de Panama Project is steps closer to a reality. Earlier this summer, Superior Court Judge Gregory W. Pollack found “no basis” for the Save Our Heritage Organization’s (SOHO) claim that the project, which had been delayed by a prior unsuccessful SOHO lawsuit, now required a Supplemental Environment Impact Report as a result of that delay.
“After eight years of this arduous process, we truly believe that we’ve secured the comprehensive solution that San Diego residents, park visitors and stakeholders have been waiting for,” said Gordon Kovtun, Principal at KCM Group, which manages the construction of the project. “We’re ready to get to work to reclaim 6.3 acres of park land, add much-needed parking and free the plazas from chronic vehicular traffic to allow more San Diego families and children to enjoy our city’s crown jewel.”
Pollack ruled that the improvements designed to increase pedestrian access within Balboa Park were properly approved by the San Diego City Council. The improvements, collectively known as the Plaza de Panama Project, were approved unanimously by the City Planning Commission and approved twice by the City Council (each time with one opposing vote).
SOHO had endorsed a rival proposal, the so-called “Lewis Plan,” which would have built an extensive network of new roadways on the park’s hillsides and canyons and a underground garage below the Plaza de Panama, with three tunnel mouths to allow cars to enter the garage from the park’s core.
“Once again, a court has found that the City correctly followed environmental law in seeking to improve one of the City’s greatest treasures,” City Attorney Mara W. Elliott said. “SOHO’s lawsuits have served no purpose other than to delay a widely supported project, and to drive up costs for the taxpayers.”
The City is being represented by Deputy City Attorney Jana Michova Will, working in conjunction with the Plaza de Panama Committee and its attorney, Scott Williams of Selzer Caplan McMahon Vitek.