For 94 years, Balboa Park has been a source of pride for all San Diegans. It’s the crown jewel of our park system, a beautiful piece of land and history that belongs to each of us.
Today, Councilmember Todd Gloria joined me in front of the park’s lily pond to announce the next step in an important initiative to ensure the continued vitality of San Diego’s cultural heart.
The effort began about two years ago, when then-Councilmember Toni Atkins and I asked the Balboa Park Committee to examine the future of Balboa Park. At that time, it was no secret that years of deferred maintenance had taken a toll on the park’s historic buildings, and that the city’s fiscal condition could further challenge park maintenance and improvement.
Like me and so many dedicated San Diegans, Councilmember Atkins was determined not to stand by and watch this incredible cultural and natural asset deteriorate.
So we asked the Balboa Park Committee for an honest assessment of whether the park was getting the financial support it truly needed – and whether it made sense to change the park’s management structure to help tackle some of the financial challenges.
After nine months of public hearings and an extensive study, the inquiry found the park would be best-served by creating a new, nonprofit public-benefit entity to work with our Park & Rec department on fund raising and park management.
This conclusion is not the end of the process; in fact, it’s only the beginning. To ensure we get a sound, suitable governance structure in place for Balboa Park, Councilmember Gloria and I have asked the Balboa Park Committee chair, Vicki Granowitz, to lead a task force to engage the public in decisions about its formation.
Over the next six months, this well-rounded group of Balboa Park stakeholders will hold public meetings on various aspects of this governance plan, including: what its relationship will be to the city and park support organizations; whether the proposed governance structure will require amendments or additions to the municipal code, council policies or the City Charter; and how the new governance body will be structured.
The task force will explore what role this public organization would play, but I think is extremely important to point out is that this is not a private conservancy that will operate the park. Park operations will continue to remain in the city’s hands.
The importance of ensuring the park’s continued health and vitality cannot be overstated. The park attracts 10 million visitors each year; it’s a destination for tourists and an invaluable cultural and recreational resource for our citizens.
We trust the people on this task force, working with the public, will propose a governance structure that will ensure San Diegans benefit from the park for generations to come.