Committee calls on nonprofit to aid Balboa Park
by Martin Jones Westlin
Jan 24, 2009 | 749 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Balboa Park Committee (BPC) has submitted a report to city officials containing something everybody kind of figured all along: It’s likely the city will never find the resources to fill Balboa Park’s growing needs and to take care of the current $238 million deficit in deferred maintenance projects. The last part is particularly irksome because the figure represents only a repair bill — the amount it would take to set crumbling infrastructure and attractions right, with nothing left over for new construction.

And according to the report, the city (which in effect owns the park) probably won’t see substantial improvement in its capacity to fund the venue through 2014.

But “The Future of Balboa Park: Funding, Management & Governance,” issued last month, doesn’t leave it at that. In fact, at 30 pages, it’s a pretty thorough follow-up to 2006’s privately funded “The Soul of San Diego: Keeping Balboa Park Magnificent in Its Second Century,” which included breakdowns on who exactly uses the park and for what. As such, it recommends the formation of a nonprofit agency to assist the city in management and fundraising.

On paper, the city’s Department of Park and Recreation is the park’s operator — but “The Soul of San Diego” noted that the park administration is essentially rudderless, with numerous public and private agencies involved in its day-to-day affairs.

The BPC, a citizens advisory committee appointed by the mayor, has rejected privatization as the answer to the park’s problems. The committee report cites St. Louis’ Forest Park as a successful operations model. Forest operates under a private partnership with the City of St. Louis’ parks department and since 1986 has raised millions toward the park’s maintenance.

The city, the new report recommends, should retain ultimate authority over park policies in order to limit potential losses of public control under the conservancy scenario. A discussion meeting on the new report was held Dec. 18. The study will go to the Park and Rec board later this month, eventually making its way to City Council.
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