Balboa Park has reached its 10-building goal in making San Diego’s crown jewel environmentally sustainable.
The Balboa Park Cultural Partnership announced Wednesday that it had certified the buildings under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
The latest two buildings to gain recognition for saving energy, reducing waste and water use and other factors were the San Diego Museum of Man and the Japanese Friendship Garden’s Inamori Pavilion.
Jessica Travis, the partnership’s director of sustainability and community relations, said more than 100 volunteers helped fill out the paperwork to confirm the institutions’ progress. The city of San Diego, SDG&E and three paid experts also helped.
Buildings previously certified were the Natural History Museum in 2009; Fleet Science Center, 2010; World Beat Center, 2012; and, in 2015, the Casa de Balboa, Casa del Prado, House of Charm, Old Globe Theatre and Federal Building (San Diego Hall of Champions).
“These represent about half of the buildings of our members inside the park,” Travis said.
She said work will continue to certify five more buildings, although no deadline has been set. LEED certification requires applicants to meet certain thresholds in energy savings and other environmental measurements. Those steps typically include installing efficient appliances, low-energy-using light bulbs and other fixtures, low-flow toilets and faucets, and water-wise landscaping and irrigation systems.
Since photovoltaic cell panels are not practical on many of the park’s historic buildings, Travis said some institutions, such as the Museum of Man, can achieve the same savings goals by buying energy credits.
The partnership’s board president, Steven Snyder, said the LEED effort serves as model for San Diego homeowners and businesses.
“This should be an indicator that similar measures can be effectively implemented in existing homes and buildings throughout the county to help us realize a more sustainable future,” Snyder said.
The next major parkwide effort will involve reducing trash headed to the city’s landfills and increasing recycling and composting, Travis said.
Other park organizations have completed several more projects or are launching new ones, all with an eye to the parks’ 150th anniversary next year. They include:
Plaza de Panama Committee: New legal challenges to building a garage, bypass bridge and landscaping improvements in the center of the park have pushed a construction start date likely into 2018 with completion in 2020, said Jim Kidrick, chairman of the Balboa Park United coalition of park support groups. But he said the group is hopeful of raising up to $30 million to match the city’s commitment of about $49 million. Qualcomm cofounder Irwin Jacobs formed and funded the Plaza de Panama Committee in 2010 to remove traffic and parking from the middle of the park, starting with the plaza outside the San Diego Museum of Art.
Balboa Park Conservancy: The group is raising several million dollars to restore the Botanical Building with new lath and other improvements, with work set to start next year. Conservancy CEO Tomás Herrera-Mishler said grants and other funds are being sought to replace about 1,600 trees lost during the drought. Most recently, 14 jacarandas and seven Torrey pines were planted around Morley Field’s dog park on the East Mesa.
Friends of Balboa Park: Two gate houses have been at the west entrance to the Cabrillo Bridge. Executive Director John Bolthouse said eight speakers, installed in 1947 to broadcast carillon chimes in the California Tower, will be replaced with state-of-the-art speakers as the tower gets a seismic retrofit, starting next spring. The fencing around the landmark Morton Bay fig tree, north of the Natural History Museum, will be replaced, also next spring, along with a viewing platform that will allow visitors to get closer to the tree. The current fence was installed to keep people from carving their initials in the tree or harming the roots that spread out on the ground. A smartphone app is in the works to allow visitors to snap pictures of about 50 birds that frequent the park and retrieve their background information and play back their chirps.
Committee of 100: The group led the drive to raise $270,000 to restore 31 historic lamp posts on Cabrillo Bridge, a project not included in Caltrans’ $38 million restoration of the bridge in 2014. Also contributing were the city of San Diego, Balboa Park Trust at the San Diego Foundation, the Friends of Balboa Park and the Balboa Park Conservancy. Next up is the temporary installation of four replicas of the murals that once graced the 1935 California State Building that is now the San Diego Automotive Museum in the Palisades area south of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. President Mike Kelly said the murals, printed on a thin film, will be replaced with permanent tile work in a couple of years once about $200,000 is raised.A similar replication is planned for the Mayan mural originally on the nearby Federal Building, which the Hall of Champions is vacating in favor of the planned San Diego Comic-Con museum.
Save Starlight: A new group, founded by audio technician Steve Stopper, hopes to bring Starlight Bowl back to life after it was closed in 2012. The amphitheater was built as the Ford Bowl to host daily concerts during the 1935-36 California Pacific International Exposition. Symphony concerts, musical comedy productions and numerous special events took place in the bowl after World War II.
Besides these immediate projects, the organizations also are talking about moving forward on a proposed Peace Garden on the Arizona Landfill in the park’s southeast corner; restoration of Pan America Plaza’s fountain and tower with parking moved elsewhere; preparation of a specific plan for the West Mesa along Sixth Avenue; and an update to the park’s 1989 master plan.
Originally published by Roger Showley on the San Diego Union Tribune, April 19, 2017.