Dear Park Lover:

I am delighted to share that thanks to the support and advocacy of California State Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Assemblymember Todd Gloria, the upcoming year’s California state budget will include $8.26 million toward the restoration of Balboa Park’s beloved and historic Botanical Building and Gardens.

The funding represents a truly watershed moment for the park and the Balboa Park Conservancy. We are deeply indebted to Senator Atkins and Assemblymember Gloria for their unwavering and passionate support of Balboa Park. Most importantly, we are grateful for their confidence in the Conservancy to manage the Botanical Building project and related programs. It is a proud moment for our organization to witness the heavy lifting everyone on the Board of Trustees and staff has done over the past few years come to fruition in the form of this unprecedented state funding. An allocation of this amount can only happen when all of the details are carefully planned, executed, and communicated.

The funding is validation of the Conservancy’s ability to take on such a large project in fulfillment of our mission to provide expertise, advocacy, and resources to envision, enhance, and sustain Balboa Park for all visitors in partnership with the City of San Diego and in collaboration with other organizations in the park and the community.

The Botanical Building is one of only four remaining original structures built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. A visionary project, it was intended to serve as the horticultural heart of the park. More than 100 years later, the iconic lathe structure, one of the largest of its kind, houses more than 2,100 plant varieties and welcomes millions of visitors annually—for free. Unfortunately, due to years of deferred maintenance, termite damage, rust, and outdated electrical and irrigation systems, it is in dire need of restoration.

In 2015, the Conservancy established a steering committee of park stakeholders, experts, and our city partners to develop a plan to restore and enhance the Botanical Building. Within that first year, we secured the funds to hire an architect to design the restoration. In 2016, the design team of RNT Architects and Spurlock Landscape Architects created visionary restoration plans that garnered buy-in from key park stakeholders and city leaders. It was then a two-year process to work with the city to create a donor recognition policy so that we could launch a donor campaign. Most recently, at the request of the city, a group of stakeholders and subject matter experts have been developing a plan for best-in-class operations and visitor experience that will be completed in July.

When the restoration is complete, the Botanical Building and Gardens will once again serve as the “heart of horticulture” in Balboa Park. With carefully designed exhibits and programming, it will cultivate a passion for plants in children, residents, and tourists alike while boosting San Diego’s profile as a global botanical destination.

The state’s $8.26 million in funding is a huge contribution to our plan, but we are not done yet. The Conservancy will soon launch a campaign to raise the additional dollars needed to fully realize all of the Botanical Building and Garden’s plans and programs.

I want to thank those who have supported and believed in the Conservancy since its founding. Of course none of this could happen without the public-private partnership the Conservancy has formed, and continues to develop, with the city of San Diego to make Balboa Park the best it can be. I also wish to thank:

  • Our “early investors”—those who believed in this vision and continue to show their love for Balboa Park by supporting the work of the Conservancy
  • Our Board of Trustees and staff, under the leadership of Conservancy CEO, Tomás Herrera-Mishler
  • Our partners at Parks and Recreation, under the leadership of its director, Herman Parker
  • The many park stakeholders who collaborate with us, provide valuable feedback, and support and inspire our work

Our thanks again to Senator Atkins and her staff, Assemblymember Gloria, and the state of California for this generous investment in Balboa Park—truly, one of San Diego’s and the state’s most valuable and essential cultural assets.

Dr. Joyce Gattas
Chair, Balboa Park Conservancy Board of Trustees