Old Town is part State Park, part retail/commercial, part offices, hotels, and residential.
The State Park owns the old hotel and stables and the "square" at the North end of the Old Town strip. Over 30 years ago the State Park was in shambles and a local entrepreneur, Diane Powers, bid on the site to renovate it and she created The Bazaar Del Mundo and added restraurants and shops. She added lucious vegitation and landscaping that made the place colorful and bright and felt like a Mexican Hacienda. There were Forklorico dancers, strolling Mariachi's and othe events sponsored by Bazaaer Del Mundo. Most San Dieagns loved the place going there for happy hour for chips and margaritas, or delighting visiting guests after a day at Sea World or the Zoo. SO although it was a "tourist place" it was a resonable and pleasant place to spend an afternoon strolling or an evening of sharing Mexican food and colorful frutiy drinks.
Politics took play when Californians decided to recall Govenor Grey Davis. He stuffed commitees with friends and fired old time enemies as the recall gained momentum. He also was lobbied by Delaware North to take of the Old Town State Park concession. Delaware North also does Yellowstone and other "theme related" places and pays the parks a percentage of profits.
Well there must have been some political hanky pancky or just money envolved because although Bazaar Del Mundo made the most money in the California Parks system, Delaware North proposed they could make even more. DIane Powers had invested millions of dolars and decades to build her enterprise. A court battle, public appeals all failed and the Bazaar empited out and closed eveything.
Delaware North, in an attempt to return the site to it's "original 1860' California era" tore out all the vegitation (ferns, palms, bouganvalia...just say nice tropical plants), they tore out the Spansih water fountains, removed spanish tile and painted bland colors over all the colorful things that were there. They changed the restaurants to names lie Jolly Boy and Cosmopolitan and serve boring bland meals that are suppose to reflect the era. Instead of real Mariachies, there's fake Calvary and other uniformed characters, ala Disneyland that well be glad to share with you what this was during "it's era." Which by the way is very boring. A dusty, scary frontier town with hourse stables and a run down hotel that served as a brothel. Trades like ironsmith, horse shoeing, and repaing the wheels and stocking the provisions for people passing through. Although perhaps authentic, it's not as nice as a good Mexican meal sitting by a babbling fountain outdoors and listenting to Mariachi music while sipping on a Margarita.
In a local cartoon it showed the waiter trying to serve "authentic goats milk" as a replacement for the Margariats once famous here.
Thsi is a really event for San Diego. When you have a place where both tourists and locals love to go and frequently make freidns with those dining around them, its a rare place. San Diego mourns and misses Bazaar Del Mundo... we suspect Delware North will never make it nearly as popular.