Report of the Midway Planners’ Monthly Meeting

by on September 26, 2016 · 4 comments

in Environment, History, Ocean Beach, Politics

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Midway Planning Area

By Geoff Page

The Midway/Pacific Highway Community Planning Group (Midway) held its monthly meeting on Wednesday, September 21st at the San Diego City College – West City Campus on Fordham Street.

Unlike at the OB and Peninsula planners’ meetings – which meet at night allowing working people and residents to atten, this meeting started at 3:00 in the afternoon and continued until 5:00. Seven of the board’s members were present, just making a quorum as the board has 12 seats. It was later learned that there are two vacancies due to resignations and the board is looking for candidates to fill those seats.

The meeting moved quickly through the early agenda and then came to the “City Government Office Reports” part of the agenda, which is where reps from the 9 agencies listed, from Council District all the Congressman Scott Peters, are to give reports and updates.

First up was Bruce Williams from Councilmember Zapf’s office. He related that the police had broken up some homeless encampments and arrested some folks, which was sad, but he brightened up the moment when he said the animals were taken to animal shelters. He mentioned the opening of the Churchill Hotel with 72 affordable rooms for low income folks and how happy everyone was about all of that. It was not clear if Ms. Zapf was taking some credit for this one. But. Mr. Williams saved the best for last.

Mr. Williams related how the day before, September 20, the City Council celebrated 50 years of planning groups, there was even a proclamation, he said, from Ms. Zapf. He presented the group with a planner’s book for the Midway area, but it was unclear if this was an old book as a gift or a current planner’s book. Then, he brought out the banner from Councilmember Zapf. It was a small collapsible screen that stood five or six feet high when extended with the group’s name on it and some art work. Almost everyone oohed and aahed over it and thanked Ms. Zapf for the gesture. Then, there were cookies from someone.

There was no one from the mayor’s office and the board complained they had not seen a mayor’s representative in “forever.” The chair said she had contacted the mayor’s office and that someone would attend next month for the October meeting.

Vicki White from the Planning Department related where the group was in updating its community plan, which appeared to be well along. There was discussion about a possible zoning change where it is now light industrial to residential.

Officer David Surwilo and his partner Officer Ricardo represented the police department. Surwilo spoke for a while about people in the Midway area enabling the homeless by giving them money and food on the intersection islands. He suggested the community look at ways to alter these island locations physically so that it would not be possible to stand there and solicit. Surwilo stated several times that they were not picking on the homeless.

Surwilo said the police department forces had been pulled from the area for some time due to the Trump rally, the Gay Pride Parade in Hillcrest and other events. He said they are back in the area in force and have been addressing the homeless situation. He described a Quality of Life team that apparently contacts the homeless first offering aid and assistance to relocate to a shelter. However, if the aid and assistance are turned down, the alternative is arrest, the old carrot and stick approach. Officer Surwilo candidly admitted that these tactics just move people around. He asked people to email him if they have any problems and provided this email address surwilo@sandiego.gov.

There was one jarring moment for this reporter. A board member asked Officer Surwilo how the crime was in this area. Surwilo replied that it was the usual car break-ins and petty crime but very little violence. He then said it wasn’t like Ocean Beach where there is more physical violence.

The Airport Authority wanted to notify the public of noise that will result from pile driving at Terminal 2.
There was no representative from the County Board of Supervisors or from State Senator Marty Block’s office or Congressman Scott Peters office.

There was an animated representative from Assembly Member Toni Atkins’s office in the person of Jason Weisz. Jason talked about a number of things but the one that resulted in an action by the board had to do with s request to support an effort to change how the Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) allocates funds. Jason explained that the formula used to allocate funds was outdated and needed revision because San Diego was 3rd or 4th in the nation for the size of the homeless population but the city is number 17 or 18 on the funding list. The board voted to add the item to its agenda and voted in support of the effort to get the formula updated.

The Chair report was next and she welcomed a member of the audience who was a representative of the new school where the old hospital used to be on Kenyon Street. Education First, a Swedish language school, has renovated the building and created the school. This appears to be a positive example of re-using a facility that was once a medical facility and creating a school.

During the “Information Items/Reports/Presentations” section of the agenda, the biggest topic appeared to be the work to create a Maintenance Assessment District (MAD) and a Business Improvement District (BID) for the area. The process is just starting and will take about two years.

Anthony Theodore from Coldwell Banker described a project he is trying to develop involving properties on Lytton Street across from the entrance to Liberty Station. He is looking for a zoning change to reduce the required habitable square footage of a unit from 1,500 to 1,000 square feet. Theodore suggested some senior housing would be good for this location. He also mentioned some public storage facilities for the location. It appeared the goal was to clean up what is currently there including a tattoo parlor and a smog shop. Theodore mentioned twice that Liberty Station was THE place to be in San Diego making this reporter wonder if the silent hand of McMillin is behind this effort.

A letter from the Peninsula Community Planning Board (PCPB) about the 30-foot height limit in multi-family zones was next on the agenda. The PCPB was looking for support but the item was not discussed because the chair said they did not have multi-family zoning in their area.

Closure of Moore Street at Rosecrans was discussed and the board voted unanimously to send a letter in support of closing the road due to accidents.

The chair reported on the monthly Community Planners Committee and some discussions with the Alpha Project, a homeless outreach group.

There was also a discussion of DeAnza Cove. There will be presentations and workshops to decide what to do with the land. The chair said the golf course would be going away and that Campland would be moved from where it is now to where the old trailer park was and the land would be restored to wetland status.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar old ob hippie September 27, 2016 at 8:16 pm

Thanks for this report. Even seemingly dull meetings like this are important to know about – the Midway Planners operate in a shadow. So why don’t they meet at night like the other Peninsula planning committees?

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avatar Geoff Page September 30, 2016 at 10:50 am

I don’t know why they meet at 3:00 like this but, intended or unintended, it completely discourages community participation. The worst group I have seen so far is the Mission Valley group. It meets at noon, which is perhaps a little better as it is during the lunch period but not much. The OB and Peninsula Boards meet in the evening and if it were up to me, I’d make them all meet at night. I did not get the impression that the Midway Group was discouraging participation but I definitely got that impression of the Mission Valley group. I will ask the Midway chair this question and get back on it.

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avatar OB Joe September 27, 2016 at 8:18 pm

I think they meet during the day in order to discourage participation by local residents and working people in that planning area. And they wonder why they don’t have enough residents. Hmmm.

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avatar Geoff Page September 30, 2016 at 11:12 am

Here is the answer I got from the Midway Planning group chair and it makes sense considering the makeup of the area. As I said before, I did not get any impression that this was done purposely to exclude anyone. Cathy Kenton’s response:

“Because the planning area is primarily a business area, this is the best time for business and property owners to be available for meetings. If we were to hold meetings in the evenings, we wouldn’t be able to maintain a quorum, and likely we wouldn’t have a location for holding meetings available. We do have strong representation on the Board with 3 members representing residents in the community.”

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