Ragster Rant: the OB Planning Board – An Institution In Crisis

by on February 7, 2010 · 4 comments

in Culture, Election, Environment, Ocean Beach, Organizing

OB Planning Board 8-5-09 002-sm

OB Planning Board in action, August 5, 2009. Photo: Frank Gormlie

Editor: The following Ragster Rant is by Danny Morales, a recent addition to our blog staff.  Danny served on the OB Planning Board from 1999-2003.  The Board is holding its annual elections on March 9th, and all candidate nomination petitions must be submitted by February 14 Go here for election details and background.

by Danny Morales

Anyway that’s the impression another Ragster and myself got when we went to the February meeting of the Ocean Beach Planning Board. What we found was a collection of individuals who twisted logic, changed board protocols, broke the board’s bylaws and violated the board’s policy guidelines to advance their own personal agendas. But don’t hit us, gentle reader. We’re just giving a preview of what remains of the first community planning organization in California.

The stage was set with a bulky podium effectively separating the public at large from the board and allowed speakers to talk down to our community representatives. That didn’t sit well with those of us who place a value on setting. But dig… The city isn’t going to provide the necessary resources to a community that’s been a thorn in its establishment for decades.  This fits with the pattern of of a downtown authoritarianism.

Separated from the groundlings and being looked down upon by developer interests, the board began to do business. Reading the minutes in silence with no opportunity for community members to “hold out” items for inspection made the board’s processes about as transparent as a Masonic ritual. And thus it has always been…

To the boards credit, Doug Manchester’s disputed anchor project would have received less than a passing reference from the Center City Development Corporation (CCDC) were it not for one member’s question. But what does the CCDC have to do with OB anyway? And who put these mopes on the agenda?

Oh well, the city lifeguard’s rationale for the tsunami warning signs (an unfunded mandate from Homeland Security) put a blanket on everybody which seemed to make the board’s nap through the next presentation a pleasant one. As an aside, I was surprised to hear the Rag’s influence has reached city hall. The lifeguard’s representative referred to “the blogs” when offering the presentation of tsunami signs.

Maybe libraries aren’t the sexiest kids on the block but when the local architect for our historic library finished his presentation, we were astounded at the board’s self serving compliance. Maybe if the architect didn’t preface his presentation with the funding question the board might have assumed a different attitude.

Why a new design anyway? What’s the carbon footprint of this new design? What percentage of construction materials will come from the recycled bin? The board only questioned if they could use the smaller space to hold meetings in. We guess it’s for some people to see things as they are and ask why, for others see things that aren’t and ask why not and for the rest of us to sink into OBlivion! (apologies to Bobby K.)

The board awoke from nappy-time when the opportunity to slam medical marijuana came up.

COLLECTIVES AND PATIENTS TAKE NOTE! The city council member’s representative agreed with the board that all dispensaries are illegal and it appears to us that the city is setting you up by not issuing you certificates of payment of business taxes, allowing you to violate building codes and other regulations to bust you later on like they did in Hillcrest. It’s just speculation on our part but it appeared as more than mere coincidence….

When the wife of the most strident anti-herb collective board member and representative of the Newport Avenue District came in, the inquisition broadened to include other businesses in the Mainstreet Association’s jurisdiction.

Last time we looked she was a sitting vice-president of the Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association and chair of the OBMA/SDPD working group which holds their meetings in of all places, Starbucks! We couldn’t help but wince at questioning the legality of OB’s small businesses, some of which just got thrown out of their location (OB Surf and Skate) and other’s just trying to make it in our corporate dominated economy. It just didn’t seem right and appeared to be based upon some sort of bias.

Speaking of which, things got really juicy when Action Item #002 on the board agenda came up.

Under-grounding of utilities for condo projects has been established board policy for as long as we can remember. The board chair saw fit to promote a policy waiver to the applicant without any public input whatsoever. In fact the chair shut down public input on this issue by admonishing a member of the public for not having submitted a speaker slip, a protocol that wasn’t applied to anyone else during the meeting.

Acting in accordance with what she wrote in an e-mail dated August 29, 2009, regarding board decisions…”are based on the members interpretations of the OB precise plan, the San Diego general plan, and the characteristics of Ocean Beach”,the chair made it clear why there isn’t any transparency on this board. We have to get into the heads of board members to find their rationale for policy decisions. We wonder if that’s why it’s been impossible for the chair to provide access to board records as required in their own bylaws.

We were treated to that glimpse between the ears of board members on Action Item #004 to see what sound logic our community representatives use in determining the future of Ocean Beach. This is where a board member has to convince the rest of the board to vote in favor of a project where the applicant/board member has a direct financial interest.

We have to say that to equate the success of your own personal business with the convenience and necessity of the neighborhood is no easy trick especially when the rebuttal to your argument is about how your proposal will be a magnet for homeless panhandlers, drug addled Kerouracians, lowlifes and other undesirables coming up from the criminal element of lower Newport.

In the end the board agreed that L’etat, c’est moi and gave the go ahead for a Type 20 Beer and Wine License to the enterprise at 4921 Newport. CIVILIZATION, HO!

We don’t want you, gentle reader, to come away with the impression that the future is full bleak ahead. We followed the lead of Ocean Beach comedian Dave Sparling and took out candidate papers to run for a seat on the board. After all what more damage can be done by a joker and a comedian compared to that which was done by the clowns who wield power and influence over the current OB Planning Board.

Seriously folks, don’t you think it’s about time for us to step up to the plate regarding the future of our community? With that in mind we call for OB Ragsters and readers alike to do their part. One of the good actors on the board suggested that a Rag/Town Council candidate forum would be a positive step to increase community awareness and involvement. You see, there are good people doing good things on the Ocean Beach Planning Board but they need our helping hands because in the words of Edmund Burke; “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing.”.

I’m outta here.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar lane tobias February 8, 2010 at 11:01 am

what honesty! integrity! Logic! It seems that on some level the OBPB still wields quite an influential wand in the development of our community and thus, the board members’ stance and attitude has a direct effect on every Obecian. The conflict of interest conveyed in regard to a wine/beer license seems to be at odds with the whole point of the OBPB in the first place. I commend you on seeing a problem and then taking the necessary steps to try and fix it – ie, running for a board seat – and look forward to seeing how this will play out.

Thanks Danny!


avatar Seth February 8, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Danny, was this a campaign speech? ;-)

I noticed that you were able to portray the Board as a bunch of 420-unfriendly, anti-environmentalist, corrupt, anti-local business yet somehow still rubber-stamping folks who frequent Starbucks. Well done. Kinda wish I had thought of that first, as it is no doubt a strong platform in OB.

Anyhow, I do in fact serve on the Board as a rep for District 4, and I do not speak on their behalf or in that capacity here. No idea what district you guys are going for, but glad to hear you and Mr. Sparling are running. I know that you personally are a fighter for OB, and that you would have a strong focus on using existing policy and code. So I wish you good luck, as you would be a strong addition.

As a private citizen who knows that many people get their information through social media outlets, I feel compelled to address/clarify some of your points in this (hit) piece, however. I’m not the Chair, and am not charged with keeping order out of the chaos that is OB, so I don’t get all these rules of order protocols and whatnot. There’s no question that the two Chairs I have served with are both more capable than myself in this regard. But personally, I probably would have let a community member speak at a sparsely-attended community meeting without a speaker slip. Agree with you there.

Anyhow… since the public has a right to know about those protocols, let us draw a distinction here between Action Items and Information Items during Board meetings for those reading along. Action Items are those in which the Board forms a position and votes on a recommended action. Information Items are those in which the community and Board are informed about local land use issues, and generally, no positions or recommended actions are formed. This is important in light of your piece, as the Tsunami signage and OB Library extension were Information Items. In the case of the library extension, it was stated on record that the architect requested to update the community and Board on their activities, and that they will be seeking a LEED-Silver certification of the project (which is on the very high end of being environmentally-friendly).

As to medicinal marijuana, I personally support it. I have had friends with cancer who have benefited from its use per their doctors’ recommendations, and I know that it is a more desirable way to relieve pain than addicting people to synthetic opiates. But as you know, the legality of medicinal marijuana is not determined by community planning groups, who are more likely to be concerned with the land use impacts of local dispensaries. These dispensaries are not being very regulated right now, and in other communities in California, this has in many cases led to what are essentially drug operations exploiting a loophole and bringing crime to neighborhoods (they tend to get robbed a lot, and again, they may not even exist for the purpose of helping to aid cancer patients with their pain). Even when well done, they may result in storefronts that are protected by barbed wire, dogs and armed guards. Bottom line is that there are many dispensaries now in operation in OB, in both commercial and residential areas, and that the community currently has very little say in how they operate. This is of concern to many, even within District 4, an area with several head shops and even a new hydroponics store.

As to one of the Action Items in which a local business owner and Board member applied for a license to sell beer and wine… well… when we refer to the “community” in OB, it most certainly includes local business owners and commercial property owners, as well as homeowners and renters and other various stakeholders. A community planning group should in my personal opinion absolutely reflect the full scope of community stakeholders, and will likely be more informed and more fair because of it. But it is inevitable that this will sometimes result in a board member applying for a permit that their own board visits and forms a position on. That in itself is nothing nefarious. All one can ask is that people recuse themselves when they have an obvious conflict of interest, and that their requests are viewed by the same standards that anyone else’s would be, in a clear and transparent manner. The public record shows that this Action Item was approved by the Board unanimously, and that other entities will now make their decisions on whether this permit will be granted.

Won’t go too far into some of the innuendo you put out there, but the idea that a current District 4 rep (and I assume you meant the other one) would not support OB Surf & Skate specifically is, in my own opinion, completely baseless and inaccurate. My private citizen version of events is that there was some on-the-record discussion (on a purely informational, non-agenda item basis) about the recent changes and activities taking place around the old Rock, Paper, Scissors building and the adjacent lot — and specifically as they related to existing laws/codes and a potential loss of parking. No positions formed, no actions recommended.

Lastly, “wield power and influence” is a bit strong, don’t you think? The public record shows that Board recommendations to the City are routinely ignored. In my personal opinion, an updated Precise Plan and greater community involvement would go a long way to changing that.

But again, good luck. Glad to see people’s interest in OB.


avatar Danny Morales February 8, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Thanks, Seth to your response to my post. I won’t run on an anti-board platform which would be dishonest of me. I appreciate your forthright criticism of my tone and posture which I will take in the constructive spirit with which it was issued. No argrument from me, there. Keep up the good work!-Danny


avatar Seth February 8, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Danny, don’t get me wrong. I actually love the tone and the fact that you will hold people accountable according to what is actually on the books. I have little doubt that you would do the same while serving on the Board. In my personal opinion, the biggest threat to the community character in OB is apathy, and I detect very little of that in you, lol. More of that, please. Anyhow, I still felt compelled to provide some counterweight to some of what you said/implied, and more importantly, to shed some light for others on Board activities.


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