OB Planners vote against changing FAR – floor area ration
by Andy Cohen / Special to the OB Rag
It was a setup. The city planners sent a somewhat green representative to the packed Ocean Beach Planning Board meeting to discuss the easing of building restrictions in Ocean Beach. The poor woman was apparently not aware of the voracity with which residents of OB are willing to protect the unique character and lifestyle they have enjoyed for decades in the rather eclectic neighborhood. The room was filled with such residents.
Amanda was sent in to discuss the City of San Diego Planners proposal to raise the floor area ratio (FAR) from the current standard of .7 in Ocean Beach to .9, or the current San Diego city standard of 1.2.
Floor area ratio is defined as the total covered area of all floors of all buildings on a particular plot of land. With a FAR of 1.0, the equivalent of ALL of the plot area is covered by livable space. The .7 FAR for OB originally designated the area for low density development. And although that measure has remained in place for many years, OB is now considered to be a medium density neighborhood, with developer designs on making it a high density development area.
But as anyone who has spent a mere five minutes in Ocean Beach can attest, this is not your average community, and such changes are viewed by local residents as a major threat to what makes Ocean Beach so unique.
Speaker after speaker voiced their concern and their desire to maintain the character of this island of nostalgia. There was anxiety over the eventuality that changing the FAR would result in Ocean Beach losing the traditional cottages that have lined the streets since the community first began. There were comparisons to Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, and how Ocean Beach stood in danger of being converted into a mish-mosh of big box apartment buildings and condos without soul that would alter forever the small town character that has always been the identity of Ocean Beach.
In an area that has already increased in urban density far beyond its original community plan, the residents and board feared that by increasing the FAR, Ocean Beach would become more dense, more choked with traffic, further exacerbating the already strained parking situation. It was mentioned that in the past the City had tried to introduce more paid parking into OB and was met with a huge backlash from the locals. The residents concluded that an increased FAR would necessitate paid parking in the area, which is not something they are willing to consider.
In the end it was unanimous, and Amanda was sent back to the City Planners’ office with a clear message: Don’t mess with Ocean Beach!
Other agenda items: San Diegans 4 Great Schools made another presentation similar to the one made at the town council meeting several nights ago. And once again they were met with great skepticism. It was made clear that the group really has no defined purpose, no clear goal other than to improve the performance of San Diego schools with no specific methodology for doing so other than adding four members to the school board.
And there is a compelling argument for doing so: Tyler Cramer, the presenter, explained that of the 15 largest urban school districts, only Long Beach has a school board as small as five members. Most, he said, have at least seven and as many as 13. It was not clear, however, how that would facilitate improving the performance level of San Diego’s schools.