One perspective on recent OB Planning Board elections

by on April 9, 2011 · 9 comments

in Civil Rights, Election, Ocean Beach

The OB Planning Board in early December 2010.

By Anon OB Observer

Comments here represent my personal political analysis (not those of the OB Rag) and are certainly not meant to offend….only to instigate some discussion and hopefully improve the political process and representation in our little hamlet. As always…. I welcome any of the Board to comment or offer a counter if they disagree.

There were 5 representatives from Districts 1,2,4,5,6 elected in the general election. There were no candidates in Districts 3 or 7. District 1 was the only contested election and the incumbent lost in a very low turnout affair. Overall it was a dismally low turnout for voting.

One of the appointed members from last year was again appointed but to a different District (Therkalson, 3), which then leaves District 7 (south OB) with a vacancy.

Both Tom and Jane Gawronski (married) ran as write-in candidates to the ballot and were both relected but to different Districts. They formerly both served in Dist 6 where I believe they reside.

There was no controversy and very little campaigning – seeing as how there were hardly any candidates.

Officer elections was uneventful. Although the vote was by secret ballot this year (which is allowed for the election of officers), it had been by raised hand in the past. Although Ingolia and Watson were easily re-elected as Chair and Vice-Chair -, my sources indicate that the OBMA favors Ingolia and not necessarily Watson – although he was re-elected as vice chairman in a landslide vote against returning district rep Tom Gawronski. Gawronski had been termed out and by the rules had to sit out for a year. He ran this year in District 1 – where he apparently owns property.

The vacancy in District 7 is only somewhat perplexing in that only a few months ago a group of people from that very District stormed down to the planning board meeting behind Julie Klein (OBMA) to protest the VFW move from Newport to the old deli on Ebers and Pt Loma Ave. Not surprising that they wouldn’t find someone to fill the seat after seeing that they chose Zuchette as their front man for the protest to that issue.

Look for plenty of support to any initiatives from the business community over the next term. I’ve never seen a board so heavily slighted to the business community and most specifically sympathetic to the OBMA. Not that there was any real campaigning or even a thorough candidate forum to uncover the facts, but my assessment is that there is a severe void of support to the community members of OB as no board members currently sitting are NOT completely attached to the Town Council or OBMA is some obvious fashion. Somehow the community has really lost some balance here and failed to elect a candidate to represent any interest other than the interest of selling booze and food to OBceans.

On Ingolia – rumour has it that Claudia Jack has him as the heir apparent to the Chair of the Tree Committee – which would clearly indicate where his allegiances line up.  Look for issues and votes from this board and under this leadership to continue in line with what the OBMA wants done in the community. Shame that we can’t get some representation for all of us little people citizens out here.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Gary Gilmore April 9, 2011 at 9:43 am

Please bear in mind that it is in the best interest of the OBMA to keep the character of OB intact. The reason the majority of the business owners choose Ocean Beach to have their shops is their affection, pride and affinity for the lifestyle of this community. To use the sentence “ Somehow the community has really lost some balance here and failed to elect a candidate to represent any interest other than the interest of selling booze and food to OBceans.” is disappointing. I agree with the first part of the sentence where the writer states the need to have other groups represented but, to follow with an insinuation that the OBMA is motivated solely by greed is a gross mischaracterization.

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avatar OB Lawyer April 9, 2011 at 2:37 pm

Gary – If I didn’t know you, I could make some easy generalizations about your statements as well. But I know you and your intentions are well, but you represent only ONE of hundreds of members in the OBMA. And perceptions are reality… right?

It would be easy to point out… Your business and specifically YOU benefit from your actions in the community.

Most business owners choose OB for their shops because the rent is a fraction of either PB, MB or La Jolla — and they can afford to start a business near the beach with the lower margins. Not likely because of their undieing support and love for OB.

Heck….why do you think I practice in OB? It’s cheap rent.

Now…. The real question back to you would be… Do the majority of people agree with your statement “the best interest of the OBMA to keep the character of OB intact”. Some people would conclude that the OBMA has a vision of OB that isn’t at all like it currently exists.

Clean, trendy and full of tourists with bulging pockets….complete with round’a’bouts… Certainly devoid of all those pesky traveling kids, trolls, bums and homeless perverts. (sarcasm here)

I welcome your discussion on this!

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avatar Seth April 9, 2011 at 6:04 pm

As a representative of District 4 –which includes Newport, Santa Monica and Saratoga Avenues — I think it is worth mentioning that nearly half the Board are renters who live locally (like myself), with several more who own modest homes or condos. A minority of the Board own businesses and/or significant property in OB, and all who can lay claim to any sort of significant economic interest are long-time OBecians who routinely vote against maximizing their own financial gain in favor of preserving our community’s unique character.

All are welcome to their opinion, but speaking as a private citizen, I just don’t agree with this one. What exactly is so nefarious about someone being on the XMas Tree Committee, or more to the point, supporting local businesses and the organizations that represent them?

The OBPB also generally does not deal with most issues related to the local businesses in OB, as the OBMA does. We really have no say in who rents where, what they pay, much of anything to do with their business licenses or operations, and most small construction. Even some of the more major projects such as Pizza Port were not made to come before the community’s planning board. We look at (most) major permits, large-scale construction/renovation projects and land use policy. These things are related, but not the same. Most local businesses here are smaller storefronts or restaurants that do not have to come before the board for much of anything.

Last, the big irony here in my view is that there is surely no shortage of major property owners, developers, City department managers, elected officials and other big fish who see the current OBPB as a big pain in the you-know-what, due to the general determination to help preserve OB’s community character in the face of major economic interests. Or for that matter, what of the commercial property owners who lost recent elections to current Board members because of the efforts of some on the OBMA?

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avatar scott April 10, 2011 at 8:06 pm

“but my assessment is that there is a severe void of support to the community members of OB as no board members currently sitting are NOT completely attached to the Town Council or OBMA is some obvious fashion.”

I do attend Town Council meetings and frequent the businesses in town but other than that I am not sure in what “obvious” way I am attached to the OBMA or any type of “business” interest. Would the author care to elaborate on that statement?

scott therkalsen

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avatar Landry Watson, OBPB Dist 1 April 13, 2011 at 7:44 am

Although I don’t usually provide commentary to a post by an anonymous author, I’ll make an exception to provide some comments to this interesting perception provided by the author.

It is always a tendency of the media and the public to attempt to paint political figures and more importantly decisions made in the public assembly into a bicameral or similar party system as a means of explaining the motivation or reason behind those choices. It helps us understand which person will best represent us in the democratic process which is complex and dynamic. It is both a benefit and a detriment to candidates who more often wish to appeal to the largest component of their constituency (which is likely a conglomerate of moderates from the parties and not necessarily a component of one single group). It’s the law of nature for people to categorize things and people into groups, it helps us understand each other’s behavior, and to pick out those candidates who will best represent our own individual interests.

In the case of politics at the community level, I’m not certain that we’ve established what would make a candidate a pro-community or pro-business party person and to be honest, I’m not certain that it will help the community make decisions in these elections.

As a member of the Elections Committee, I’ll offer that we made every effort to ensure that the community was well informed about the elections, the election and candidate process, and the candidates themselves. We also held a candidate forum with Q&A from the community at our public meeting and made press releases to both the Rag and the Beacon. Without a budget for advertising or marketing, I’m not certain what else we could have done to get the information out to the community.

I’ll agree with my colleagues posts here that the community IS well represented. If it were not, would we not have different results at the polls? In my district, I have both community and businesses, does that make me vote one way or another? Or am I defined by my voting record? Please expound so that I can best represent my District in the future.

Lastly, I’m sure we are the victim of internet trolling here by the “anon” author, but I actually welcome the opportunity to debate and to offer a perspective. So, I’ve “bit”…let’s discuss Mr. Anon. Can you offer an example of a recent decision that you felt was not in the benefit of the community? Is there some historical perspective that you can offer that provides us with some context of a time when the OB community was better represented?

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avatar OB Lawyer April 13, 2011 at 9:32 am

Well, this is interesting. I see that I’ve rustled some feathers. Let me pat them back down for a minute. First, it was never my intent to be “published”, I simply put some comments on one of the recent posts about the planning board results and oila…I guess I got published. Although I’m a somewhat regular visitor and commenter to the site, I choose to remain anonymous because yes…I have potential clients that might be on either side of any particular decision or discussion in the community and so I stay active but perhaps not public. I guess if I had known I was being published, I might have put some additional effort into my little rant. Danny – this is your cue to send me the Roosevelt quote about “its not the critic who counts”.

to Mr. Seth — Your regular commentary on OB issues is always welcome even if I don’t necessarily agree with you. Above you make some interesting points, but I’ll simply offer a counter and a question. Don’t you specifically owe your meteoric election to your position due to the specific efforts of the OBMA? Was the OBMA NOT specifically walking up and down Newport on the day of your election “getting out the vote” in support of your campaign? How did you vote on the issue of the Dempsey’s Condo (Saratoga Condos?) project? Did you support the developer (OBMA) or did you support the community?

to Mr. Scott — Arguably, I may have jumped a little far as your voting record is still very new and undetermined. However, I’ll bring up the point that you were not elected by the people of a district in OB. You were appointed by the board to your current position and former position. A board I feel is not currently balanced. We’ll be looking forward to your representation…the jury is out.

to Mr. Landry — I’m so glad that you should ask my humble opinion. Sorry that you feel I was “trolling”. Certainly not my intent (and I even put a disclaimer on my statement) :) I’ll offer two examples that were not in the best interest of the community or community members. 1) Saratoga Condos was a decision that certainly did not support the community. The community has on numerous occasions and numerous times voiced the opinion that we don’t want huge boxey condo developments in the community. On top of this, the board supported the applicant in receiving beach front property (the abandoned alley) at pennies on the dollar of its real value so that the project could get even BIGGER. That didn’t help the community. 2) The recent blockage of an issue on homelessness (never made it to the hearing – was removed by the board) which I think that YOU brought to the board if I’m not mistaken — was not in the best interest of the community. Homelessness is a fairly large issue here at the beach and even if it might be slightly above the purvue of the OBPB to discuss such issues, I don’t know why it was so defiantly blocked by certain members of the board and removed from the agenda (and never discussed since if I’m not mistaken).

Lastly, to answer your questions to me…. What about a regular time on this blog where you and your colleagues either log-on and chat or perhaps even some more blog posts asking your constituents our opinions BEFORE you vote on an issue instead of AFTER? You know…. a little public outreach – to capture the true will of the people. And on the issue of other times, yes, there have been times when the board was completely dominated by the community (and that was out of balance as well), during the years of OBGO (who bordered on socialist mind you) and there were almost no business owners represented at all. Perhaps that Rag could do a historical piece on this and refresh our memories on a different time in OB politics. That is a challenge….Mr. Gormlie!

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avatar Craig Klein April 14, 2011 at 8:39 am

As the other District 4 representative on the OBPB I would like to elaborate on the comments of my fellow board member, Seth. The OBPB is an advisory body to the City on LAND USE ISSUES, not a free range arbiter of social/political issues in OB. With respect to our “upholding the spirit of the community”, I would like to illustrate two recent issues where the board acted contrary to what would be generally perceived as “business” interests. First, the City recently came before the OBPB asking that we “get on board” with all the other communities in the City and bring our FAR (floor area ratio) , currently the lowest in the City, into line with other communities, the result of which would be to dramatically increase residential density in OB and destroy our community character. The OBPB unanimously rejected the City’s message and sent the City’s representative packing. The other issue is that of paid parking, which the City has consistently brought before the OBPB and which has been consistently rejected by the board. While I will not go so far as saying that the OBPB has gotten every vote “right” on every single development project which we have considered, I think a look at the record will show that with respect to the big issues, which would have significant effects on the community character of OB, the OPBP has voted in accordance with the will of the community.

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avatar OB Lawyer April 15, 2011 at 10:25 am

Mr. Klein — Thank you for stepping into the discussion and offering your comments. I just have a couple of questions about your points…

The SIZE of an individual project is measured by FAR which is a ration of building square footage as a ration of the lot size. Larger FAR’s typically resulting in larger projects. Density is measured in dwelling units per acre which is a measure of how many individual living units are allowed per parcel. So…Your first statement is slightly amiss, but I don’t mind straightening you out on the matter. So, per your statement, a larger FAR in the beach community would NOT result in any increase of DENSITY in our community – since it is constrained by an altogether differnent value. You wouldn’t be the first representative that I’ve had to help out with the municipal code :).

I would say arguably that your first point may be correct in that the community (in most people’s opinion) benefit from the FAR remaining the same. Larger FAR’s tend to produce gentrification of housing units to a value that doesn’t provide for a balanced mix of housing. Your point would hold more impact if there was actually some loss to the business community and not the average citizen. Since there isn’t any real loss or benefit to the business community related to the size of the residential FAR…I fail to see how this was really a concession to the average citizen by the business community. But thanks for voting for US in mind anyway.

I disagree with your second point altogether. Small businesses and business districts ALL prefer Time Managed (patrolled) parking to PAID parking. It is a proven fact that time managed parking increases most importantly customer turnover which is the single most important proponent of the business engine for most SMALL service and retail establishments which exist in our business district (where revenue from visitors is a large percentage of sales). Paid Parking is a known deterrent to visitors (aka tourist $$) which comprise the majority of the “GDP” for our retail shops.

Although metered or paid parking might be a nuisance for some of the people of OB who don’t walk or ride bikes to the local commercial establishments, it certainly is a way to tax mostly the visitors of OB and not necessarily the residents and puts dollars in our coffers that would presumably repair our roads and build parks (if you believe that). Therefore, I don’t agree that you made this second choice with the best interest of the community in mind either.

Are there some other examples you’d like to present? What is YOUR preception of the will of the community? or…. what exactly is your platform? Your pre-election statements leave me asking for more information as they are quite difinative on the issues you to which you refer.

I thank you ALL for your service to the community, regardless if I agree or disagree with your positions.

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avatar Tamara Nelson June 15, 2011 at 11:01 am

As a long time resident of Ocean Beach, and a supporter of Giovanni Ingolia, I waould just like to say that if there is anyone who could provide “some representation for all of us little people citizens out here”, it is indeed Mr. Ingolia. Keep in mind that these are not paid positions – these are volunteer positions. People like Giovanni Ingolia who donate so much of their time to improving the community should be respected.

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