In the late afternoon on Tuesday, September 27th, a dozen activists sat around the long table at Newbreaks at the beach. Sitting and talking at the table where some sipped coffee were local merchants, planning board members and grassroots activists. The atmosphere was friendly – but the folks there were serious.
They all had come together to discuss what to do about the coming approval by the California Coastal Commission of the newly-designed project called the Ocean Park Villas. The project – long controversial in OB – is facing a “go-ahead” at the Commission’s meeting Thursday, October 6th, because “Coastal” staff has recommended its approval. The future project would be at the southwest corner of Abbott Street and Saratoga Avenue.
What was frustrating these local activists, however, was that the project had been nearly completely redesigned since the plan’s initial approval and issuance of a Permit by the Coastal Commission. Because the future project’s location is in the “Coastal Overlay Zone” its new owner could bypass the local OB Planning Board – and that is what he did – and aim his sights at the Commission’s authority to grant him an amendment to the original plan – a plan designed by Steven Lombardi, an OB architect. Lombardi has since complained to the Planning Board and has come out against the new design, calling it “a Motel 6”, and observing that it is not what the OB Planning Board approved and is not what the Commission approved.
Lombardi fears that Ocean Beach will end up with a huge – 10-unit condo monster – that no one in OB even got a look at – not even the Planning Board. These fears were shared by the twelve people around the table.
It was the process – or, rather, lack of a process – that was most upsetting to these twelve – all whom love OB and all whom have long records of helping and serving this community. But what they and the community faced was just too much and they all felt a great need to not sit quietly during this lack of a process and lack of a public review of the project.
Bottomline: The original design of a huge project that would manifestly change the appearance of OB’s waterfront was substantially changed but it is about to be approved for construction without an adequate public review by the people of Ocean Beach.
OB Planners are complaining – as part of the frustration surrounding this project – that they have not even being shown the designs of the new structure.
The substantial changes of the new design from the “Lombardi-design” is that an entire story has been added – so now there are three stories to the structure.
In addition, the entire structure has been moved south and forward towards the beach – and blocking more public views.
A 6 foot wall will be erected around the entire property, the top 4 feet to be glass.
The underground parking floor has also been drastically changed, and now the design includes car-ports situated at the front of the structure. The new design would force vehicular traffic into and out of the complex off Abbott Street, and over-all, make the appearance of the structure from the street such that it could be mistaken for a “Motel 6”.
It was decided that there would be members of this group – and any others who could – to go to this October 6th meeting of the Coastal Commission and attempt to persuade them to send the project back to the OB Planners and the San Diego Planning Commission. The only problem is that the Coastal meeting is up at Huntington Beach. Still people are planning to drive up there.
In the end, the group realized that more of the community needs to know about what is happening with this project. So, a Tour of the property and a Question and Answer Session about the details of the old and new designs will be held. This all takes place this Saturday, October 1, at noon – right at the property itself. Local planners will be on hand to guide the Tour and hold the Q and A.
Plus, residents, property owners and merchants will be encouraged to sign up and join the Car Caravan that will drive up to Huntington Beach to be part of the community’s presentation to the Coastal Commission that Thursday, the 6th October.
Please join them and the OB Rag. Join us on Saturday at noon and plan to attend the Commission’s hearing on October 6th.