A Tour and Question and Answer Session to Be Held at Ocean Park Villas Site – Noon on Saturday, October 1

by on September 29, 2011 · 26 comments

in Environment, Ocean Beach, Organizing, Popular

The "All-New" Design - never seen by the OB Planning Board.

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.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar OB law(yer) September 29, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Frank – this article still leaves me asking questions. Were there planning board folks at this meeting of “activists”? Was Lombardi there? Why the anonymous list from the story. You were there right?

Who will be leading the Tour and Question and Answer session at the park or at the corner?

You say “local planners” in the story. Is Mr. Seth going to be there? Any City folks coming out (I’m guessing no for a Saturday….ha hah…hahaha …. my tax dollars at work).

Doesn’t the Coastal Commission have to comply with Brown Act requirements as well for disclosure of proposed project prior to the meeting by 72 hours? That means that they have to post something to the public on Monday right????

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avatar Frank Gormlie September 29, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Local planning board members were present, as individuals, not representing the Board. Most if not all did not comment on the new designs, as they have yet to see them – except of course, the photo here of the plans and in our other posts. Got questions, show up and get involved.

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avatar Kenloc September 29, 2011 at 5:04 pm

I wish I didnt have to work Saturday.I would really like to hear what the local activists suggest be done with this corner. If I remember correctly, there was quite a stir with the original design because the building didnt fit the character of OB. This Motel 6 design actually fits “the character of OB” better than the 1st in that it is plain Jane and boxy,like most of the condo and apartment complexes in OB. So first it was too fancy and the underground parking may have flooded(this affects people that dont live there how?) Now it is tooo boxy and “Motel6ish” and the above ground parking is ugly.I have a feeling any design they come up with will meet opposition from this group,so why wouldn’t the developer opt to bypass your constant negative imput if possible?
There is going to come a time when developers and commisions that approve these things stop listening to local OB input on projects like this because it turns into a bitchfest no matter what they want to put there.That time may have already come.One thing is for sure,the corner is terrible looking as it is and something needs to be done with it.So how about it? Aside from the ridiculous idea that the developers just donate the land they have aquired and make it a park,what is this groups vision for this corner?Yall got plans for a building drawn up that would be suitable to you?

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avatar Seth September 29, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Ken, I can only speak for myself, but I don’t think the issue here is a bunch of NIMBYs trying to kill any project at that location no matter what. The OBPB’s 4-3 vote on recommending vacating the alleys and the tentative map waiver there don’t lend themselves to the notion of consensus. It is more a matter of concerned local citizens wanting to be informed of what is taking place there, in order to provide some degree of input and informal oversight.

If not for being in the Coastal Overlay Zone, this project review would go through the OBPB, where interested community members and their elected representative advisors could offer their input to the City and the developer as well. This can actually be very helpful to them, such as with the issue of potential flooding at this property. As it is not in an officially-designated floodplain, the City, CCC and the builder may not even be aware that this property is subject to rather extensive flooding during big rainstorms, due to the runoff that collects there. There are potential liability issues for the City there, just as there are for flood-prone properties in the Grantville area and along the San Diego River. And perhaps especially so when you are talking about constructing underground parking.

Another example is the possibility of the proposed design changes heading back to CCC no longer meeting the requirements of the City’s Land Development Code, specifically as they refer to above-ground parking and calculations for FAR (floor-area ratio). Without concerned citizens adding input, this may have gotten lost in the shuffle, also creating a possible liability issue for the City.

Personally, I don’t have any predetermined “verdict” on a project I have not fully-reviewed, and have no particular interest in micromanaging what happens at that property. Just count me among those who would like more information about this one, and a forum with which to offer input as a concerned citizen. There’s a lot of interesting aspects about how this property and the whole process surrounding this, and Saturday could be a good opportunity for interested parties to discuss.

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avatar danny morales September 29, 2011 at 7:57 pm

“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation”- Herbert Spencer
When did it become ‘ridiculous’ for an individual (or corporation for that matter) to act in the spirit of philanthropy? Picking a fight w/those of us who actually try to live within the spirit as well as the letter of the rules for community development is counterproductive at least and malicious at best. Better to know the rules, know the facts, apply the rules to the facts and then make a judgement from there.

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avatar Kenloc September 29, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Danny,
You are correct.Perhaps ridiculous was a bad choice of words. The folks that recently purchased this property have done so with the obvious intention of developing it.Philanthropy itself is of course not ridiculous.The idea that this particular land owner would exercise it is.They obviously have an idea for that spot,and it doesnt invlove giving it back to the people.(though it would be nice,wouldnt it?)
Seth, I appreciate your response and all you do for OB. And I don’t doubt that you are being open minded.But if you were a developer trying to build in OB wouldn’t you start to assume that ANY kind of construction,whether it be new or remodled,is going to meet opposition from some group here?Its too big,Its out of character,it’s ugly,it cost too much,the wrong kind of people will come here and live in them etc,etc. All I’m saying is if development meets constant opposition, they are going to get around that resistance,on the grounds that EVERYTHING is opposed here.Thus making the opposition irrevlevant in the eyes of the powers that be.

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avatar Seth September 29, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Ken, to be perfectly honest, that’s what kinda struck me about the opposition to the original design. It was condos and all, but it was done by a local architect, and was a funky, pedestrian-oriented and thoughtful design that engaged the surrounding area, rather than sit barricaded away from it. OBPB didn’t review it from a design perspective, and won’t review the new design, either. But minus the issue about the underground parking in an area that floods, it was about as good as one could have reasonably expected IMO.

The flipside, of course, is that the constant opposition probably keeps a few people wary of messing with the place.

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avatar thinking out loud September 29, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Dollar late n dime short …

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avatar Citizen Cane September 29, 2011 at 6:44 pm

I was at the meeting as a local resident, and I’m not yet convinced that I’m opposed to the new design. The law says it should have enclosed garages not carports. The planning group members have to throw the yellow penalty flag on that infraction. Other people will use the infraction to try to defeat the project. People like me say the garage law is bad…even stupid. I prefer carports over enclosed garages on new construction for several reasons. #1 Code Compliance. It’s easy to verify that the carport is being used for parking cars. #2 Public Health. Attached garages allow carbon monoxide, oil fumes, and fumes from tires and rubber parts to pollute the air of the living unit. Illegal manufacturing in garages can also expose the neighbors to pollutants. #3 Green Construction. A garage can require more materials to build. A carport doesn’t need to be waterproof, so I makes a better structure for supporting solar electric and hot water.

If I oppose the current design, then that might force a 3rd version…one that I won’t like with enclosed garages.

There is also the issue of the building moving closer to the ocean. I forget the distance…maybe the width of a parking space? Wah! Quick…somebody call a waaahmbulance.

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avatar bodysurferbob September 29, 2011 at 9:09 pm

if you add wine and crackers you’ll get the real estate crowd.

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avatar Chelle September 29, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Man, I wanted to read this article, however the grammatical and structural errors made it nearly impossible.

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avatar Frank Gormlie September 29, 2011 at 10:23 pm

Chelle, I’m sorry – I admit, this morning – when I wrote this – was not one of my best, but I had to get this post up. I could go back now and try to correct some of it, but then I suppose other readers wouldn’t know what you were talking about. But if I have prevented you from reading it due to all my errors, sure defeats me purpoise.

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avatar Chelle September 30, 2011 at 6:14 am

Ahhh. Cranky and frustrated last night lends way to apologetic this morning for a tone that was harsh. I’d just finished reading about dogs being poisoned on Del Mar and wondering about robbery/beatings on Abbott. I want the integrity and charm of OB kept intact as much as the next person, but if someone wants to class this place up a little bit….worse things could happen. Now I understand that things need to be done according to all sorts of rules, regulations and guidelines….just saying. Pretty frustrating when I don’t feel safe going for a run in my own neighborhood at 6 a.m. Things are starting to feel pretty sketchy.

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avatar Chelle September 30, 2011 at 6:16 am

hit send too fast. I do thank you for all your work in keeping us informed of the goings-on! Sorry for the snobbish critique.

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avatar Landry Watson, OBPB Dist 1 September 30, 2011 at 10:00 am

Thanks goes out to the Rag for staying on top of this project and also to Steve Lombardi for bringing it to the Planning Board’s attention that substantial changes were indeed being proposed to the project as we had previously seen it (but not necessarily discussed as Seth mentions above).

I’ll be in attendance Saturday to share whatever information we have at that time with anyone who is concerned or interested in the issue.

I have to agree with other posts here as to say that I don’t know if I agree or disagree with the project as it exists today as we simply haven’t been provided anything more than the staff report to date which is limited in information and is apparently being changed by the applicant even as we speak — hopefully to be even more to our total likeing.

Subseqently, if the project is approved by the Coastal Commission as Substantially Conforming to the project already approved (the Lombardi design) it will still be required to be consistent with the San Diego Land Developent Code as well. If the project is inconsistent, it may trigger a discretionary review process and at that time, the OBPB would be asked to discuss it and provide input. That would be a welcome opportunity for people in the community to provide input to the overall design — where they haven’t in the past.

Whatever changes to the “Lombardi Design” that are being suggested must be finalized in reasonable time to be distributed before the meeting next week. By Brown Act, that might be as much as 72 hours, which means we should see something by Monday (one would hope).

At that point, folks can make up their own minds to either travel up to the CCC meeting and discuss the project or wait to see if it is changed to be consistent with the SD code. Ultimately, it will be up to the individual to decide whether or not to be involved in a discussion at the hearing next week and it will be up to the City of SD whether or not the project triggers a discretionary review at the City level.

The Planning Board exists as a vehicle for the community to provide input and also to get access to information about construction projects in the community and is a well proven system. As Seth pointed out above, there are numerous times where the community and the Board have provided advantageous information to builder/developer/neighbors about specific projects, code and areas of the community.

We approve projects all of the time that are consistent with our long range planning documents and the SD Land Development Code. When those projects are not consistent, sure…we bring that to the applicant and community’s attention. I particularly reject the idea that action makes us NIMBYs. I’m sure Mr Ken Loc above would be thankful if it were his neighbor and his BY (back yard).

As always, thanks to my voters who continually allow me to serve through their votes! See you Saturday, hopefully we will have some new information for you!

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avatar OB law(yer) September 30, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Mr. Landry — Thanks for the update which if I might summarize tells me that there are changes to an original project and we don’t know what those actually are? thanks :) (typical politician response).

I’ve read the staff report provided by Mr Eric Stevens from the Coastal Commission and it clearly states that the parking will no longer be underground but will now be above ground but that the livable space doesn’t appear to take into account the zoning that requires the parking to be enclosed and also reduce the livable area by 25%. My math may not be good but it would appear that they’ve missed that rule, which helps to keep the structures in OB of a smaller bulk and scale than most communities.

Isn’t this is in fact the same FAR rule that the OBPB has requested the City Attorney provide an opinion?

If this large project were approved with this FAR variance or deviation in place…wouldn’t that mean that there is a large enough precedent for all of OB to build to a higher FAR than the law allows?

We aren’t talking about opposition to building here (@Kenloc)…we are talking about opposition to completely changing the size of construction in OB overall. I thank the OBPB for staying diligent on this issue, we voted to approve this lower FAR back in 1973 with the original (and still valid) community plan and the City has been after that rule ever since!

If the rules don’t matter….why make them in the first place? So some lawyer (like me) has a job quoting them and arguing about whether or not they are valid later on?

Where is the proposal for the Saratoga project that is within the LAWs we’ve put forward for building size, density and parking????? I argue we still haven’t seen that project although the Mr Lomboardo project was more in compliance than the project described in the Staff Report from the Commission.

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avatar Seth September 30, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Thank you for highlighting the FAR issue. My understanding is that the latest version of the design appears to have put the parking back underground.

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avatar Kenloc September 30, 2011 at 1:15 pm

It seems to me,and perhaps I’m wrong,that OB is generally anti development,anti developer,anti home improvment,etc.(see all of the articles here under gentrification)with the general consensus being”take that nice building you want to another part of town”and “if you want a bigger home you should move out of OB” etc. which is kind of a not in my back yard attitude toward development,isn’t it?Is it not the reason that people now seek variances to codes designed to make development difficult and keep it to a minimum?If people do manage to get something through to build the complaints are nonstop and they are demonized for wanting to stay in OB but not live in a small home.(see articles pertaining to Mr.Stebbins,the most evil human being in OB apparently).
As for being in my backyard,this site isnt directly but its close.I would much prefer either design to what is currently there now.The line in this article about “dramatically changing OBs waterfront”is interesting.That area looks terrible right now.Why wouldnt you want it changed?The old Hodads building has been vacant for how many years?A vacant,rundown building right on the ocean front in San Diego.It’s almost a disgrace but it speaks to how tough it is to get anyting done around here.

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avatar The Bearded Obecian September 30, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Good point. But it seems a good amount of people prefer general dilapidation to improvement. Why that is? Your guess is as good as mine. As for changing the character of OB, who’s to say what is and is not in keeping with that meme. Afterall, like you said, we’re talking about turning a blighted corner into a much-improved site. Isn’t that a good thing?

As we’ve read on this board over the last week or 2 regarding assaults etc, doesn’t that trend of disrepair lend itself to an even worse demographic?

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avatar OB law(yer) September 30, 2011 at 2:07 pm

I won’t defend the planning board, because they aren’t the brightest bunch (just kidding guys – thank you for your continued service to the community), but you demonize them as anti-development as much as you clearly vindicate someone who was allowed to break the rules set by the community. Why do you continue to fail to acknowledge that? You keep acting like those people weren’t breaking the rules.

If the community wants a new maximum size home, it seems to me that there is a public process for getting that approved. That is exactly what the board members are currently fighting for…a public hearing on the FAR issue (if I’m not mistaken mr seth).

If the community supported pro-development at any rate, even to the point of breaking the rules (FAR Variances) I think that they would elect those folks to the Planning Board instead of the folks serving their right now. Go check out Peninsula (sheeesh) and see what happens when development and industry folks take over the community.

And ken….you should stop by one of the 24 meetings per year these folks hold where they are approving projects all the time. The stats on approved versus not-approved would likely be a telling factor. You appear to be misinformed, I encourage you to get more in touch with the facts. They are actually pretty good people even though I crack at them all the time on here just to keep them honest.

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avatar Kenloc September 30, 2011 at 5:52 pm

I don’t see where I stated or insinuated that the people on the OBPB aren’t good people and if that’s the message your getting from reading my posts allow me to apologize.The business I’m in and my current home life situation prohibits me from attending these meetings so I look to the media that covers these things to get my info.That being said,if you read most of the posts on this and other websites regarding these issues you get the indication that any large scale change to anything in OB is unacceptable.I’m not sure if that is the sentiment of the OBPB but it seems to be a consensus among the local activists.That is good to a point,but starts to become problematic for the community when buildings are left rundown or vacant instead of being rebuilt or developed.In this particular case it would seem that people would rather leave that corner the way it is rather than have anything put there at all.I’m sure whatever the ultimate design is it won’t be up to par for most in these parts.

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avatar Citizen Cane September 30, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Currently the parcel is lacking sidewalk on three sides, and Saratoga itself doesn’t have continious sidewalks on either side of the street. So the public does stand to benefit from something being built there. Hopefully we can also get the city to do something about what must be the most pathetic beach parking lot in San Diego. But that’s another story….

As for the poorly named Villas, it’s not exactly what I’d want there, but the rules and lack of compromise prevent what I want from happening. As for the garage/carport issue….I wish people took that more seriously. The city does a lousy job on compliance, and sometimes lets violator off way too easy. Read this short article about a garage conversion in Ocean Beach:

http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/peoplespost/nowthatsfunny/article_71d57dbe-473b-11df-91d8-001cc4c03286.html

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avatar john September 30, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Hmm, that’s an interesting story, lots of ways to look at that though.

One being his assumption it MUST be a living space (and for rental) because it had a laundry room and a bathroom. I think that’s silly, who here has ever seen a studio for rent that had a laundry room? More likely the owner doesn’t want his wife to have to run to their main house to relieve herself if she’s back there doing laundry- or maybe it’s his workshop and he wants to do the same. Those are just guesses, what isn’t is the absurdity of imagining studios being rented out with a laundry room. Such rentals almost always have a common water hookup with the main house. The owner would not want the increased water bill.
So because of this guy’s really off base assumptions the poor owner faced a mountain of hurdles there.

(what he’s got right however is the elimination of any parking spaces on the lot, seems like this was done long ago. I guess he was right for spotting that permit and the owner should have been forced to rebuild it as a living space over a garage or return it into a garage- yet there lies a problem- nothing forces the owner to park his car in there and not instead on the street and do whatever he likes in that garage, right? Legally he can use it for storage just as his permit stated. So what did this guy accomplish for all the bureaucratic **** stirring he created?)

Secondly while I concede this pursuit alone would have many problems with land use /code violations, nonetheless don’t these type of conversions mean the creation of low income housing, something it lacks? Don’t many owners need the income, possibly just to keep their homes in the face of rising property taxes?

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avatar Citizen Cane September 30, 2011 at 5:47 pm

You missed the part about the violation preceding the permit:

“What I finally got the DSD to admit was that the garage had already been illegally converted to living space and had been reported as a code violation. So, the city turned around and issued a permit to make it legal. Uh, “storage,” that is despite the previous use as living space.”

The author probably should have elaborated on the laundry room angle. I assumed the laundry room ruse was to plumb hot and cold water to a wall, and then put in a kitchenette rather than laundry machines.

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avatar john September 30, 2011 at 6:29 pm

No I saw that part, my recognition probably not as well stated with “what he’s got right however is the elimination of any parking spaces on the lot, seems like this was done long ago.” as it could have been.
As for the laundry facilities actually being a kitchenette, well that’s a piece of speculation the article didn’t even engage in, while it is possible I’m just commenting on the facts as they appeared.
If we assumed by such speculation that everyone who applies for a building permit is actually doing sonething alse altogether with it and thus used that to deny their permits, that would be problematic, you’d have to admit.
Besides I’m pretty sure the building inspectors who sign off on the final inspection can tell the difference between a kitchenette and a laundry room. I think the sink and counters would be distinctively different, and they’d catch on if a lot of people were purpose building for a ruse.
Not out of the question though.

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avatar toby scott October 1, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I have started a facebook group to help to promote pertisapation in this matter
please help us to help you in this very important issue http://www.facebook.com/groups/255456547829984/#!/groups/255456547829984/?notif_t=group_r2j

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