Future of the 28 year old post remains very much in limbo, and members fear they may have to close their doors for good.
In November, 2010, the OB Rag covered the saga of the Ocean Beach VFW Post 1392 as they were forced from their home of 27 years on Newport Avenue. Last January, The Rag featured several stories (here, here, here, here, and here) and follow ups on a meeting between post members and a community group that vehemently opposed the potential new location of the VFW post on the corner of Pt. Loma Ave. and Ebers St. Nine months later the post remains in limbo as they have not been able to open the canteen that provides the primary source of revenue and allows the post to operate.
The obstacles in their way are many, and the group has no idea when—or even if—they’ll be able to overcome them, despite the enlistment of an attorney’s services.
The VFW semi-officially moved in to the Pt. Loma Ave. location in January, 2011. But the canteen that supports the post and the thrift store that was operated at the old location have not, for a variety of reasons, been able to re-open.
Per the lease with the building owners, the VFW does not currently pay rent on the building, and are not required to until the liquor license is transferred and the canteen is allowed to open. Instead, the post has an agreement through January of 2012 to pay for the owner’s cost of ownership, which includes maintenance and bringing the building’s plumbing and electrical up to code. A large section of the floor in the building had rotted out, requiring the post to replace the entire floor in one room. Which led to another problem.
Hiring workers is not an issue for the VFW. The members do all of the labor themselves. However, as a part of upgrading the facility and bringing it up to code, they found it necessary to bring the restrooms into ADA compliance. In order to repair the floor and restrooms, they need to get permits from the city. And as it turns out, getting permits has become a bigger challenge than anyone could have imagined.
In order to get a permit for the project, the San Diego Department of Development Services informed the group that they needed to hire an architect to create a set of detailed floor plans to be submitted for consideration for a permit that included all of the pillars, sprinkler system, and emergency exit, along with a structural engineer to sign off on the project. These requirements piled on more problems, since there is only one entrance/exit to the building that formerly housed the Ranchos Natural Foods market and restaurant.
“The city’s requirements basically condemn the property,” said James Castranova, the attorney representing the VFW.
The Department of Development Services, said Castranova, wanted $10,000 for a preliminary review of the floor plan, a sum that there is no conceivable way for the OB VFW post to meet.
An engineer who is a member of the Pacific Beach VFW offered to do the work for $900, but the group has still been left in limbo by the city.
An email request for comment with the City Department of Development Services has not yet been answered.
Last January, when the post leadership sought to hold meetings with local residents about the relocation, they were met with stiff resistance from the neighborhood (as has been well chronicled in the OB Rag). The neighborhood group, led by former San Diego City Councilman Michael Zucchet, solicited the involvement of current councilman Kevin Faulconer. Faulconer agreed at the time to act as a de facto mediator in the matter, and his office hosted several meetings between the two groups.
A product of those meetings was the agreement by the councilman’s office and the neighborhood group to provide assistance in seeking out another suitable location, and to help financially should it become necessary to break the lease that had already been signed on the new property. The VFW agreed that if another suitable location could be found (and they had already conducted their own exhaustive search), then they would move………again. Faulconer and Zucchet’s group enlisted the help of a local real estate agent, who worked closely with the VFW over the course of several months.
That subsequent search found that the 4705 Pt. Loma Ave. location was the only available site that could meet the needs of the VFW. There were no others in Ocean Beach (the post must stay within the 92107 Ocean Beach zip code, otherwise the liquor license they currently hold would become invalid: The license can only be transferred within the 92107 zip code, and even then the transfer must obtain approval by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control).
Adding to the frustration of the VFW post’s leadership was the hard line stance taken by the Zucchet group and seemingly backed by Faulconer. The idea of the meetings between the two groups was to find a way to coexist; to find a way to discuss the issues the neighborhood group had with the VFW and to make the VFW’s presence more palatable. But that never came to be, according to Bob Tomlinson, the post commander, Vic Tulsie, the post quartermaster, and attorney Castranova.
Instead, the tenor of every meeting took the tone of “how do we get you out of our neighborhood.” There was no effort to find a way to work together, according to the VFW, including by Kevin Faulconer. Faulconer, they said, took the side of the neighborhood group straight off and focused all of his efforts on trying to find a way for the VFW to get out of the lease. It was so bad, said Castranova, that at one meeting in particular in the councilman’s office the VFW group walked out after barely five minutes.
It was this attitude that led the VFW representatives to suspect deliberate delaying tactics by the City Department of Development Services at the behest of Faulconer and former councilman Zucchet. Each time a representative of the VFW would appear in the Development Services office, a supervisor would “mysteriously show up,” according to Castranova. Paperwork would constantly be missing, or new requirements would seemingly be thrust upon the VFW. Outrageous fees were piled on.
It is all in an effort to delay the process and run out the clock on the VFW, said Tulsie. “There is more energy by (the neighborhood group) to delay than there is in helping us to find a new location.”
For Faulconer’s part, his office denies that they have taken sides. “We are not picking sides,” said Matt Awbrey, spokesman for Faulconer’s office. “We have always wanted solutions rather than a protracted battle.” The VFW, he said, had expressed an openness to finding a new location, and so that’s where the efforts were focused.
“Our intention was to broker the peace,” said Awbrey. “The issue was the quality of life in the neighborhood. The community must be involved. It is not going to work unless there is dialogue between the two sides.” But according to the VFW, no efforts were ever made to resolve that issue.
“The VFW is a pillar of the community, and we want them to remain in the 92107 area,” said Awbrey.
There are a myriad of other issues that must be worked out, and the VFW members feel that they are being stonewalled at every turn. They have gotten no cooperation from the city, they say, and their status remains very much up in the air. According to the lease agreement with the property owner, they have until January to determine whether they will be able to open the canteen that provides the primary source of revenue that the post depends on just to operate. If they cannot open by January, then it becomes likely that the post may have to close its doors for good.
This story will be updated if/when the City Department of Development Services responds to the OB Rag’s inquiry.