9 Months Later and Ocean Beach VFW Post Still Not Settled

by on October 12, 2011 · 20 comments

in Ocean Beach, Veterans

 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.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Shane Finneran October 13, 2011 at 9:20 am

Thanks for this update.

The NIMBYism on this still boggles my mind. I can’t believe that some members of the community object to a gathering place for veterans, and would prefer an empty storefront. Weak.

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avatar danny morales October 13, 2011 at 10:50 am

Shane, Me Lad- The “business” decision that’s forcing the VFW out of Ocean Beach prefers an empty storefront on Pt. Loma Ave. to the presence of a community service organization within the Newport Ave. business district. And although the intellectual arguments of the NIMBY (read foot soldiers) appear weak they are backed up by a 1% that has its hands on the levers of state power up to and including the police, the courts and the legislatures. 8>p

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avatar Goatskull October 13, 2011 at 9:54 am

They keep claiming it’s not the veterans they are against but the sale of alcohol and the fact that it’s close to churches and schools (Heaven forbid). Maybe that’s true but so what? You would think this was the Bible belt. I myself live within walking distance of quite a few bars and actually find it quite nice. I’ve read every reasoning and excuse they expressed in all the articles written about this in the Rag. Yappity yappity blah blah blah. Bottom line? They suck.

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avatar dave rice October 13, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Living within walking distance of stuff to do (including places to imbibe) was the #2 factor in my decision to move to OB in the first place, second only to the fact I feel better about the schools for my daughter here than alternative locales like North Park…

On topic, it’s disheartening to see that there’s still no resolution to this situation after almost a year.

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avatar danny morales October 13, 2011 at 10:20 am

This just breaks my heart. This process of gentrification is so impersonal and unfeeling that it makes me question the humanity of its advocates. I guess class conflict does take on many of the characteristics of warfare. And if it becomes class warfare then remember who the enemy (1%) is. What is its strategy, what is it’s tactics and most importantly its order of battle.

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avatar Goatskull October 13, 2011 at 10:38 am

I remember in one of the past articles, amongst the people against the post was a retired military officer who didn’t want a bar nearby his place of residence because of “values”. What a putz. Anyway, hopefully this will all work out. Fingers crossed.

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avatar Andy Cohen October 13, 2011 at 11:23 am

My apologies to Vic Tulsie, Bob Tomlinson, and James Castranova of the OB VFW. This story has been in the works for a couple of months now, and it took me a lot longer than it should have to get it together……..and it’s mostly my own fault. There are other angles to this story that I had originally intended to cover, but was unable to do so. Perhaps in another follow up…….

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avatar Sunshine October 13, 2011 at 4:27 pm

what about the former location of Portugalia? or the World Oil lot that now includes the former Dover Plumbing building? are either of these suitable for the VFW’s purposes? Oh yeah, how about The Joint that can’t open due to some permitting issues? how about that space? gesus, kids, with all the empty businesses in town, someone should have a fiber of decency and allow the veterans to gather and share in their common good.

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avatar Goatskull October 13, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Especially of they’re places that served alcohol before. Hopefully/maybe that will happen. Still, I can’t stand the NIMBYism of the people who live in and around the sort of current location. It’s a dilapidated building for crying out loud and this would alleviate that and turn it into something good.

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avatar Danny Morales October 13, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Never underestimate the suckage of the American people to support the 1% that is killing off our communities, our cities and our country in service to finance capital and the corporate bottom line.

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avatar Kenloc October 13, 2011 at 5:41 pm

I was going to suggest the Portugalia site as well.would be a good spot

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avatar dave rice October 13, 2011 at 9:11 pm

The owner of the Portugalia lease wants $200,000 for the spot, and the building landlord wants $6,000 a month on top of that. Original list price 4+ months ago was $300,000, but even 200 G’s seems kind of steep…and that’s not a knock on Jason, the old owner – he’s an awesome guy and his restaurant was by far my family’s favorite in town and we went there as often as we could afford (rarely).

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avatar Andy Cohen October 13, 2011 at 7:15 pm

The major issue is cost. This is not your typical business. They are a not-for-profit organization, and whatever they make goes to pay rent and for community service projects. They can’t afford most of the places you’re talking about.

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avatar Sunshine October 13, 2011 at 4:28 pm

oh hell, just Occupy

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avatar Phil Lawrence October 13, 2011 at 5:02 pm

The crux of the dispute seems to be whether the canteen is bar or simply a gathering place for veterans. In an attempt to get an objective view of what exactly the canteen is, I looked VFW Canteen Post 1392 up on Yelp. The reviews are all a couple of years old, so presumably they were not written by anyone taking a side in this dispute. There are 3 reviews, which I cut and pasted below. Read the reviews and judge for yourself .

Review 1 (5 stars):
Me: “Can I get a double rum and coke?”
Bar Hag: “uh, if I do that there wont be any coke in your cup.”
Me: “okay!”
Bar hag: “that’ll be $3 please.”

Review 2 (5 stars):
OK, so I have been living in and around Ocean Beach for the majority of my 25 years. I never, ever knew this place existed.

Saturday around noonish my buddies and I caught a taxi down to the OB Street Fair. We were told to enter through the alley across from Apple Tree market.

We approached this hidden paradise warily. The place was jam packed with people of all ages, veterans and civilians alike. Our ID’s were checked several times by several women before we were allowed to belly up to the bar.

Our one amiga had been there most of the morning and she boozily introduced us to her bar stool buddies as well as the bartender. He was friendly and doing a great job manning the bar solo with the huge crowd of folks inside. Although the place was boiling hot, the music was rocking and the drinks were incredibly cheap.

We ordered two mix drinks, two beers and a shot of patron. Our grand total was $10.00. So we repeated this about 10 times.

Needless to say, we got smashed at the VFW. They have a pool table inside and lots of friendly, interesting folk to chit-chat with.

On this particular day, they had picnic tables and grub in the back alley-way but I am pretty sure this was only for the Street Fair day.

Review 3 (5 stars):

GREAT people, $2 bottles of beer, free pool and two blocks from the beach. I love America!!

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avatar Andy Cohen October 13, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Bogus.

1) If you are a non-member, you cannot drink there unless you are there with a member who acts as your host. When your host leaves, you must leave. At the old location on Newport Ave., there was a lot of foot traffic, where friends would pass by, see a buddy, and the buddy would invite them in for a drink. Since the new location is off the beaten path, that’s unlikely to happen as often.

2) The post opened their doors for the OB Street Fair–once a year. That one day per year, the general public was welcome. Since they are no longer on Newport Ave., they will not be open to the public. Ever. Many of the reviews on that Yelp site were there for that one day.

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avatar dave rice October 13, 2011 at 9:17 pm

I was personally in contact with the writer of the detailed review 8 months ago, and she expressed to me her regret that the things she wrote in what was intended in a positive, upbeat manner was being used as a means to slander the VFW.

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avatar Patty Jones October 13, 2011 at 7:41 pm

“OK, so I have been living in and around Ocean Beach for the majority of my 25 years. I never, ever knew this place existed. ”

That statement would leave me to believe that they had been pretty good neighbors in the past.

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avatar mr.rick October 13, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Perhaps this is the kind of issue the 99%(all of us OWS ers) should get behind. Take a stand for our “Brothers in Uniform”. We are gonna have to do something with our new found unity. No point in sitting around wasting our momentum. I know it isn’t something that will change the world, but it’s a start. If we can “Occupy Pt. Loma Ave. and Ebers St.” for the guys who are probably getting screwed the worst, maybe we can parley a small action into another small action. Save the Uninted States Postal Service any one? I realize I’m 2500 miles from that corner, so talk is cheap, but if I can come up with an idea that is feasable from here,maybe we can cook something up. This all boils down to the whole issue were are fighting. These guy’s all took the chance of getting their ass shot off, ostencibly, for the people of that neighborhood. Not to mention the tax cuts howled for by many people.

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avatar Shelly Schwartlander October 13, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Save the Post Office yes, you aren’t far off. It’s sad that at least one very big federal agency doesn’t let it’s offices use the Postal Service for its priority type mail, confidential mail etc. and uses Federal Express instead. I wonder how much help VFW’s get from federal agencies, even from the VA itself? OB’s VFW served some who are perhaps only served by the VFW and what happens to them? What happens to citizens who aren’t on-line but can afford a stamp and rely on mail? The quietest and most humble services are the first to go it seems and makes me sad.

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