The Approvals and Denials of the Ocean Beach Project Review Committee

by on February 21, 2012 · 6 comments

in Culture, Economy, Environment, Ocean Beach, Popular

Denials Include Proposed Gentrified 3-Story on West Point Loma

The Ocean Beach Planning Board’s Project Review Committee met on Wednesday, February 15th and opened with an agenda modification to withdraw item #4 as requested by applicant who explained that it was “premature to go in front of the project review committee with the item at this time.” The original item was for “Site development permit and variance for unpermitted development”.  The committee agreed not to discuss it.  Committee Chair Landry Watson took a moment to cryptically appeal to those involved to “try to work this out as good neighbors.”


Coastal Development Permit and Variance to construct 4 single family residences on 0.08 acre sites with a 2,196 sq ft and 4 detached 2-car garages with setback deviations at 4689 Santa Monica Ave in the RM 1-1 Zone within the Ocean Beach Community Plan.

This project proposes a Setback Deviation with a zero setback

The representatives of the project claim that the present building is not historical and not currently being used as a residence. The proposed new residences will, according the applicants, be individually unique from each other and single story. The builder plans on building two at a time. According to the applicants, this project was given approval and permitted in 2005 but the owner at that time could not get financing. The new owner intends on using virtually the same plans as the 2005 plans.

There were no questions from the public so the Committee discussed the issue and approved the project to go to the OBPC


Coastal Development Permit and Map Waiver application to waive the requirements of a Tentative Map to convert two existing residential units to condo on a 0.11 acre site in the RM 1-1 Zone within the Ocean Beach Community Plan.

There were no questions from the public so the Committee discussed the issue and approved the project to go to the OBPC


Coastal Development Permit to add 181 sq ft* to an existing single family residence and detached garage RM 2-4 Zone within the Ocean Beach Community Plan.

Architect Scott Bernet presented this request to permit an addition of square footage involving the home, garage and small shed. There was much discussion about accurate numbers of square feet between Scott and the committee, about 388 square feet in total. Apparently, the owner has already modified the home which added 128 sq feet. The architect said the owner hired him to retroactively make sure changes were done correctly and to acquire permits. The owner also seeks to get 160 sq. ft. permitted for the garage and and 50 sq. ft. feet permitted for the shed.

The garage has (or will have) a shower, toilet and sink and the shed has already been moved further away from the alley to meet with code. Bernet hastened to explain that the bathroom in the garage as used by the owner when working on cars etc.

The committee’s Seth Connolly asked directly if someone will live in the garage. The architect assured the committee that no one would live in the garage. Connolly pursued the matter by asking if someone is NOW living in the garage or has anyone been living in the garage in the recent past. To both, Bernet said “no”. Connolly reminded Bernet and the owner that it was against regulations to have someone live in the garage and that, if they did allow someone to live in the garage, all it would take was for a neighbor to complain.

Next, there was a discussion of struggling with red-tape with the city because the original Ocean Street has fallen into the Ocean but the city’s maps are not updated. The owner has had the correct studies that claim the cliff will be stable for at least 75 years. This study allows the permitting of home construction closer than 40 feet but not closer than 25 ft.


See link 5168 West Point Loma Blvd

Coastal Development Permit, Neighborhoods Development Permit for Environmentally Sensitive Lands and a Variance to Demolish an existing duplex and construct 1,693 square foot, three story, single family residence with reduced dedicated parking area on a 0.05- acre site. The Property is located in RM-2-4 Zone within the Ocean Beach Community Planning Area.

The Vice chairman of the OBPB Review Committee, Landry Watson, recused himself from participating because he “lives so close to the proposed site.” Seth Connolly took over as the meeting chair.

Many visuals were provided in this application. The architect spoke of the different levels and the use of a variety of textures to break up the visual impact of the building.

In order to request and permit a variance ( permission due to special conditions) to existing zoning requires the owner to prove a recognized hardship that is specific to their piece of property (and presumably not applicable to the other properties in the zone). According to Elizabeth Young, representative for the proposed construction, the property presents 3 hardships including:

  1.  A substandard lot
  2. No alley access
  3. Land is in a flood zone (subterranean parking inadvisable)

The owner, John, spoke, saying his family lived in one of the units when he was born and he lived there from 1958 to 1964 before moving to University City. He produced a picture of his Mom and him at the duplex from 1963 with sand and sea in the background. John says he has always wanted to come back to Ocean Beach. He pointed out that no one asked whether the residents wanted a parking lot (dog beach parking lot) behind their duplexes and the city just put them in, which he pointed out “no doubt forever changed the tranquility of the place.” (Later a committee member asked John when the parking lot was built and he admitted he didn’t know but guessed sometime in the 70’s).

Five other members of the public spoke in favor of the project:

Bob Bowen, a current neighbor of John’s said the owner is a good neighbor.

Julie Chan, who lives on Froude street and has been in OB for 10 years,said she spends a lot of time at the beach and finds the current older homes unsightly. She likes the proposed design; the 30 foot tall new building will make it better looking which, she believes is good for tourists. She said she is not concerned with the proposed height as it is better than the tacky homes there now.

Ed Chan (also of Froude St) spoke in favor of the project and pointed out that the project will enhance property values, will create tax revenue for the city and provide construction jobs.

Vince (15 year resident of OB) from the Sea Colony on Voltaire spoke for himself and his girlfriend (4th generation OBcian). Vince says his girlfriend witnessed lots of change here and appreciates the desire for wide open expanses but recognizes the need for cities to grow-that maintaining wide open expanses is not economically possible. Vince and his girlfriend believe that the proposed Douma residence will be a significant improvement to the present situation, will improve our community and will be aesthetically pleasing.

Steve Taylor of Muir Street spoke against the project citing concerns about a reduction in parking spaces and more congestion. He also expressed the opinion that the bulk and scale of the proposed building was “a little much” and expressed concern that soon that side of the street will just be “a giant wall”.

After the presentation, public input and questions from the public (none), the committee discussed the proposal. Seth Connolly recommended denying the proposal in light of their past recommendations on 4 other projects. At this time he addressed the people involved and the public giving us some context.

The Ocean Beach Planning Board acts as an advisory board only and that the city is not obligated to listen to the OBPB’s recommendations. The City has consistently decided to ignore the OBPB’s recommendations on the last 4 projects of this type.

Seth went on to present his opinion that the way the city was approving the variance requests was an abuse of the whole idea of Variances. He pointed out that variances are to be granted for special circumstances only. He pointed out that there are hundreds of units in the zoning area that all possess the same supposed “hardships” that the Duoma property has. He stated that if the city believes that these variances should be granted (which seems to be the case since proposals that were universally denied by the OBPB were granted by the city) then the city needs to rezone the area. “Using variances to work around a zoning issue is incorrect” says Seth, “It places undue strain on the Planning Board’s resources by requiring it to review possibly hundreds of similar requests and it places undue burden on the residence owners by greatly increases the cost of acquiring a permit. Seth suggested that the city’s willingness to encourage requests for variances (rather than trying to rezone the area) could be seen as a tax grab. Seth asked Elizabeth Young how much it cost to apply for a variance and she told him that the deposit alone cost them $5000.

Eventually, the committee voted to deny the Douma request. They said this decision followed the Precise Plan and was also consistent with their past recommendations. Elizabeth Young expressed the feeling that they were “being punished” by the Board. She pointed out that it should not be the owner’s duty to make the city rezone the area. Seth agreed that is should not be incumbent on the owner but pointed out it was the OB Project Review Committee’s duty to make a decision according to the existing community plan.

According to the OBPB bylaws the “Purpose of the Community Planning Group and General Provisions”, Article III states:

In reviewing individual development projects, the Board should focus its review on assuring conformance with the adopted community plan and/or the General Plan**. Preliminary comments on projects may be submitted to the City during the project. (Read OBPB Bylaws here)

*This footage was listed on the agenda and is incorrect.

**The Ocean Beach Community Plan or General Plan is called the Precise Plan – can be read in its entirety by clicking here.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Frank Gormlie February 21, 2012 at 9:20 am

Kudos to Brenda. This has to be the most complete report of an OB Planning Board hearing by a blogger with the OB Rag – and accentuated with photos of the projects! OMG! OB needs to give you a hug and a round of applause. Thank you so much.


avatar Brenda McFarlane February 21, 2012 at 10:30 pm

ah shucks!


avatar Pat February 21, 2012 at 9:42 am

Yes great coverage, thanks Brenda. I haven’t been able to attend meetings lately. So this is good to know. Also thanks for trying to rally folks to get out to OBPB meetings.(feb 15th). And to the OB Rag for getting this out to help make people aware of whats going on.


avatar OB law(yer) February 23, 2012 at 11:52 am

I second both Frank and Pat’s posts… This is indeed the best info article to date…no offense to Danny or Dave who used to cover this ‘beat’ on occasion.

This sums up the battle over the variances….

Elizabeth Young expressed the feeling that they were “being punished” by the Board. She pointed out that it should not be the owner’s duty to make the city rezone the area. Seth agreed that is should not be incumbent on the owner but pointed out it was the OB Project Review Committee’s duty to make a decision according to the existing community plan.

Let me summarize…. “I want to break the rules…(or maybe softer)…I don’t want the rules to apply to me.” “Following the rules is punishing me”.

Board…. “Not our problem, the rules apply until they are changed.”

Way to go OBPB…. You continue to impress me with your stalwart support to the law of the land. Way to go Mr. Seth…. you have my continued support as representative to this fine community.

Will the City of San Diego choose to actually hold a hearing to change this rule? Doubtful… They will continue to grant these variances because they are addicted to development at any cost. They perceive that if they uphold the law they will be perceived as government ‘in the way’ of ‘capitalism’ — a very bad thing for Republican politicians (and maybe Dems as well).

Hey…. isn’t Mr. Faulconer a Republican? Neverthematter.

Funny that the City takes 3 years to get money together to build a simple outhouse at the beach because of their ‘rules’…..yet they are bending over backward to help folks break the rules to build these bigger homes with the square footage bonus. Not sure that is even really consistent or just ironic.


avatar Brenda McFarlane February 24, 2012 at 5:44 am

Hey OB Law(yer)
Great comments, very smart, thanks. Hope somebody reads them.


avatar Cindy February 26, 2012 at 2:53 pm

I appreciate the article written this time by the OB Rag. This is the 1st of all the articles I’ve read regarding proposals of the building of single family homes on West Point Loma Blvd. that actually provides a more detailed description of what took place at the OB Review meeting but provides more information from the home owners perspective as well. The former articles are very one sided and slanted and does not fairly represent both sides. I understand the concerns involved and what is being asked by those seeking to improve their properties. But it’s been mentioned that building theses homes with the variances will cause a reduction in parking spaces and more congestion. This is not correct. These proposed homes are single family homes. The current duplexes are one & two bedroom units which could untimately host up to 4 vehicles depending on whom is living there. The current units have only 2 parking spaces in the front of the units. The proposed homes offer the same parking spaces, 2, but now you have a family living in the home. The Stebbins place one person lives there, Cox maybe only 2, and for the Douma’s it will only be 2. The variance requests a carport instead of a garage, which counts as living space. A true statistic, 53% of Americans use the garage for what it’s really for, parking your car in it. The other 47% use it for storage or a game room, etc. With a car port you can’t use it as storage you’d get ripped off. You have to use it for parking your vehicle. My question is this, is the concern really the variance for the car port or is it about the 30 foot height of the building? If the plans were to be changed to include a garage, I can guarantee you the foot print of the home would still be the same. It would still be built using the same space and it would still be 30 feet high as this is allowed unter the Precise Plan.


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