OCEAN BEACH, CA. Anyone who has lived in Ocean Beach for any length of time remembers the old Children’s Energy Center, a sprawling blue single-story building with a large playground in the backyard. Raised off the street level a bit along Ebers, it sits directly across from the OB Child Care Center and OB Elementary playing fields.
It was usually full of kids, for after all, it was a child care center itself, serving kids from 2 to 10 years of age. For years.
Well, the kids were all kicked out three years ago – and it appears all for greed. For ever since, the property and building have remained vacant. The place changed owners and the new owner thought he could make a quick buck or two. So he closed the Center, made some improvements, and put it up for sale. … Well, It never sold.
This is the sad and shameful story of how greed overcame good common sense, turned out the children and closed a center that has functioned as a needed community resource for 26 years, all to end in stupidity.
Back Up for Sale
The former Children’s Energy Center, at 4689 Santa Monica Avenue, is back up for sale – this time for the third time. The property is currently up for sale at $1,275,000 (just re-listed in early March). It was listed for six months ending in late February for $1,395,000, but there were no takers at that price. Before that it was listed from January of ’07 through February ’08, first at $1,890,000 and eventually reduced by the time it went off market to $1,590,000, again with no interested parties.
The property is currently owned by a front company set up specifically to handle issues related to the unit – “Santa Monica Avenue LLC.” The mailing address is 2830 Shelter Island Dr. in San Diego 92106. The county’s current assessed value is just under $1.5M. The last public sale shows as having occurred on 12/16/04 but wasn’t recorded until 1/3/05, possibly for tax reasons. The sale price then was $550,000, and the seller was another shell company, “C N D LLC.”
Thomas M. Funke was the previous owner. And he had it for years. Technically, he bought the place on 10/14/04 for $550,000 from another corporation, “Del Monte Condominiums LLC.” He had to be involved in that company. But a couple months after it went into Funke’s name he recorded a grant deed to C N D (1/3/05), and a few months later it was grant deeded again, to Santa Monica Avenue LLC, who holds title at present.
The actual current human owner is Mark Winkler, the well-known Peninsula realtor. Winkler is the one who threw the kids out and thought he could make a killing. As a realtor he had his hand on the pulse of Point Loma and Ocean Beach, looking for good deals he could flip. Making money, that’s his game. Kicking the kids out for a buck, that’s his shame.
Big Plans for Four Huge Condos
Winkler has plans. The ‘for sale’ sign comes with the plan to tear down the center and build four new 2200sf houses, that supposedly come with permits (advertised as being validated by the Coastal Commission through August of this year) to split the property into four 3500sf lots where the houses would be built. Such huge condos are uncharacteristic for this area of Ocean Beach. But the OB Planning Board apparently approved it a few years ago. People spoke against it when it did come before the Board.
The Day the Center Closed
There was a lot of angst in the community the day the Children’s Energy Center was forced to close. Larry Himmel did a piece on it. Pat James was there with his camera.
Chris Yule, the Center’s former director remembers that day all too well. It was on Cinco de Mayo, she told me, May 5th, 2006. She had been the Center’s director since 1980. 1980 – for 26 years. I spoke to Chris by phone – she still lives in the area.
Chris is fairly embittered against the old owner, Thomas Funke, and Mark Winkler – the new owner, as well. Without her knowledge or any notice by him, Funke sold the place to Winkler. She found out, of course, and even gave Winkler the grand tour, with him praising her for all the good work she was doing. Within months, the place was closed and she was dismissed.
The old owner, Yule said, would not spend any money to fix the place up. It did not close because it was not up to code, she told me emphatically. And Funke had money, she assured me. He had properties in downtown San Diego, in Iowa, in Michigan. Enrollment was falling, she said, because Funke was so stingy. Her last raise was in 1995. When the place closed, Funke left her without a pension, without a severance pay, … he left her with nothing. Sadness was in her voice.
At its peak the Center had 67 children and 9 staff besides her, Yule recounted, her spirits obviously lifting. It was truly a community resource. OB loved the place. OB Elementary referred kids to her all the time. The Center was a proud part of the Ocean Beach neighborhood, they were in the Holiday Parade every year – they did the boogey board drill team.
Her fees were very reasonable. The place was recognized as a great school. She had kids, Chris said, who when they grew up, brought their kids to her. She had all kinds of families that were getting child care assistance, from the GAIN program, from the YMCA. “We had kids from Santee, with parents who used to live in OB, would drive their kids to OB everyday from Santee.” At the time of its closure, the Center had 35 to 40 kids.
When it when before the Planning Board, Chris said, parents and neighbors showed up to oppose Winkler’s plans. “This was the destruction of an institution,” she said.
“Bottom line,” Chris declared at the end of our interview, “the place closed because the owner needed monies for his other real estate purchases.” She thought for a moment. “It was a real shame for it to close down, then be fixed up, and then sit empty for three years,” she said. “We could have been teaching kids for those three years.”
Before the Children’s Energy Center, Funke had bought the property from Margarate Franklin in the late 1970s. Before she sold it, Franklin had it as the Playhouse Nursery School. So, the site has been a long, historical part of the area of Ocean Beach dedicated to the community’s children.
Bottom line – a real estate speculator bought the place, obtained Coastal Comish plans for big condos, and thought he could DOUBLE his investment without really building anything. Greed replaced a sense of community duty and history. Usually greed, as a screed, is well rewarded. Especially during the days – oh, those golden days – of the giant real estate bubble.
But here greed has been replaced by stupidity, and sadness, and shame. And with a community loss.
pimpshackdave assisted me in this article.