In a contentious meeting last night, May 1, the OB Planning Board voted 6 to 3 with 1 abstention to support the application by the Inn at Sunset Cliffs to permit a deck that was covered over with asphalt two decades ago. Some Board members and many in the packed room were in opposition to the permit and said the vote would legitimize ten years of illegal practices by the Inn.
Here is the language of the motion:
“I move that we recommend approval of the concrete surface behind the seawall at the Inn at Sunset Cliffs. Since there is no variance associated with this permit, the use of this area, referred to as a deck in the application, should be resolved by the parties concerned. Parties including, but not limited to, the owner, the city of San Diego, the California Coastal Commission, and other interested citizens.”
The motion was made by Tom Gawronski, the Chair – who also represents District 6, and seconded by Barbara Schmidtknecht of District 2 and who is also the treasurer, after a discussion where it was obvious there was neither unanimity on the Board or in the audience on the issue.
Some of the Board members were definitely split on the issue, but several noted that the if the deck was ordered to be removed, its removal could hurt the sea wall at that location, a sea wall built in the early 1950’s.
The discussion about the deck was preceded by presentations from both sides of the issue. A consultant and lawyer both spoke on behalf of the owner of the Inn, a Mr. Chou, who also rose to try to convince the Board that he haplessly inherited the un-permited deck when he purchased the 24-unit hotel a few years ago. The Inn is perched on a sensitive bluff overlooking the Pacific.
Several in the audience also defended the Inn, including another owner, an employee, and a lawyer who assisted Mr Chou in the purchase.
Opposition to the applicant’s request for a permit came from two areas: local residents and neighbors of the Inn and representatives of the environmental group suing the Inn for harming the bluff.
Neighbors complained that when the Inn holds weddings on its premises there is no parking on local streets. They also cited increased noise, litter, traffic problems, pollution associated with the large gatherings at the Inn.
Board members were sympathetic to concerns about parking, but in the end, felt that the only issue before them last night was the issue of the deck.
Judi Curry, who had helped organize some of her neighbors to the meeting, was let down by the Board. Judi – a columnist for the OB Rag – made this statement:
I was very disappointed in the board’s decision last night.
In the first place, they did not vote on the agenda item as it was presented to the public. The Chair wrote his own resolution and only three people were able to stand up to his ramrodding it through.
The cement resurfacing issue was not resolved; years have passed where the community and the owner of the adjoining property have not reached any agreement. They will not be able to do so now. It is interesting to note that those people that spoke in favor of the resurfacing all benefit, monetarily, from the Inn being where it is. It was as if there was a fear that the Inn would close if the resurfacing did not take place. That was never the case.
For a city that is so environmental aware, it is a crime that the board members could not see through the hyperbole of the people in favor of the resurfacing. It would not surprise me if this issue comes up again, shortly, to the planning board.
Appointment to Board
In other news from the Planning Board, it appointed Andrew Waltz as a representative of District 1. He had qualified his candidacy with a petition with over 50 signatures, sufficient for the 35 signature requirement from people in the district.
[I will be making updates to this article over the course of the morning, but I did want to get the results of the vote up asap.]