Ocean Beach Planners Vote to Support Inn at Sunset Cliffs’ Application to Okay Deck

by on May 2, 2013 · 6 comments

in Environment, History, Ocean Beach

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.]

 

 

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar misunderstanding May 2, 2013 at 11:40 am

It seems like Judi’s concluding comments exemplify much of the confusion surrounding this issue:

1. “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.” To clarify, there was no discussion of furture resurfacing/changes to the existing deck. As the agenda posted by the Rag says the permit is for “after-the-fact surfacing of a deck”

2. “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.” It was my understanding that the resolution above ( “move that we recommend approval of the concrete surface behind the seawall at the Inn at Sunset Cliffs”) does speak very clearly to the issue as presented by the city and referenced in the posted agenda (“permit for the after-the-fact surfacing of a deck”- the “deck” is the “concrete surface” menitoned in the motion). In addition I think the resolution attempted to make clear that the case of who should have access to that surface (public or private) and for what use was not an item up for consideration by the board but is an item that should be decided by the city, CCC, etc.

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avatar nostalgic May 2, 2013 at 12:26 pm

The article missed the point – this was not about noise and trash. It was about what was on the plans, which was never discussed by the Board. People like the hotel – it gives discounts to residents; roses in the front yard (in the public right of way) . What the Inn plans to do in the future as a result of this application didn’t come up. I am not sure you have the motion stated correctly as there was so much confusion, but the meeting was being videotaped, so there should be a record somewhere. The message was: the majority of the board is pro-business. The planned project is secondary.

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avatar judi curry May 2, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Misunderstanding – perhaps you misunderstood me. The meeting was about “after the fact” resurfacing of the deck. That was not resolved in the “resolution”; in fact, the resolution was a nebulous method of throwing everything to the wind.

I don’t think that the resolution made anything clear. Will they be given an “after the fact” permission? No one talked about the public or private access. The entire issue was about the permit after they had willing surfaced illegally. Sure, it’s not the new owner’s fault, but he bought the Inn and should have checked into the legalities then – not now.

The discussion SHOULD HAVE BEEN on the resurfacing – that was what was on the agenda. Yes, I know where the “misunderstanding” lies. It lies in your statement.

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avatar Marco Gonzalez May 2, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Having represented a recent homeowner (Douma) seeking to develop an OB residence that requires a couple of variances, I fully understand Tom’s and others’ concerns with protecting the precise plan and stopping new development that’s out of character with the existing character of the community. However, his inclusion of the “since there is no variance associated with this permit” kind of shows a lack of understanding of what the Inn is really doing. Sure, the word variance isn’t used in the permit application, but that’s because THE ENTIRE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT IS A VARIANCE! If the bluff was back to its natural state, the proposal to pave over the lower deck would never even pass the laugh test. No way, no how. And since the Inn’s consultant admitted last night that it was concreted in 1991 (not in the 1960’s as has been misrepresented to the City), the Inn has some really big problems to deal with going forward.

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avatar nostalgic May 2, 2013 at 5:31 pm

The parking complaint is not quite clear in the article. The Inn had 12 approved garages on their last approved permit with 10 regular parking garages and two set aside for handicapped parking. They now list 24, with no information whatsoever about where they came from or where they are. This isn’t about neighborhood parking; it’s about new, non-existent parking on the application – to be permitted with a quick nod and a blink.

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avatar judi curry May 29, 2013 at 10:28 pm

My editordude and I wrote this article together. Just today I received some information that I find very puzzling. I would like to share it with you. Here is a copy of the resolution that I felt the Board Chairman ramrodded through: ““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.”

In looking over the report that went to the City of San Diego Development Services, under “Completed by Community Planning Committee for initial review” – this is what I found: “Project Issues” . . . Motion by Tom, seconded by Barbara: “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. ” AND AT THE TOP OF THIS PARAGRAPH, THE BOARD PRESIDENT, IN HIS OWN HANDWRITING WROTE “WE RECOMMEND APPROVAL.” He did not sign this written statement. On the next page, there is another curiosity that I want to point out – Under “Committee Recommendations (To be completed for Initial Review):, once again, in the Board President’s handwriting – or anyone else for that matter, since it is not signed,k is the statement, “We recommend approval of the concrete surface behind the sea wall – see project issues for complete motion.”

Why am I even concerned about this? First of all I do not believe that this is what was discussed and voted on at the meeting. And since when does a document of this sort include a handwritten message without a signature? As I understood the motion, the parties involved were to get together and come up with a solution for the problem. Is that what the handwritten message says?

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