Ocean Beach Community Plan Update: “Fundamentally a New Document”

by on June 6, 2013 · 1 comment

in Culture, Environment, History, Ocean Beach, San Diego

Maxx Stalheim 02 OBPB 6-4-13

City senior planner Maxx Stalheim presenting the plan update to the planning board. (All photos by Frank Gormlie)

City planning staff last night presented the Ocean Beach Planning Board with copies of the brand new Draft Ocean Beach Community Plan Update.  Maxx Stalheim, senior planner, handed out the update to members of the Board only, saying that the public will have access to it by July 20th and possibly earlier.

Stalheim, leading off with a quote from the Grateful Dead “what a strange trip this has been”, briefly described the 11 year process that the City has been engaged in in rewriting the OB Precise Plan.  Workshops were held in the community in 2002, and member of OB’s planning experts have been involved all that time – particularly Mindy Pellesier – a past president of the Planning Board and long-time member, and George Murphy, another long-time member.

“Tonight is a milestone in the process,”  Stalheim said.   In describing the end product, Stalheim, declared that the updated plan was “fundamentally a new document”, as it has been entirely rewritten by different city departments.  For instance, the recreational element was revised by the City Park and Rec Department.  The mobility element was written and revised by the Traffic Division.

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The OB Planning Board, June 5, 2013.

A major theme, Stalheim said, from community input and the workshops was to enhance and maintain current development patterns in OB.  He described some of the highlights of the Draft plan:

  • There is a new facilities financing section to help guide planners in determining public facility funding;
  • OB has been “park-deficient” over the years, and earlier the City determined that the neighborhood was 40 acres deficient in terms of size and population.  The new draft includes the use of “equivalencies” – like cliff trails and “comfort stations” (read restrooms) that reduce the deficiency, and now it’s down to only 18 acres.
  • Another highlight is within the urban design element, that addresses the City issuing questionable variances to home builders along West Pt Loma Blvd. The new plan has tools to evaluate development projects to determine if a project is in compliance with the Precise Plan.
  • The update ensures that new development will not destroy view corridors, particularly along the public right-of-way along streets.
  • It also shores up the OB Historic Cottage enhancements.
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Audience members during planning meeting.

Stalheim said that there are no new land use designations and no new zoning. There are minor changes he said within the Voltaire and Point Loma Ave commercial districts, and there are a few pockets – like in south OB – that need to have some zoning changes to ensure consistency throughout the project area.

Schedule for Approval of Plan Update Draft

Maxx Stalheim, the senior planner, outlined the following schedule to follow the draft plan all the way to City Council approval and Coastal Commission authorization:

June 20 – San Diego Planning Commission workshop;

July 3 – Draft returns to OB Planning Board for questions and okay to release it to the public;

July 12 – Draft update will be online and available in library for public review;

Sept 26 – Meeting with Historic Review Board

Oct 17 – Back to the Planning Commission for final approval by them

Oct 30 – Goes to the City Council Land Use Committee

Nov 19 – City Council approval

Feb- March 2014 – Certification by Coastal Commission

Online Accessibility

It was also stated that the new draft plan update will be available and accessible to the public as early as June 14 via the city planning department, and that it will attached for review to the update committee’s report to the Planning Commission on June 20th.  It was also announced that the OB Town Council will also have it available on their website some time in the near future. It was also mentioned that perhaps the Planning Board will put it up on their website as well.

OB Planners Review Set for July 3

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Mindy Pellesier

So, the OB planners will study and review the document over the next month and return with questions, comments, concerns and issues on July 3rd at their monthly meeting next month.  City planners are not looking for approval at that time as the update plan will not have been made officially available to the public by then.

One board member did say that he didn’t see the specific language regarding paid parking that the Board  had considered in the new draft.

After Stalheim had made his pitch and sat down, the entire room broke into applause for Mindy for all her time and dedication over this past decade and more working on the plan update.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

avatar Geoff Page June 9, 2013 at 10:30 am

I am really happy Maxx Stalheim is retiring, we all should be.

Let’s look at the “highlights” Stalheim described. The first one was :

“There is a new facilities financing section to help guide planners in determining public facility funding”

Huh? This just sounds like training material for new city planners, why would this be at all unique to any one community? Isn’t it the job of planners to know these things anyway?

“OB has been “park-deficient” over the years, and earlier the City determined that the neighborhood was 40 acres deficient in terms of size and population. The new draft includes the use of “equivalencies” – like cliff trails and “comfort stations” (read restrooms) that reduce the deficiency, and now it’s down to only 18 acres.”

Huh? So Stalheim is saying the City has solved 22 acres of park deficiency in OB with semantics?

“Another highlight is within the urban design element, that addresses the City issuing questionable variances to home builders along West Pt Loma Blvd. The new plan has tools to evaluate development projects to determine if a project is in compliance with the Precise Plan.”

Huh? “The new plan has tools to evaluate development projects to determine if a project is in compliance with the Precise Plan?” This one isn’t funny. The community plans don’t need “tools” to see if a project is in conformance. Those tools are community planning board members who know this stuff and care about it. What is needed is a way to stop the City from allowing variances to the Municipal Code when a community objects to those variances. And the only way that will ever occur is if the community plans become part of the Municipal Code. Today, there are no teeth in these plans and they can be, and are, ignored regularly and with impunity.

Here is another quote from Stalheim from the SDNews:

“The controversial trend among property owners on West Point Loma Boulevard to replace one-story duplexes with three-story homes could become a thing of the past. Language in the introduction will state that variances allowing homes with larger square footages than permitted by zoning is not compatible with the plan.”

Vintage Stalheim. “…could become a thing of the past?” Notice the hedging? “Language in the plan will state that variances allowing homes with larger square footage than permitted by zoning is not compatible with the plan!!!” I don’t even know where to begin with that one. Homes with larger square footage than allowed by the zoning are illegal anyway Maxx, but perhaps you aren’t familiar with the Municipal Code. Of course violations of the Municipal Code are not compatible with the plan Maxx, or didn’t you know that either? But in all seriousness folks, do not believe the community plan will stop the City from granting variance requests because the City is not bound by the OB Plan or any other.

And this highlight:

“The update ensures that new development will not destroy view corridors, particularly along the public right-of-way along streets.”

Huh? I am straining to control my tongue here. First, view corridors along the public right-of-way have always been protected; these are the ONLY view corridors that are protected. There is absolutely no provision in the San Diego Municipal Code that protects view corridors across private property. And, language in a community plan, which is not part of the Municipal Code, is only a plea for owners to respect other property owners. Some do but those who don’t want to, don’t have to, and don’t.

I have no idea what Stalheim’s last “highlight” meant.

To conclude, do not be fooled by the way this plan was presented by the City. There is only one way these plans will ever be effective and that is to make them a part of the Municipal Code which would force the Development Services Department to use them in their reviews. They don’t do that now.

But, to end with the good news again, Maxx Stalheim is retiring

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