As I also attended – along with OB Rag reporter Stephanie Denton – the most recent Ocean Beach Planning Board meeting held on the 4th of December – I wanted to share some of my notes and offer insights into that oft-confusing meeting. (The Board is holding a special meeting tonight, Wed, Dec. 11, solely on the Community Plan.)
Stephanie’s report of the Dec. 4 meeting is an excellent summation of the actions the Board took that night regarding CVS Pharmacy and two local development permits.
But there was some confusion on the Board – and certainly in the audience – when Chair Tom Gawronski modified the agenda by moving the CVS-related agenda item, scheduled for 7:25pm, to the fore of the board’s business for the evening. (If anyone came at that later time they were simply out of luck.)
A number of community leaders rose to speak of progress they feel has been made with respect to CVS accepting what’s called the Community Benefit Package (see Steph’s report). It was clear – and expressly stated – that both the OB Town Council – represented by new president Gretchen Newsom – and the OB Mainstreet Association – represented by CEO Denny Knox – supported CVS’s application for a liquor license, with all the restrictions as outlined in the “Package”.
Obviously the two groups had worked out a unique platform – the “package” – with the corporation. Newsom announced that CVS had accepted everything the Town Council had added to the agreement. Knox said, “It is refreshing to see a corporation fitting into the community” by pledging to work with the community and by bringing in “high paying jobs.”
Jane Gawronski, formerly on the Board, rose to speak in favor of the permit. She had originally opposed the alcohol license but had changed her mind.
We heard from Saude – the owner of the Apple Tree – that he is spending $1.2 to $1.5 million in rehabbing his property on Newport – the old Bank of America – and will be opening a market – he also supported CVS.
A CVS representative confirmed that the store’s hours of operation would be from 7am to 10pm and alcohol would be sold during those hours.
This reporter also believes that it would be a wonderful community benefit if CVS opened up parts of the massive parking lot in front of the building for “free parking” to village residents and visitors.
But that wasn’t the focus of the Board’s discussion – as the issue was the alcohol and its license, and for some it was the process itself. After a number of Board members had stated their intention to vote for the permit, after having originally opposed it, Board member Bill Bushe complained that the process was “corrupt”.
“Everybody has changed their opinion. How did it happen?” he asked the Board. Bushe then opined that a violation of the Brown Act had possibly occurred with emails and the community package issues being shown around. (The Brown Act prohibits public officials discussing or deciding public matters in private.)
He asked, “Were those meetings noticed?” – referring to the meetings between CVS and Town Council and OBMA. It was not clear if and why, but it appeared that no Planning Board member had been immediately involved in the meetings.
Apparently Bushe took this tact as some members of the Board had seen the long list of the Community Benefits Package while others hadn’t. Even though, most of the correspondence and communication had taken place between CVS and Town Council and OBMA leaders, not the Board, some Board members had seen the Package and liked it. Bushed couldn’t get any traction from the Board on his issue, however.
One Board member pointed out that even with the new package, CVS will still sell alcohol, will not provide fresh food and there was no real guarantee that CVS would open up their parking lot.
Another member stated that “major concerns people had last meeting have not been addressed.”
After a long discussion of just what size can and/or bottle of beer would be acceptable for CVS to sell, the Board passed the CVS application by a wide margin, 8 to 2 (and one abstained).
Del Mar Historic House to Be Demolished
Also wanted to note that during the discussion of the demolition of old houses and the construction of new ones on Del Mar Avenue, Kathy Blavatt of the OB Historical Society had made a plea for the Board to consider the historic nature of the buildings being torn down, as one of the homes to be destroyed was written up in “Beach Town” by Ruth Held. Blavatt complained of property owners who intentionally blight their property in order to get around the historic designation in order to construct new houses.
The 2nd house on the property to be demolished wasn’t even originally legally coded or permitted. Blavatt also raised the issue of lack of proper notice by the City about the demolition/ construction action. By law, neighbors within 300 feet of a construction site are mailed notices. “Were the neighbors mailed notices? I don’t think so,” said Kathy.
These issues didn’t sidetrack the unanimous vote the Board took in approving the application. Although this observer feels the vote was not proper, as the motion contained language that made the vote contingent on something else – the City’s noticing process for the application.
Community Plan Update Devolves Into Complaints About Karaoke Bars
By time the Board got to their decision of whether to approve the OB Community Plan Update, what momentum there was was sidetracked by a small group of organized residents of south OB and Point Loma who came to announce their opposition to any karaoke bars or restaurants in their neighborhood. They wanted to change the zoning along Point Loma Avenue in order to prevent that.
For some reason, public comment was allowed on a Plan Update Draft that held been the subject of discussions, hearings, a town hall meeting for months – and the small group jumped at the chance to press their view.
One speaker from the area near Ebers and Point Loma Ave said she was “worried that Point Loma Avenue will be like Newport and allow in bars and other establishments that stay open late hours.” There’s already a “serious parking problem” in the area she added. She wanted language in the new plan that would place restrictions on noise levels.
Another speaker also wanted language that would make the “Point Loma Avenue area unique” with zoning restrictions A third said this was their second “wake-up call” – first was the VFW and now this Kodiak restaurant. She was concerned the new restaurant “would change the peaceful area to a party scene”.
The Board will take these new considerations into their final vote on the community plan – which will be held tonight, 6pm at the OB Rec Center, 4726 Santa Monica Avenue.