As we move south across the map of OB in our continuing series about the different planning districts within the Ocean Beach Planning Area – we come to District 6 – “The Hills of OB“.
Today’s review of this district is part of the OB Rag’s public education service to build support and knowledge of the upcoming OB Planning Board annual election on March 11th.
District 6 of the Ocean Beach Community Planning Area
Stretching from the lowlands of Cable Street going east, District 6 immediately begins to climb up the hill – the hill of Point Loma – which is very steep at times, hence “Niagara Avenue” – and reaches the “peak” of OB at the intersection of Coronado Avenue and Froude Street. This is the highest point in “official” Ocean Beach – the geographical area of the community of OB that is recognized by the City of San Diego.
And yes, other districts have hills, such as District 4 immediately to the north and District 7 to the south.
But District 6 is all hill – except that block between Cable Street and Sunset Cliffs – and even along Cable there is an elevation rise.
On a map, the district is shaped like a large square. From Froude on the east to Cable on the west, it includes the avenues of Niagara, Narragansett, Del Monte, Santa Cruz and Coronado in all the mountains of their 4700 and 4600 blocks – of these wide avenues that go straight up the hill. The district also contains the major street of the community – Sunset Cliffs Blvd – plus the feeder streets that locals use – like Ebers and even Cable -.
(When OB was originally mapped out, no one looked at a topo map, and these broad east-west boulevards were drawn in – as planners thought the main traffic to and from OB would be in this east and west direction. Look at the upper rounded corners and over-hanging street lights -of Newport Avenue. BTW, did you ever wonder where OB got its street names? See this.)
Because District 6 is mainly hills – Views (with a capital “V”) and view corridors are – and always have been – significant issues. Protecting views from the encroachment of neighbors as they exercise their “property rights” in building up, and then deciding on whether to go higher oneself – has for decades created a tension within the area.
Part of that tension is related to the class base of the district. It doesn’t take one long after observing the housing stock of “the Hill” of OB to understand that the folks who live there are – on average – of a higher economic stratum than most of the rest of the community.
They have to be in order to pay for those views. Professionals and retired professionals live here, people with money and connections. This district is the upper echelon in any diagram of OB’s economic classes.
Primarily residential – with many large houses recently rehabbed or built -there is a rich diversity of the housing stock, a few near-century old Craftsmans (very few actually remain), cottages from the Thirties, stuccoes from the Fifties, a few neo-Spanish, a handful of older apartment buildings, 60’s apartment blocks, and remodels and rehabs from the remaining decades.
The district does have some businesses – the spill-over from Newport. And because the district goes to the alley between Newport and Niagara, its businesses include the largest corporate enterprise, Rite-Aid.
There is a substantial density change as you go up the hill starting from Cable – from the congestion of the flatlands to the sparsity of the incline.
Many large apartments were built in that 4800 block of all those streets of the district during the Fifties and Sixties – the days before community plans, planning boards, height limits, floor area ratio requirements or set-back requirements.
So on Niagara, Narragansett, Del Monte, Santa Cruz and Coronado, you will see the remnants of that era – the era of unbridled apartment construction in OB and throughout the coastal zone of San Diego. Also note that there are very, very few apartments east of Sunset Cliffs Blvd.
The traffic, parking, noise and the blocking of coastal access and views – and other problems related to the congestion that resulted from all the apartment construction – fed into the urban planning crisis of San Diego’s beachfronts in the late Sixties and early Seventies.
Part of this crisis was the “walling-off” of coastal access by apartments being built right on the cliffs and right on the beachfronts – and effectively blocking views, view corridors – visual access – and physical access – to a public resource, guaranteed to all.
The planning and over-development crisis helped fuel a grassroots resistance to the rampant and unrestricted construction and led to such things as San Diego’s 30 foot height limit, the California Coastal Commission, and OB’s planning committee itself. The rest is history, as they say.
Sitting alongside the apartments are much newer stylized condo complexes, which is in turn next to an oldie-but-goodie wood house built maybe in the Twenties.
There’s definitely a mix of housing here in this district, and next to the older stock are giant rehabs with expensive landscaping.
You’ll see houses that will make you wonder ‘how the heck did that make it past the planning board?’ because they stand out so much, and look out of character – compared to the remainder of the block.
Of course, this changes as one goes up the hill.
Massive houses, two and three stories have taken the place of older single-family homes demolished in the name of progress – as the streets head up the incline. There’s no more beach shacks here, no sirree.
Here and there are still cottages and small, wood-framed, cozy-looking craftsman-type abodes. And a lot of those single-story Fifties stucco houses. There’s still quite a diversity within the district.
And now, let’s get back to business – the business of the district.
Hugging Sunset Cliffs Boulevard for about two blocks is what has become a rejuvenation of commercial enterprises along that section of the main drag. Compared to what this area was like – say in the Sixties and Seventies – the new business mini-zone has changed that entire slide of the boulevard – for the good.
Several small businesses are here; a car repair shop, a mortuary, a nails store, the market of all small markets – Olive Tree, dry cleaners, a new pet-specialized enclave, professional offices – dentists and realtors, and a very vibrant OB “restaurant row” with Rancho’s, Pepe’s, Newbreak, the Donut shop, and the Thai Bistro all in one long building – on the same site where the old Dennys used to be.
Rancho’s was the first veggie-Mexican restaurant in the city. (Rancho’s predecessor was also a Mexican restaurant but just literally a hole-in-the-wall. That owner sold the place to Rancho’s owner, who with time, was so successful – he went crazy and took over the space next door – which was Paladin Video rental before it moved and died on Newport.)
The intersection at Sunset Cliffs and Narragansett is one of he busiest in the neighborhood – and certainly the district.
All of a sudden, there’s an enclave specializing in pet care and grooming at this intersection – what with the recent arrival of Bone Appetite coming in from Newport into the former dry cleaning place – and next door on the other side to a pet grooming shop.
Across the street, Chris Stavros – the owner of Olive Tree market – has single-highhandedly renewed that entire building where his market is located, and now he and his spouse operate not only the store, but a beer-tasting room and now the new Expresso pizza place. Okay, it was all possible because his family owns the building. But just the same – it’s a new era for that whole side of the block.
That place before Chris took it over was a barebones corner market that hardly anyone used. Once he did take it over, it was successful. Then – we understand – he sold it, but the new owner didn’t have the magic and Chris bought it back. We’re glad he did. It’s a quality market – not cheap – but very reliable with a great sandwiches, a huge stock of wine, and friendly staff.
Just talked to Jackie, an OBcean who had worked at the original Expresso restaurant, and she told me the whole crew is still there, including the main cook – and everyone gets along great.
Across the street, Victory Liquor has been there longer than before I was in high school (I used to stand outside on weekends as an older teenager and ask people to buy me beer. Everybody always gave me the change back, everybody but Spaceman.)
Jean’s thriving barber shop next door used to be on Newport and moved to its present location sometime around the mid-Nineties.
More businesses in the district include these:
OB Planning Board Reps
For the upcoming election on Tuesday March 11, Pete is switching to District 3 – where he lives. Tom’s term runs for another year. This does mean there is an opening for a District 6 rep.
Come – take a walk through District 6 and view some of the wonders and oddities …
This cottage on Sunset Cliffs Blvd was turned into an art gallery.
Some take it upon themselves to landscape and decorate the public right of way next to their property.
And speaking of sidewalks, for a while the Planning Board ensured that when old sidewalks were torn up and replaced the concrete stamp of the original sidewalk company would be preserved, such as this one from Taylor & Spencer, installed March 1922.
Years ago when I was on the Planning Board, we were able to get the City to install a warning light near these intersections. It was better than nothing but we pushed for a signal light.
At times, it does takes civic action to get the City to install cross-walks, street lights, stop signs and signal lights.
The Masonic Center – is a community resource and institution.
A house on its perch overlooking the village along Niagara Avenue – the steepest hill in OB.
Many thanks to Travis on Coronado for taking photos for us: