There is a reason that Ocean Beach has stayed as OB and did not suffer the fate of, say, its neighbor to the north – Mission Beach.
Have you been up to Mission Beach lately? Walked or biked on the Boardwalk? Surfed the MB curls?
Did you realize there’s no community left there? It’s all time-shares, vacation rentals, and empty buildings.
But most importantly for us, it’s practically wall-to-wall 3 story expensive giants facing the ocean for – literally – miles – all along the famous Boardwalk.
And the reason OB didn’t go that way is because of urban planning tools and the unique planning document known as the OB Community Plan. The OB plan has been the blueprint for construction and development in OB since the mid-1970s when it was finalized.
Ever since then, the OB Planning Board has operated with volunteers to follow that OB Plan.
One of the major tools the Planning Board has used to limit bulky over-development here in the Land of OB has been the FAR – the Floor-Area-Ratio. In the coastal sections of OB, the FAR is 0.70. In contrast Mission Beach has a much higher FAR which allows developers to construct mammoth buildings that crowd out the beach.
Here’s what the OB Rag published a while ago as a “community planning 101” lesson:
In terms of density, most of OB is roughly 8 to 10 units per acre. One way density is controlled is through a calculation determined by the size of the lot and the size of the building being planned. It’s called the FAR – the Floor Area Ratio. This is a ratio between the size of the building over the size of the lot.
So, think this through. If you have an FAR of 1.0 – that means you could build out to every inch of your lot, right (not counting setback requirements yet)? If allowed, you could do this several ways. You could build out to the property line with one story. Or you could build two stories, each with 50% of the lot, or 3 stories, each with one-third, and so on.
Of course, there are all kinds of set-back requirements, side yards, parking issues – which prevent you from building out to your property line, but we aren’t dealing with them right now.
Now, if you have an FAR that is less than 1.0, then you have restrictions of how far out or how high you could build.
And if you have an FAR that is higher than 1.0, you could build more than your lot size – you can build up. (These are maximums we’re dealing with.)
The FAR in Ocean Beach is 0.7. So is a lot of Point Loma. In comparison, much of the rest of San Diego is 1.2. So, in general, we find that building in Ocean Beach – at the coast – is more restrictive than in the rest of the city. Makes sense.
So, take your typical OB lot, a residential plot. It’s got a 25 foot length across the front and is 100 feet deep. Okay, so the square footage for the lot is 2500 square feet. If the FAR for that lot is .7, then the maximum ratio of the building being planned to the land is .7, or 70%. And seventy percent of the 2500 sq. ft. lot is 1,750 square feet. That is the total size of the building that can be built on that type and size of lot in OB.
So, since this is your typical OB lot – in a certain and dramatic way it’s also the standard lot. Keep this in mind for later.
Now, we already said that the area zoned RM2-4 is your area west of Sunset Cliffs Blvd – with Sunset Cliffs being an obvious north-south dividing line in the community.
Now, here’s an anomaly: according to the City’s development code, a minimum lot in the RM2-4 zone is 6,000 square feet. Well, think about it – this is OB. There are no single lots in OB of that size, no single lots here in OB with 6,000 sq. ft. Well, you might say, okay, Ocean Beach is the exception in that zone.
Yet according to research done by a Planning Board member, outside OB, there’s only about a dozen parcels in the entire city that are zoned RM2-4. Or in other words, 99% of the parcels that are zoned RM2-4 are in OB. Except for some exceptions. This means, ‘no, OB is not the exception in this zone, it’s the rule, it’s the standard.’ The Code is wrong.
What About Parking?
One of the other requirements and restrictions to building is the parking element. Under the requirements of the RM2-4 zone in the OB Precise Plan, the building must include enclosed parking. So, that 1,750 square foot area must include an enclosed parking space, which usually makes up 25%.
What does all this mean for OB today – June 2014?
You may have heard that the San Diego Planning Commission dissed the new Update to the OB Community Plan.
Download and print out the Petition, and circulate it among your neighbors and friends. And return it to the Planning Board or drop it off at Dog Beach Dog Wash.