OB Planning Board Approves ‘Concept’ of World Oil Sunset Plaza Building

by on July 21, 2009 · 28 comments

in Environment, Ocean Beach

Future of Sunset Cliffs and Voltaire: Concept of World Oil's proposed Sunset Plaza approved by OB Planning Board. This is a computer-generated image.

Editor: World Oil’s Sunset Plaza is coming back to the OB Planning Board on August 5, 2009. We thought it would be worthwhile to re-post this article, originally posted December 3, 2008There have been a few design changes, as OB Planning Board Chair Brittany Taylor explained to me: a one foot set-back on both sides of the front, so the building is slightly back from the corner. Because of the changes, the Board has to review it again.  Go here to the Planning Board’s current website for more info (there is an entire controversy just in its website – does anyone know the details?).

Will OB Be Left With an Ugly and Vacant Office Building?

OCEAN BEACH, CA.  Tonight (12/03/08), in a 9 to 4 vote, the Ocean Beach Planning Board approved the “concept” of World Oil’s Sunset Plaza, a two-story 6600 square foot building for the corner of Sunset Cliffs Blvd. and Voltaire Street. Designed to provide medical and dental offices at the controversial corner, the building would include exterior walls of glass and stucco that force the structure to stand out architecturally, raising issues of bulk, scale and over-all conforming to community standards. The building’s parking lot would be in the rear and sides of the structure, with vehicle access only from Voltaire and the alley.

Ocean Beach Planning Board, December 3 2008

Three motions to approve the building with various conditions had failed earlier. The very first motion to approve the project as presented was defeated by a 5 to 8 vote.  The debate amongst the Planning Board members, in front of a sparse crowd that included only nine OB residents, was generally three-sided.

On one side were those who were dead set against it, as it was an affront to the community in appearance, bulk and scale, especially for that corner – which many consider an important entry-way intersection for the community with special significance. It looked as if 4 Board members were in this group.  There was another side that was ready to approve it as is, which included members who expressed reservations about the Board requiring any architectural controls at all.  It also included some who felt that World Oil had made compromises enough. This group had 5 votes.

Finally, there was the middle group, that believed, well, at least it wasn’t a gas station, and that with some changes to the design, such as rounding the sharp edges portrayed in the drawings, they would be able to support the project. There was discussion that the project was even a “community victory” because the developer had bent to the community’s wishes to not have a gas station at the corner.  The final vote to approve the project’s concept, which is a recommendation to the City of San Diego, was a compromise that allowed the Board to make a decision and move on, and allow the developer to move on the project itself.  A majority of the Board seems to think that some version of the building will be built.

Once the decision had been made, most in the audience left the meeting. One person was heard to call the building “butt ugly,” with several others agreeing. It is unclear exactly what mandate the Board set, and it is unclear as to just exactly what design changes the developer has to now make to satisfy the Board.

Development of this particular corner has been a hot issue in Ocean Beach since the late 1990s, when World Oil, the property’s owner, first proposed building another gas station at the corner. The corporation, linked to Exxon, has failed three times to get the community and City’s approval for such a station, the last attempt being in 2003. (See earlier post from Dec. 2.) The Sunset Plaza is their latest effort to move on the lot, which has being vacant for years, except for a three year period when Ocean Beach Grassroots Organization developed and maintained a garden at the corner.

Due to the controversial nature of World Oil and the history of their proposed projects, the issue of developing the lot was assumed to be a subject of interest for the community. Yet with the small turn-out tonight, that interest appears to have fallen like the Stock Market.  However, a couple of factors are also in play.  Unlike earlier times, there is no current activist group in Ocean Beach these days that is able to get the word out to the community on issues like this.

In addition, there appears to be some effort on the part of the Planning Board to downplay the controversy.  For one, the agenda for tonight’s meeting was not posted on the Planning Board’s website until Tuesday, Dec. 2nd, the day before the hearing. And for another, despite that the controversial Sunset Plaza agenda item was publicly listed for 7 pm, the Board at the beginning of its meeting, changed the order of the agenda, and took on the issue long before the appointed time.  A few community members who arrived for the 7 pm agenda time found themselves half way through the Board’s discussion with community input over. This procedural impropriety flawed the otherwise well-run meeting, chaired by Lantry Watson.

World Oil will move on its building.  The theme tonight at the meeting was ‘It’s not OB but at least it’s not a gas station.’ Hopefully, with this economy whoever is building it, will find the capital to build something. And the community will be left with a compromise. Yet, with half a dozen Newport Avenue storefronts vacant, and with a couple vacant on Voltaire itself, hopefully the community won’t be left with an “butt ugly” and empty office building at one of its most visible corners.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

OB Joe December 4, 2008 at 9:31 am

(Groan) That would be the ugliest building in OB. Thanks World Oil, you couldn’t get your gas station, but you’ll leave our community with an ugly spot.
And by the way, the City Planning Dept was also against World Oil’s plans for a gas station, so it’s not like there was a ‘compromise’ at all. If they couldn’t build a gas station, they had to come up with something, so one could say that whatever they came up would be a ‘compromise’. But it’s not a compromise at all. The genuine compromise would come if the current design is seriously modified. This is not a ‘victory’ yet for the community.


Abby December 4, 2008 at 10:03 am

This must not be allowed to happen. It’s so ugly! I don’t mind them building something, but it needs to be something more organic looking than that.


jon December 4, 2008 at 11:10 am

Frank, I agree that this issue was downplayed as I was not aware of it until yesterday and had no opportunity to view the concept other than looking at the blueprints yesterday on this site. Had I known what a hideous building this was going to be I most definitely would have made my voice known during the board’s meeting.

Let me start by saying, “at least it’s not a gas station.”

That said, I am extremely skeptical about the tenancy of this proposed building. The representative for the developer was vague in her description of “medical offices” and a “deli.” What type of medical offices? Another dentist? OB has plenty of local dentists with offices that fit the community’s charm. Perhaps a medical supply office? Why would we need that? A plastic surgeon? (I can see the OB christmas parade float for that now!) Also, what type of deli? Another subway? Or perhaps an Organic To Go? That’s a major corporation disguising itself as a local business. My fear is that they already have corporate clients lined up to settle into this building and local merchants will not be given a chance to rent space in this lucrative site. (not that any locals would want to move into such an eyesore).

Obviously the developers are ignorant of the fact that Ocean Beach residents are very capable of rejecting such businesses. Take a look at Boll Weevil on Bacon street. They didn’t last 6 months. Starbucks has managed to last, but they had to paint their windows black after repeated attacks and broken windows when they first opened. Although I would never condone such acts of vandalism, the harsh reality is they do happen. If the developers had any sense other than making a profit and using cheap building materials, they would study our community and come up with a better design that speaks to the residents and visitors alike. Visitors come here for our charm and old school laid back attitude. Not because they want to eat at some cookie-cutter corner deli sitting underneath a lasik eye center that you could find on any street corner in Temecula.

I do not fault any of the planning board members for approving the proposal. I think they fought hard to make sure there was not another gas station put in this space and I applaud them for that. So I guess that’s where my 2 cents ends…”at least it’s not a gas station.”


Frank Gormlie December 4, 2008 at 11:30 am

Thanks all for your comments and interest.
Jon, just to correct a misconception, the Boll Weevil had earlier been at that same location for years during the 1970s, serving their greasy burgers successfully. But nothing has lasted there since the Boll moved. The rest of your comments are right on.


jon December 4, 2008 at 11:40 am

Thanks for the correction Frank. I probably would have been a fetus when they had the first rendition of Boll Weevil in there. ;)

Although I think the point remains that the second coming of Boll Weevil did not last. We could probably start a whole new topic about what should be done with THAT area!

Thanks again to all of you.


Deb December 4, 2008 at 7:14 pm

Sorry to have missed this meeting. Too bad it was not posted with advance notice. Why do all the important issue come around the holidays and with such short notice? Is this just coincidental?

Anyhow, I debated on whether or not to comment on World Oil’s proposed project. I cetainly don’t enjoy looking at a empty fenced in ugly looking lot and a vacant office building. So….I guess?? development at this site in an improvement. The question becomes does it do anything for OB? Is it a “green” building? Does it add beauty to our entryway? Is it beneficial to have medical and dental offices right there? Is there a better use for this site? What I can comment on is that OB is lacking some pride. Our entryway that was to add or enhance beautification to OB is looking shabby. The weeds are growing like crazy and the poor palm trees by the skating rink are now surrounding by concrete pylons. Next, there is an empty lot on West Point Loma and Sunset Cliffs which was suppose to be turned into a garden and all it’s used for is parking cars. Looking back, the $500,00dto buy the lot should have been used elsewhere in OB ( maybe to expand our library) and left the pizza place! Next you approach 2nd hand sports and an oil lube business which both look delapitated. Move on to the flower shop that’s open once in awhile and whose awnings are faded and torn. Sorry for being so critical but I was just trying to explain why things are looking shabby to me.

What is going on with property and business owners? Don’t they want to beautify what they own and where they work? May I suggest you take a moment and clean up your sidewalk, water the plants and trees in the area, wash your windows ….make it look like you care. If you care then people will want to patronize your business.

Going back to the “Sunset Plaza”….this location was beautiful when it was Voltaire Park. All who entered OB glanced at the every changing plants and beauty. It was a pleasant spot that was peaceful. I would hope that World Oil would direct their architect (who is the designer of this “square” building by the way?) to soften the building lines, add tons of plants and flowers and make sure solar panels are used. If they can’t make a few changes then everyone who bitches and moans about that building should never buy their gasoline.

In closing, compliment and thank those business operators and owners that care of their property so they know they make a difference! Make the world a better place not more of the same…that’s my 2 cents at this moment.



dougbob December 5, 2008 at 3:23 am

jeez. did the designers of that building ever visit OB? that’s just butt ugly.


Stu December 5, 2008 at 8:02 am

A gas station might be better looking


jon December 5, 2008 at 10:16 am

Stu…crackin’ me up!

Does anyone really know anything about World Oil? Who are they? I can’t seem to find much on the web about this company other than a few lawsuits which mention that name. I would imagine they are an offshoot of Exxon or some larger oil goliath. Something stinks….


Trish December 5, 2008 at 1:08 pm

I am sorry I missed this meeting. This is a pretty bad. No its really bad. Who is on the planning board for OB these days? Do they even care about the way there community looks??? I noticed how many empty store fronts there are on Newport these days do we need more of that.



Wireless Mike December 5, 2008 at 4:54 pm

Here’s what I could find about World Oil:

1. World Oil Co. is a privately held company based in Southgate, CA, founded about 1939. It is the Southern California distributor for Exxon. It owns service stations and industrial parks.
2. Executives (as of 2007):
Owner: Bernard Roth, Beverly Hills, CA
President: Robert Roth, Beverly Hills, CA
Executive VP: Steven Roth, Beverly Hills, CA
3. World Oil was a $600 million-a-year company in 1999.
4. World Oil has 450 employees.
5. World Oil owns Sunland Refining Co.
6. World Oil is represented by Daum Commercial Real Estate Services in Woodland Hills, CA (as of 1999).
7. The Google Earth image for their address shows what looks like a refinery or storage facility in an industrial area just southeast of the 710 freeway and Firestone Blvd.

World Oil Co
9302 Garfield Ave
South Gate CA 90280-3896
Tel: 562-928-0100
Fax: 562-928-3234




Patty Jones December 6, 2008 at 10:32 am

Wow Mike, thanks for all the info!

Your comment didn’t appear right away because our spam filter picked it up because of all the links it contains.


Tom G December 6, 2008 at 11:20 am

Sunset PLAZA? What plaza? (Dictionary definition: “a public square or open space in a city or town”.) That’s not a plaza, it’s just a big fugly box.


obTony December 6, 2008 at 12:29 pm

Oh man….

I can’t believe I didn’t go to the meeting. This really really stinks. That building is even worse than I thought it would be from the drawings on the plan board website.

What can we do about it now? Where do we protest this? Can we start with some letters or something to that company?

Does this mean that the city has approved the “concept” too?

We need to take some action on this or something. This building should be named the butt uglly plaza….

Did anyone get the votes? Who voted for this? They should not be re-elected again…

Im gonna do some research man.


Just B Peace December 8, 2008 at 5:22 pm

My understanding is the next step following review of the Ocean Beach Community Planning Board is review & decision by City Planning Department Staff then, if applicable, appeal review & decision by the City Planning Commission. I don’t have dates to provide.

Contacts for more concrete information:
(note: refer to Project #144781; World Oil Office/Sunset Plaza)

1. City Planning Dept Project Manager = Morris Dye; 619-446-5201; mdye@sandiego.gov

2. Ocean Beach Planning Dept Chair = Landry Watson; 619-708-3769; landrywatson.obpb@yahoo.com

The Ocean Beach Planning Board has a web site with some additional information in the “Project Tracker” area. http://www.obpb.org

The Ocean Beach Planning Board meets every first Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Ocean Beach Recreation Center on Santa Monica Ave.

FYI: at the beginning of each meeting there is a slot available for public comment on non-agenda items.

Important Change in Procedure at the Ocean Beach Planning Board meetings:
As learned from this last month’s meeting, there has been a major procedural change at the OBPB meetings. Identical to the City Council meetings, if you wish to speak on an agenda item, you need to submit a speaker’s slip prior to the start of that agenda item. Yes, you need to decide right from the start if you want to publicly speak on the item. Then, once the Project Representative presents and reviews the proposed plans, the formal public comment period begins and ends. Then, that is final input from the Community. If items surface during the continued OBPB and Project Representative that cause questions and/or additional comment from the public – too bad – NO MORE COMMUNITY INPUT!!! A stinking way to run a meeting when the full purpose of the OBPB in the first place is to gather Community input!! So, for all the folks who thought this particular agenda item was not going to be reviewed until 7 p.m. (as per the agenda provided to the Community)and for whatever their reason (work, child care, etc..)did not arrive until 6:45ish – too bad – they were unable to voice even a word!

As for the discussion and vote of the OBPB on this project – SHAME!


Dog Beach Dude February 21, 2009 at 5:04 pm

YIKES!!! We have enough empty buildings on Voltaire, look right next door to it, that building’s been vacant for what, 2 years now?

Sorry I missed the meeting too but it didn’t sound very Democratic.


ob Tony April 30, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Ohhhhhhh man….

This thing is back again……I saw a forward of an email that has this coming up again at the planning board….

we need to get ready and squash this thing again!!!! but for real this time.

And by the way…did anyone look into WHICH people voted FOR this project and whether or not they got re-elected and why this project is coming up again right after the election and why the other “no hair” guy is off the board now?

This is some watchdog stuff here

ob tony


Robyn w/a Y July 10, 2009 at 12:51 pm

I have been thinking that this would be an excellent place for a Community Garden! It’s practically across the street from Peoples and on Wednesdays, the people who run/tend the garden can sell fresh produce to visitors and inhabitants, bringing money to the Voltaire businesses while still keeping the Organic OB Vibe. What do you think?


Patty Jones July 10, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Robyn w/a Y, it’s a wonderful idea! In fact other people in the past had the same thought and made it happen. Unfortunely…

“On the morning of May 15th, without notice or warning to the community the World Oil Corporation hired Construction Fence to bulldoze and fence off the garden on the corner of Sunset Cliffs and Voltaire St.”

See the whole article here


Sunshine July 20, 2009 at 11:59 pm

The only possible way I would allow World Oil to build on this site is to have them majorly revamp their current design. Here is my two cents: reduce it to a one story building that would be more in line with the other buildings in OB, have the entire front section made up of a natural garden area that they must maintain and not allow to go to weed, have it be a green building (at the very least solar), and disclose who their new tenants will be before construction could begin. Anything less than full occupancy would defer the construction process, let’s say, indefinitely.

OB does not need a 2 story building on that location and certain not one that will sit vacant.

And one last thought…where does the OBPB get off in conducting their meetings in that fashion? Are they not here to represent the community? When is the next election to that Board? I WILL be voting.


Sunshine July 21, 2009 at 12:01 am

Funny…I said to not allow the front garden section to go to weed….


Pat July 21, 2009 at 8:36 am

I would have to ask does this include tearing down the old Dover Plumbing building?
It is my understanding they purchased it a couple of years ago.
I think it’s a pretty cool building.
I would be against it being demolished if it where pre 1930.
I belive it would have to go through a critical review process if it where 45 years or older.
It should be fairly easy to find out through County records.
This could possibly a sticking point.
There’s info on researching properties on Save Our Heritage Organizations web site google SOHO San Diego.


Editor July 21, 2009 at 8:43 am

Pat – I believe the demolition of the Dover building is part of the plan. World Oil needs the space for their new design. And good point about the historic significance.


Abby July 21, 2009 at 12:42 pm

I’m with Dog Beach Dude, we have enough empty store fronts in OB already.


Bob Hansen July 21, 2009 at 3:45 pm

I would love a new office building in OB. I need work.


OBSteven July 21, 2009 at 6:30 pm

Why do I feel like they will be serving big macs on the pier in a few years?


PSD July 21, 2009 at 8:37 pm

4 gas stations in town – 3 within a half mile of this site. I’d like to see one of the big three stations offer diesel, since it’s a lot more earth-friendly than gas (and it was a minor pain to go all the way down to the liquor store at Sunset & Pt. Loma when I drove my truck and scheduling didn’t allow me to get out to the Santucky house where the redneck brethren brewed our bio-diesel), but in any case 4 is enough.

We’ve already got a few medical/professional plazas in town. I may be mistaken but I don’t think they’re at full capacity and there are more people clamoring for space then there are suites available…what happens to the already established buildings that suit this purpose?

My solution? Rent the space to me! I’ll build a multi-tiered hydroponic greenhouse and a small hut in the back corner of the lot to serve as an office/Prop 215 dispensary. Part of the greenhouse will be used to cultivate closet tomatoes for the herbal pharmacy, the remaining majority of the space can produce ultra-local produce for People’s and/or the farmer’s market. Pshaw, and then monkeys will come flying out of my butt…


Citizen Cane May 5, 2011 at 5:17 pm

BUMP….anybody have any updates on this project? I’m also curious to know if there are rules for properties that are in construction limbo? The concertina wire is literally over the top. The barbed wire should also be removed. They aren’t protecting a going business….unless “storage lot” is their business. Do they have a license/permit to operate as a (long term) storage lot?


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