Coastal Commission Omission re Condos at Saratoga Park

by on December 9, 2009 · 7 comments

in Economy, Environment, Ocean Beach


Saratoga Park - looking east toward the proposed development site. The old Hodad's was in the torquoise-roofed building. Photo by Frank Gormlie, Summer 2009.

Editor: It flooded in OB on Monday with the water lapping the doorsteps of a number of Abbott Street businesses, like Falling Sky Pottery, Newbreak, across from the Life Guard station. It does this everytime there are major rains coupled with high tides. It’s not that unusual.  Well, the developers of the condos slated for Saratoga Park better be prepared for this level of nature. Here’s a back-ground piece from the San Diego Reader several weeks ago:

By Stephen Scatolini / San Diego Reader / Originally published Nov. 16, 2009

City plans for the development of the parcel of land at Abbott Street and Saratoga Avenue have been approved by the California Coastal Commission, but one important consideration seems to have been given short shrift.

Currently there are 15 apartments and four detached buildings slated to be demolished, including a former location of Hodad’s restaurant at the beach. The two alleys that border the west and south sides of the property will be eliminated, and half of the alleys will become the property of the new development. The entire alley area will be turfed for pedestrian use and open space.

The new development includes plans for a 12-unit condominium building over a 27-space subterranean parking garage. Currently there are 14 parking spots for the 15 apartments. The Coastal Commission permit requires that the subterranean parking structure be “water-proof and be designed with a de-watering system.”

The permit further states: “The report therefore concludes that over the last several decades there has been no shoreline retreat in front of the site; it has not been subject to significant flooding, erosion damage or wave run-up attack in the past, including the 1982-83 El Niño winter; and the proposed habitable improvements are above any potential coastal hazard.”

In addition, the report states that “flooding, erosion, and wave run-up will not significantly impact the proposed development over its lifetime (75 years).”

It should be noted that during the heavy rains of the 1982-83 El Niño event, runoff from the hillside above the beach was so extreme that I was able to sail a windsurfer — with center board in place — down Abbott Street from Santa Monica Avenue to Saratoga Avenue. So, the water in Abbott Street was at least 40 inches deep — that’s a block uphill from the proposed entrance to the subterranean garage.

When the surf is up and the tides are high and the rain is dumping, storm drains are ineffective and the water backs up into the streets. (Ask Steve Goebel of Cleanline Carpet how many times he’s vacuumed out flooded businesses along the bottom of Newport and Abbott Streets.) Even if the new sub-grade garage has a de-watering system, there is nowhere for the water to go once it’s pumped out of the garage.

Major El Niño events occur approximately every 10 to 12 years. I have seen Abbott Street under two feet of water at least three times. Other than this one issue, the plans for the new development look good…on paper.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Sparling December 9, 2009 at 6:36 pm

Money trumps sanity and common sense. The people who buy the condos will spend most of their money in La Jolla.


Danny Morales December 10, 2009 at 12:36 am

“I know that it isn’t sexy to oppose gentrification in OB but does everybody believe this is a done deal? The Stebbins residence (5166 W. Point Loma Ave.) was kept from doing underground parking because of concerted action at the Planning Board level. The OB library was kept open because of the hard work of people like Anna Daniels. Has World Oil turned dirt at the site of Voltaire Park? C’mon people, even on the face of it this proposal is a dog (no offense to canines). Do we really want to turn over this section of beachfront to private interests for the next 75 years? Dave S. has it partly right. That class (market segment) of people who buy into this proposal will demand more police harassment of the O’Bceans, more corporate outlets, more upscale boutiques and less of the things that make this community a magnet for the creative energy and independent spirits that I’ve become familiar to.” – Ali Katz


masimons December 10, 2009 at 7:59 am

Was over at Shades Monday watching the flooded street.
Short of a Navy inspired underground garage with water tight doors that close automatically with decent rain theres no way that plan would work.
Is a nice location though.


Fstued December 10, 2009 at 8:37 am

Not good thinking by the Coastal Com. while I have never seen Abbot flooded I don’t doubt that it does flood. I do think the folks that buy the units will spend in OB but I would guess they will bitch about the some of the folks that use “their” beach, at least they won’t have to put up with those pesky fire pits.
The underground parking is an engineering problem that is solvable but it won’t be cheap kind of like bailing out the ocean, if Abbot is flooded cars won’t be able to get in anyway so it really won’t matter. Like Dave said money trumps common sense.
San Diego isn’t really known for its common sense anyway


obsteven December 10, 2009 at 9:06 am

I’ve always wondered about that building. When it was built? Why was it abandoned? It’s great property so why would it be empty for so long? How long has it been empty? I wonder if their was a mold issue or something along those lines?

I’ve looked over their fence and it appears to he somewhat inhabited by people who are anti-home. I would imagine that over the years their have probably been hundreds if not thousands of budding restauranteurs who have looked at the location and thought to themselves “It’s right on the beach. It’s perfect!” just to do some research and find out the horrible truth.

Is it mold, was it built over an ancient Indian burial site? Do the walls bleed? Is it haunted by the ghost of Ryan Leafs Charger career? WTF? Another question is if it’s not a location suitable for a business why would anyone want to live there? Who would want to build there? The potential lawsuits due to flooding and property loss would seem too risky.

How about the property owners that are losing the view that they paid for years ago?They are having their view of the ocean stolen. How will they be compensated for the drop in their property value due to the construction of these condos? It costs more money to have a view. Ask the future tenants of the condos.


Danny Morales December 10, 2009 at 11:31 am


Don’t think that there are any Mr. or Ms.Property Owner who will suffer from this project, only residents and the beach going public. Besides nobody has a right to view the ocean, only a priveledge. That’s why it costs more money. Nobody has a right (in California anyways) to stable footing either. Just ask those mopes who watch their multimillion $ hou$e$ slide downhill with a good watering. As far as what’s underground, that will come out in the discovery phase of the planning process, I hope.

I don’t think the property was ever zoned commercial(?). The original restaurant (Larry’s Sandbar?) sprouted out of hot dog stand in the 60’s(?). Hodads got out (to stable ground) while the gettin’ was good and Dempseys was stiffed by the planning process when they tried to build up about 10yrs ago. So what’s a property owner to do? Better to hose down the general public by $elling “BEACH-VACATION CONDO$!” to the unwashed than to contribe to the general welfare I say!

Justin Tyme


Shawn Conrad December 11, 2009 at 1:31 pm

We are building these condos and offering them as “Extreme Ocean Front” properties. The contracts will include verbiage stating “possible seasonal oceanic visits” so screw those suckers that buy the condos. I just want my money.


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