Is Paid Parking the Wave Of The Future in Ocean Beach?

by on November 19, 2010 · 39 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Ocean Beach, San Diego

parking meter

The City of San Diego has plans for the future of Ocean Beach. Unfortunately for the residents and persons who own businesses here that future doesn’t include the free beach parking and ease of access that has been a staple of our community for as long as anyone can remember.

At the latest meeting of the Ocean Beach Precise Plan Update Committee (on Wed, Nov.17), city planners Tony Kempton and Sharhriar T. Ammi received input on parking and parking demand management in the Ocean Beach Community area. Originally the only item on the OB Planning Board’s Project Review Committee agenda, Committee Chair Landry Watson took the bold step of folding the PRC into the Update Committee and handed the gavel over to Precise Plan Update Chair Mindy Pellisier.

It broke down like this: According to the city planners the Ocean Beach Precise Plan is in conflict with the General Plan of the city, particularly as it relates to the mobility elements for communities within the City of San Diego. Like the conflicts regarding the floor area ratio (FAR) for residences in O.B., the city would like us to conform to the rest of San Diego by adopting parking meters and multi-level parking structures.


parking structure

Multi-tiered parking structure.


The city’s rationale can be found in the Existing Conditions Report for Ocean Beach (where parking demand is classified according to severity) and in consultation with Wilbur Smith Associates .

But the city’s rationale for increasing the density of parking in O.B. was seen as more of a top/down effort to further transform our beach town into a service community for the regional transient tourist population and its attractions like Sea World. As the meeting wore on, the internal contradictions of a city in crisis became more apparent to those of us who were there.

When the city submitted the notion that the local businesses would like to see a high rise parking structure because of higher visitor turnover rates, representatives from the OB MainStreet Association and the Newport area planning district put that puppy to rest in a way that only an OBcean can.

parking liftWhen the city, ever mindful of frugality, made an attempt to replace the concept of a fixed structure with mechanical parking lifts the group sat silent.

When it was suggested that the environmental impact of the city’s plans might not cut the green mustard, Mr. Kempton & Mr. Ammi had to fall upon the petard that there was no money for intensification of public transportation routes. Wider and wider into the spiraling gyre the city planners had to finally submit to the bottom/up recommendations of the Update Committee. Let’s hope they got the message…

The following is submitted to our City Planners:

Dear San Diego,

Stop trying to make Ocean Beach a profit center for developer interests and the tourist industry! Begin to listen to local leaders/grassroots activists as to what is in the public interest. Begin to see the long term implications of every variance that is applied for at the planning board level. Begin to implement the recommendations of our small business community. Recognize the unique nature of our community and protect and serve its individuals with all the power vested in your municipal corporation. So help you, God!

Peace and Love,

D. O’Bcean

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Avery November 19, 2010 at 10:17 am

Well written, @D. O’Bcean! When making the job transfer from Seattle (Alki Beach) to San Diego, we did our homework. We wanted a small, laid-back community free of the “plastics” who live to shop and compare achievements. We found Ocean Beach. Because we want the community businesses to thrive, we shop local. Even when prices are higher, and even when our household budget is tight. It seems that the scarcity of parking availability in OB draws the sort of person who doesn’t mind walking to find a quiet place to “chill” for the day.


Sarah November 19, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Hey… a fellow former West Seattleite turned Obcean. Hi there! I miss Pepperdocks for Saturday Morning breakfast.


Avery November 20, 2010 at 9:55 am

I KNOW! Sad to see the Alki Bakery finally close down. Mouth still waters at the thought of the warm gooey cinnamon rolls. Nice to meet you Sally!


Avery November 20, 2010 at 9:57 am

wow. I mean Sarah. A little sleepy still this morning.


Patty Jones November 20, 2010 at 10:31 am

Sleepy or preoccupied by thoughts of gooey cinnamon rolls? ;)


Sarah November 20, 2010 at 11:07 am

Shhhh…. hear the sounds of the Twilight Zone playing in the background?
I went by the name of “Sally” most of my life! Many people still call me that. And… my mom was an “Avery”.

I think we’re related.


Avery November 21, 2010 at 9:32 am

I DO hear that theme song now! What are the odds? Sounds like we should have coffee some time. What’s your fave breakfast place in OB so far?


Sarah November 21, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Avery, I like Tower 2 because they’re so good to us local folks with their breakfast special prices.

But… at the risk of betraying the ‘hood, I like to go over to Point Break over in Pt. Loma. They are on Shelter Island Drive.

Another West Seattle iconic breakfast joint: The Luna Park Cafe.


Tommy November 19, 2010 at 10:47 am

This is a classic case of a solution in search of a problem. You don’t design the church parking lot for easter Sunday, you design it for the average demand, and use temporary measures for the peak demands.

The same should be true for parking in OB. I don’t believe a true need exists because it’s not very often I see an endless parade of cars on Newport searching for parking spaces. The highrise parking structures around the Third St. Promenade in Santa Monica are what drove the economic revitalization of that district 20 years ago, but I’m not sure any of us want to see Newport transformed into San Diego’s newest retail and entertainment destination. Parking is like freeways; if you add capacity it’ll get filled up.

By the way, the picture of the multi-colored parking structure is at Santa Monica’s Civic Center. While pretty and highly sustainable (an oxymoron for a parking structure) it cost nearly $100,000 space or five times the typical cost per structured parking space. We should really be encouraging more alternative transportation use anyhow.


Frank Gormlie November 19, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Tommy, thanks for the added tidbits about the parking structure. Obviously it was a time-lapsed shot, but it’s good to know what and where it actually is.


OB Dude November 19, 2010 at 10:50 am

If OB had better transit service maybe we wouldn’t need so many cars? Maybe, like cell phones people love their cars.

What I would really like to see it boats and trailers removed from out city streets. Boats belong in the water not parked on the street.


Abby November 19, 2010 at 11:00 am

I would love to be able to take public transportation to work! But they way things are it would take about 4 hours each way to get to and from my job.


dave rice November 19, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Just for fun, I mapped out the route via MTS to my new job – at my old one in Clairemont it was about 2 1/2 hours one way. To get to La Mesa, I’d need to take a 10 minute walk to a 30 minute bus ride to a 10 minute wait to a 35 minute trolley to a 20 minute wait to a 20 minute bus ride to a 20 minute walk – about the same 2 1/2 hours to get 20 miles as it would’ve taken to get 12, still too long to spend 5 hours commuting and 8 hours working with only 24 hours in the day…


grem November 19, 2010 at 1:22 pm

That building is going to look absolutely horrible near the beach.


BillRayDrums November 19, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Parking structure? Bet you a taco it’ll be “urban campground structure”.



dave rice November 19, 2010 at 4:47 pm

More parking = more people. :thumbdown:


OB Dude November 19, 2010 at 5:22 pm

First of all where in world would money come from to build a stupid, ugly, parking structure? If a bathroom at the beach costs $600,000, can you imagine the cost of of a parking structure?

Whoever thought of EVEN discussing this idea should be fired!


Frank Gormlie November 19, 2010 at 5:23 pm

The community of Venice was nearly destroyed when it instituted paid parking.


Marilyn Steber November 19, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Did anyone consider the average time OBceans park “downtown”?
My average is often less than 30 minutes. That’s a trip to the hardware store, the Golden Seashell, and the Bone Appitite and Golden Hair and Nails Salon, where I tend to stop longer than 30 minutes. Actually, that’s 4 trips. Appletree Market where I get my grub has free parking for customers.
I don’t think anyone stays away from OB because of lack of parking. I wonder if a parking structure would draw them here. The whole idea is bogus so far as a parking structure goes. Meters won’t discourage me from doing business, but it’s an inconvenience.


Marilyn Steber November 19, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Clicked on the Wilbur Smith link. Looks like they are a corporation with little local connection, right?


Sarah November 20, 2010 at 3:09 pm


I must have weenie friends. :-) There are some who won’t come to visit unless I can somehow secure them a space. I usually hear from them around the 4th of July.

I think there needs to be a large public parking lot/structure around here. Not necessarily exactly in the heart of “here” but near here. I’ll just follow this daydream along and say that we need a shuttle bus that runs 24 hours a day connecting us to the parking structure. We can make the parking free for residents, charge visitors.

Then, in my perfect world, all cars would be left at the parking structure and we’d all walk or ride the shuttle.


Marilyn Steber November 21, 2010 at 8:39 am

Wow, Sarah, I’m having a flashback to visiting Bruge, Belgium with a tour. No vehicles allowed after 7 am, as I recall. All commercial deliveries had to be completed by then. After that, the tourists were allowed to walk in from carparks on the outskirts. The most money I spent there was paying for a bit of toilet paper in a restroom for rent. The attendant was on the back end of 80 years and may have been the owner. There’s a business opportunity for elderly OBceans, I must say.


Sarah November 21, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Hi Marilyn…
I guess I’m a little stymied at the idea of parking being a bad thing. Quite likely I’m naive about the issues. That is usually the case.

I have simply always wanted to live in a pedestrian friendly, somewhat “anti” car community. I like the idea of good mass transit and parking happening on the peripheral of the community. Common areas would be for walking, marketing and playing. Shuttles and such would be available for mobility impaired folks.

Of course the rain may never fall till after sundown.
By eight, the morning fog must disappear.

And the snow may never slush upon the hillside.
By nine p.m. the moonlight must appear….

so sorry. *blushing* I forgot where I was for a minute there.


Abby November 23, 2010 at 12:42 pm

If we have to have more parking I agree it should be near by with a shuttle. We really don’t need more traffic in OB proper.


Abby November 22, 2010 at 9:52 am

Unless the weather is bad I tend to walk when I need anything from Newport. It’s one of the things I love about living here, most things are within easy walking distance, aside from my job.


OB Dude November 19, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Wilbur Smith….

Our mission is to deliver high-quality, cost-effective transportation and infrastructure solutions to meet our clients’ needs and provide superior shareholder returns.

Instead of selling us a “parking structure” to rake in $$$ for your design/build operation, how about suggesting more access to buses that would make commute times reasonable and economical? Now that would help our community.

Is our updated community plan done yet? If not, what’s the hold up?


BillRayDrums November 19, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Until they put in more bathroom facilities down in OB, more people will continue to pee in the alleys and yards of the residents.

Besides, the way things are going in OB you can literally park and store a vehicle in the pier parking lot for up to a week at a time. True story!


Seth November 20, 2010 at 10:57 pm

As someone loosely associated with the process of the new community plan, I think there is a lot to be happy about. There are a lot of people in the community, from Mindy to Andra at the OB Dog Wash to the City of SD reps in attendance the other night to many others who have done a really good job creating what I personally feel is a very good draft document. I encourage the community to check it out. It is a “vision” document that will attempt to steer the next 30 years or so into favorable outcomes in terms of land use and development. That might sound droll, but these same efforts in the last community plan have more than everything to do with why OB is such a unique and vibrant community, in my own opinion.

After years of meetings, discussion and review, this new plan is hopefully entering the final phases, but now needs to go through the EIR process, while retaining conformance with the City’s General Plan. Parking and traffic are major issues in getting it finalized. In nutshell, the City is obligated to attempt, or attempt to meet certain quantifiable levels of service, and by the letter of the law, there are many aspects of parking and traffic where this community does not.

From that point, there is a lot of discussion, that is still ongoing, about how best to accomplish that, which was essentially the impetus for the other night’s meeting. The City was outlining possible alternatives while also soliciting input from the community.

I personally am glad that Dan was able to attend this meeting and bring up these issues to so many people who live here. Again, I encourage people to get informed on this other similar issues and be heard on issues so central to the future of this community.


James November 21, 2010 at 6:44 am

Build it in your yard.


OB Dude November 21, 2010 at 8:58 am

Thank you for your comments Seth.

Luckily the OB Rag is around to provide information as to what is happening in our community. What would be great is to finish this plan that has been in the makings for so many years with the involvement of so many people before WE ALL PASS AWAY! May I suggest that whatever important issues are left to finalize the plan, a town hall meeting be scheduled. Let’s get the word out and get community participation (and not around the holidays when people are busy). Get the OBTC to contact all their members, as well as the OBMA people, OB Historical Society, announcement send to churches and maybe a big page ad in the Beacon announcing the meeting (wink wink to the Beacon for a big discount to help our community) and the followers of the OBRAG will probably jump in an stand on street corners with signs during high traffic times to let people when the what and when. What ever ideas the city has up their sleeve they should let us know before the meeting so we can have a constructive and productive meeting.

We can’t get informed after the fact.


Sunshine November 21, 2010 at 1:05 pm

where can i view a copy of this plan???


Seth November 23, 2010 at 10:37 am

Sunshine, I’d scan it and post it online, but it is a draft document. There is, however, another subcommittee meeting in January that is open to the public. I will say that I personally think it is a good document, that still needs some finishing touches on the issues of parking and traffic in particular.


So. Cal Resident November 22, 2010 at 10:46 am

Well I don’t head down town too much, but when I do go (Charger or Padres game) I prefer to take the Coaster.


Shane Finneran November 22, 2010 at 7:07 pm

“When the city submitted the notion that the local businesses would like to see a high rise parking structure because of higher visitor turnover rates, representatives from the OB MainStreet Association and the Newport area planning district put that puppy to rest in a way that only an OBcean can.”

Does this mean that the OB folks said no to a multi-level parking structure? If so, major kudos. Nothing sucks the charm and feng shui out of a neighborhood quite like a big, ugly, hulking cement cube dedicated to car storage. Ugh.


Frank Gormlie November 22, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Yeah, look at the one built in North Park, on 30th near University Ave.


Danny Morales November 23, 2010 at 3:57 am

…and look at what N.P. is becoming as a result!


OB Dude November 23, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Is the parking issue arising because the merchants want more business or because the city wants more people to live in OB? If it’s the later, I say no more densification. There are tons of garages in OB but few are used to park cars. The garages are are stored with junk (I am guilty of this) or have boats, trailers or RV’s permanently blocking them, some rented out to live in, some rented out such as this one on Craigslist on 11/21 ($150 1 car garage (cable street ocean beach) ) and some used as a workshops or ???? I guess I am not understanding why we can’t finalize the community plan.

If all this talk is for the merchants (or bars???) then I think a community discussion is definitely necessary.


Seth November 23, 2010 at 8:55 pm

OB, the context of this is the updating of the OB Precise Plan (or community plan). I serve on that committee when I am able to attend, but I do not speak on their behalf here. With that said, let me try to clarify where things are at right now to some degree.

Under the leadership of community representatives and City staff, many, many people have worked hard and offered their input on this plan over a period of several years. Beyond the traffic and parking element, the rest of the plan has been largely written, reviewed and edited. Parking and traffic issues present some particular challenges, however, and talking about them is basically the context of what is happening now.

Prior to being adopted, the Precise Plan (a) must have conformance with the City’s General Plan, and (b) will undergo an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). This is part of CEQA, which is a state law. I won’t bore you with the details on the latter, but these reviews are intended to measure the environmental impacts of plans or major projects as compared to alternatives to see if they can be mitigated, or if they should even be undertaken. EIRs are pretty expensive, arcane and lengthy, and they have been used by more than a few activists to try to derail large development projects here in CA.

Relative to our Precise Plan going through the EIR process, one thing I think can be safely stated as a fact is that there are some streets in OB (Sunset Cliffs Boulevard is one), where the rush-hour traffic flows do not meet a desirable “level of service”, or LOS. Streets get graded on this criteria, and some of our streets are Ds, if not Fs. This is not necessarily desirable from an environmental perspective because idling traffic increases the amount of emissions that go into the atmosphere. Our often scarce parking is another issue that may come up a few times during this process.

In fact, these traffic and parking issues are basically why the Precise Plan has to go through an EIR in the first place, and a big part of why the City requested community input at last week’s meeting. They are essentially required to examine alternatives and to attempt to mitigate adverse environmental impacts such as those poor traffic flows. Beyond that, City staff are presenting data on traffic and parking studies and bringing up various alternatives in terms of how we want to plan for the future of traffic and parking in OB. I assure you that many of the good points you just raised about parking were also raised at last week’s meeting as part of the discussion.

Other things, like a massive densification of OB, are not on the table as part of all this, and some potential options, such as what Dan’s article covers, have at least been brought up during the conversation about the Parking and Traffic element of the plan (there are surely many opinions about some of them). From here, there is a traffic study, more discussion on parking and traffic issues and the EIR remaining.

There will still be opportunities for public comment and input as this moves forward.


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