How the City Is Gentrifying Ocean Beach – the Saga of the Cox Residence on West Pt. Loma.

by on May 25, 2011 · 54 comments

in Environment, Ocean Beach, Popular, San Diego

Part of the 5100 block of West Pt Loma Blvd, google image taken before the construction of the Stebbins Residence. The "A" marker is located at the Cox Residence.

Tom Gawronski is very worried about the future of Ocean Beach.  As the Planning Board representative for District 1, he’s especially worried about that section of West Pt Loma Boulevard that curves around down at the beach, west of Abbott Street.  Gawronski sees the row of single-story duplexes along that stretch of boulevard as the front lines of the City of San Diego’s efforts to allow the gentrification of Ocean Beach.  As a retired molecular biologist, Tom is not easily shaken. But he’s agitated now.

According to Merriam Webster, the definition of “gentrification” is:

the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.

I met with Tom late last week in Newbreak, across from the Life Guard station.  It was filled with 20-somethings, most of whom had their laptops open. We grabbed our steaming mugs and found a corner table. And then he proceeded to describe what had just happened when he traveled to Santa Rosa in northern California for a Coastal Commission meeting about the Cox Residence.

The Stebbins residence on the left and the Cox residence on the right.

The story of the Cox Residence at 5164 West Pt. Loma actually goes back to the story of the Stebbins residence next door.  The Stebbins wanted to take down the single story duplex on their 25 by 100 foot lot at 5166 West Pt. Loma and throw up a three-story single-family house.  The problem was that the original plans called for underground parking, and would have allowed the construction of a building out of scale and character for that area of northwest Ocean Beach.

The OB Planning Board was split on the proposed development. Even though the Board can only make advisory decisions, its voice carries weight at the City. Created in the mid-seventies by popular pressure, and guided by the OB Precise Plan, this grandparent of all San Diego planning committees balked at the underground parking aspect and the huge scale. The vote was 6 to 6.

Eventually, the underground parking was removed by resistance by certain Board members, including current VP Landry Watson (can you imagine? – anyone who is familiar with that part of OB knows that the area floods fairly often).  So, instead of the undergrounding, the Stebbins proposed covered parking in the front.  Now for that size lot, the most a developer can build is a residence with a total of ‘under the roof’ space of 1750 square feet, which normally has to include 25% of it as enclosed parking.

In the end, the City’s hearing officer allowed a variance which enabled the Stebbins to build their 3-story with only covered parking.  And today, their place stands as a tall beacon for gentrification.

What’s the problem, you might ask. How can only one residence do that?

Consider for a moment, what that length of West Pt. Loma would look like if each of the 15 duplexes along that stretch were allowed to build houses up to the limits imposed by the 30 foot height limit?  If each duplex was torn down and replaced with a huge (for that area) building, three stories up, with very little space between them, you would see a wall 30 feet high from end to end.  The wall would dwarf anything to either side and the residences across the street. It would represent an inpenetrable high ridge of stucco and wood, cutting off views for blocks around.  You wouldn’t even know or sense that there is a beach right behind them. It woull help create a canyon-like  effect – and create a slippery slope for the entire rest of northwest Ocean Beach to slide down and into full-on gentrification.

For don’t forget, gentrification allows a different class of people in, while removing a lower class. This area of OB is one of the last sections that is somewhat “low rent” allowing for all kinds of different folks to live there; retired seniors, enlisted navy, students, surfers, working people and their families. The gentrification would force in upper-middle class professionals, people who could afford these monstrous, 3-story behemoths.

And this is all what Tom Gawronski fears.

Because once the Stebbins project was approved, then along came the Cox residence.  Right next door, the Cox Residence applicant wanted to build something very similar to the type of structure the Stebbins built. A three story house was proposed, but even without the required 25% covered parking – as the OB Precise Plan demands – and with only uncovered parking in the front.

Alvin Cox through his developer Scott Fleming of Stonebrook Studio, wants to demolish the existing duplex and build a 1,749 square foot place, using a combo of stucco, stone veneer with “glass and metal accents.”  The design includes 3 bedrooms and two and one-half bathrooms, where 2 bedrooms and a full bathroom are on the ground floor, with the main livingroom, kitchen on the second floor, and a 449 square foot master bedroom making up the entire third floor. Two parking spaces would be covered by an attached carport in the front.

Cox is proposing that instead of following the Precise Plan floor-area-ratio (FAR) of 0.7 for the zone in that area, he wants a deviation to include the added space from the carport not counted, as part of his habitable area. So instead of having the enclosed parking that the Precise Plan and the applicable zone demand be counted as part of the gross floor area, the extra space would be part of the living area.   This would all require a variance – which the City seemed to be willing to grant.

The Planning Board did not like this proposal, and voted 10 to 1 against it on August 5, 2009.  Yet, obviously, this wasn’t the end of it. Because such votes are only “advisory”, developers – or the Board itself – can appeal decisions.  There’s a three step appeal process: first, there is a hearing before a City hearing officer. Second, there is the San Diego Planning Commission. And finally, the appeal can be taken to the California Coastal Commission. And this is where Gawronski had just returned from.

What had happened was that after the OB Planning Board voted against the proposal, the applicant took the appeal to the hearing officer, who approved the project and allowed the variance to circumvent the requirements of the OB Precise Plan; the Board appealed this decision. The project then went to and was approved by the Planning Commission. So the Board appealed it to the Coastal Commission.

The Coastal Commission meets monthly, but in different locations up and down this huge state.  That’s why Tom had to drive up to Santa Rose for the May 11th meeting.  He and a local resident, Bill Wilson, drove up there on their own dime to testify against the project because they felt it was wrong and that the City was improperly allowing variances.

Once up at the Santa Rosa meeting, San Diego city staff presented their 6 page report asking that the appeal be denied and that the project be allowed.

Here is part of their reasoning:

City staff believes the proposed deviations should be considered reasonable based on the substandard lot size (2,500 square-feet) combined with the limitations of the F.A.R. in the RM-2-4 Zone that apply only in the Ocean Beach and Peninsula communities, and are not applied City-wide.  As stated these limitations restrict the allowable FAR to 0.7.  Similarly zone RM-2-4 properties outside of these communities have a minimum lot size of 6,000 square-feet and an allowable maximum FAR of 1.20.  …

Listen to the logic here:

The Variance is reasonable to allow one unit within a zone that encourages higher density development on medium sized lots at nearly twice the floor area and alley access. The variance would provide a superior design than would be rendered with strict compliance of the zone which would likely result in a box-like structure necessary to maximize living area at the expense of articulation, design and aesthetics.  It should also be noted that parking for all of the existing duplexes is located within the street yard setbacks which is typical for the beach community, though nonconforming pursuant to the Land Development Code.  Additionally, it should be noted that the existing duplex exceeds the RM 2-4 zone density of one unit per 1,750 square feet therefore both the density and the parking currently do not comply with the zoning.

Watch for the tricks, as the city staff report continues:

Whereas the new structure may represent a notable change from that of the existing structure, and would be dissimilar to the row of old duplexes, the design of the residence would be consistent with new single-family homes throughout the Ocean Beach community and compatible with adjacent two and three-story structures in the neighborhood including the newly constructed Stebbins Residence adjacent to this property.  Likewise, the proposed residential structure would be consistent with the Ocean Beach Precise Plan that envisioned new and revitalized development, and the project would conform to the Land Development Code regulations including the required parking and the prescribed density with the approval of the appropriate development permits.

There is a set up here, can you find it?

… The project site is located on a block consisting of identical one-story duplexes, many of which are dilapidated and in need of repair/ modeling. … The proposed demolition and construction would meet the plan’s residential element objective to “renovate substandard and dilapidated property.”

The report goes on to claim that the project’s design with its terracing, “reduces the structure’s apparent bulk and minimizes structural scale from the pedestrian right-of-way.”  Even the proposed carport actually enhances views, the report claims, as “the proposed carport incorporates an open/transparent design and pedestrians may look through the structure, further enhancing the pedestrian experience.”

The claims in this report are preposterous and almost sound like they are tongue-in-cheek:

“The project would implement the Ocean Beach Precise Plan and residential goals to preserve small-scale character.  At three stories, the project would appear larger than immediately surrounding development,” and “more closely match 2-story and 3-story structures on the block to the immediate north of West Point Loma Boulevard.”

The report calls the additional 500 square feet to be added – a 40% increase – to the habitable area as a “modest increase”, and makes this claim:  “The proposed project would not affect either visual or physical access to the shoreline.”

Against this report, full of holes as it was, Tom and Bill Wilson – the local resident – both had 3 minutes to speak to the Commission.They raised the issues of the rezoning problem, the loss of view, and the project’s inconsistency with the community character.  Only three of the 11 Commission members agreed with them however,and the final vote was 8 votes against the appeal – that is – in favor of the project.

Later at Newbreak, Tom told me that the City staffer representing the city told the Commission that the area of OB in question – that stretch along West Pt. Loma – is all zoned wrong.  The idea that the proposed project is in an area that is not zoned correctly became part of the basis of the Commission’s decision, no doubt.

Tom told me, listen, if the zoning in that area is wrong, then the city should change it properly.  Right now, with the Cox Residence and earlier with the Stebbins Residence, the City is using variances for each property in order to allow them to circumvent the Precise Plan.  The Development Services department, Tom said, cannot rezone the city on its own. So, how does the City change zoning?

Tom showed me the part of the Municipal Code that applies to zoning.

Section 123.0155 – Decision Process for Zoning or Rezoning

(a) A decision on a proposed zone or rezoning action shall be made in accordance with Process Five.

(b) The City Council may approve a zoning or rezoning action whenever public necessity or convenience, the general welfare, or good zoning practice justifies this action.

What this means is that any rezoning has to come before the City Council and have a full public hearing on the issue. Zones cannot be changed unless that happens. What the City is doing is granting zoning changes through the issuance of variances. This is wrong, improper – even illegal.

Once the Stebbins Residence is allowed, and now the Cox Residence, the flood gates will open. All the property owners of the other 14 lots on that stretch could now all apply for the same type of developments.  Tom warned that if they are all built out, with only 3 foot sideyard setbacks, “you won’t be able to see anything,” and that “there’ll be a thirty foot wall coming down West Point Loma.”

Tom returns to the Planning Board Wednesday, June 1st, to give his report.   There is one final step in the appeal process, Tom reminded me. And it is filing a Writ of Mandamus – a legal move that basically says this cannot happen because it’s illegal.  We need to find a lawyer, he said, that could file one.

And guess what?  There is already another applicant on file who wants to do the very same thing – demolish the duplex and put up a three story at 5170 West Pt Loma, two doors down from the Cox Residence.  Tom Gawronski vows to fight this one. We’ve got to send a lot of letters, we’ve got to fill the Council Chambers, he said. Just like the old days, I thought.

But, here we are, with the City’s Planning Department abolished, and the city granting variances illegally – all part of the gentrification process within Ocean Beach. This cannot be allowed to continue.

{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

random ob'r May 25, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Those places ARE dilapidated and in need of serious repair, I’m not sure what’s worse the junky facades there now or the wall of urban beach banality that looks to be coming. I wouldn’t mind if people weren’t trying to build 3 story orgies of bad architecture on the lots…but the Stebbins place certainly doesn’t set a good example of tasteful constraint.

Sadly this is going to keep happening as people realize how cheap it is to build in OB compared to other beach areas around the county.


OB Mercy May 25, 2011 at 8:11 pm

When I lived in LA, in a one story home, I used to circulate petitions against high density bldgs being proposed in my neighborhood. I would take them to the city council meetings and got up and spoke, (as did many others) and it seemed to work, because they never built them. Seems that’s what would be required here. Of course that means going to door to door…a lot of work, but well worth it. I just had my hip replaced and can’t walk that much, or I would be willing to do it.


Frank Gormlie May 25, 2011 at 9:31 pm

When I started writing this post, I did not realize how long it was going to take nor how long it ended up being. I wanted to say more but felt compelled to publish it when I did earlier today (Wed).

The OB Precise Plan is supposed to block these kind of developments, but the city staff turn the Precise Plan on its head and actually engage in goobly-gook in their report to the Coastal Commission. Read some of the language I quoted above and then look at the photos.


Danny Morales June 2, 2011 at 12:13 am

Thanks Frank. Good article. Highlighting the efforts of people like Tom G., Bill W. and others as individual property rights run riot over the commons is a testament of your commitment to the struggle for democracy. Hasta la Victoria Siempre!-Danny


dave rice May 25, 2011 at 10:23 pm

I think you hit the nail on the head with this one, Frank. Especially concerning the part in the report that compares the proposal to the handful of other eyesore exceptions that have leaked through recently rather than to the character of the neighborhood as it currently exists.

It’s especially depressing to me to see this happening with that row of duplexes fronting the park across from the beach – since I was a kid I’ve wanted to live in one of those, and I still hope to someday score one by the time my daughter’s a teenager so I can stick her in front and live in the back unit…


Altered E May 26, 2011 at 7:50 am

OB is one of my favorite places, my heart home that my husband and I travel to from Virginia several times a year. I found this article so upsetting and disheartening. I’ve seen the East Coast beaches, like Virginia Beach, disappear behind of phalanx of development. Perhaps there will need to be ‘tear-downs and re-builds’ but it still can be regulated. If one loves OB enough to want to build here, then perhaps one could be just as happy with a 2-story new build and a smaller footprint. But I know the only way that will really happen is with regulation. OB saved and fostered it’s uniqueness with building regulation – don’t abandon the wisdom of that choice.


RB May 26, 2011 at 10:34 am

Does anyone realize that almost every block in Point Loma has a renovation taking place? Do you realize this work produces good paying jobs and increased property taxes for the schools? Do you realize most remodels are done by people who have lived in their homes for years?

This remodel looks fine.


dave rice May 26, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Just to be clear – we’re not talking about a remodel, we’re talking about tearing down a duplex and building something entirely dissimilar to what was there before…I’m sure they’ll keep one load-bearing wall from the original structure standing so they can, on a technicality, call it a ‘remodel’ and get preferred tax treatment (nixing a large part of the “increased property taxes for schools” assertion), like the god-awful beast that popped up on the corner of Cable and Niagara in place of an old yellow cottage last year.

And since we’re talking about a rental property that sold last in the late ’90s, I don’t think it qualifies as being owned by “people who have lived in their homes for years.” Anyone who’s lived in a single-story, 800 sf unit for years probably doesn’t decide overnight they need to more than double their living space and add two staircases in their senior years.


RB May 27, 2011 at 10:51 am

Having a cottage on a lot valued at $50,000 makes sense. This made sense in the 60’s and still seems to makes sense to those stuck in their 60’s nostalgic dreams. But when grown ups spend $500,000+ for lots it makes little sense to live in a tear down cottage with the termites.


Seth May 27, 2011 at 8:38 pm

RB, the question is not whether to draw a line on gentrification, but where to draw it. There are beach communities all over the world that have sold their soul to become vacation rental spots that are ghost towns 8 months a year. Go walk around Mission Beach in February and tell me that they aren’t well on their way to that. In my own personal opinion, this is the ultimate endgame of the rather libertarian ideology that you appear to be advocating for here.

And to paraphrase what I have heard Tom and others say, absentee landlords who let their properties become neglected don’t really need to subsequently be rewarded for that with FAR variances on lots that many knew were substandard in size when they purchased them.

Anyhow, I don’t mean to oversimplify here, but it is my belief that community character can be preserved without running roughshod over homeowner’s property rights.


OB Dude May 27, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Not only it is our Mayor’s responsibility to keep his work but it’s also Faulconer’s responsibility to make sure the OB Precise plan gets updated.

Seth is right. Many people worked on this plan. There were many community meetings which provided input and a foundation for the plan. The plan should be ready to roll. How much does it cost to get rid of the old and bring in the new?….. before everyone that worked on it passes away!

If Faulconer can’t/won’t get it done I hope whoever runs for our council person in the next election will make a promise to complete our plan which will be beneficial to retain the OB character and vision that we all love.


Seth May 28, 2011 at 10:32 am

Seth, I agree with community planning and that community character and property rights can both be maintained. However I don’t agree that the multi-story structure picture above violates these guiding principles. I also don’t agree that past and current property owners are the villains.

If you look at the first overhead picture in this article, you see poor planning and zoning decisions by government. Past government decisions have lead to splitting lots, substandard easements and functionally out of date structures. Secondly, the rapid rise in California beach property prices is a driving force in the need for changes of the structures built on this land. The request for variances is being driven by past failures of government land use policies and the dramatic increase in land value, not absentee landlords


Danny Morales June 2, 2011 at 1:35 am

I’ve never seen “past failures of government and the dramatic increase in land value” come before the planning board to request a variance. Absentee landlords on the other hand…oh, I forgot that in the world of a fair and balanced community, individual responsibility is subsumed to the “free” market and the right to property.


Chris May 27, 2011 at 4:26 pm

the stebbins’ place is a hideous monstrosity that is COMPLETELY out of place. i don’t understand how people are so selfish they’d compromise the character of OB, which is valuable to MANY other people, because they can get a deal on the property and seek nonsensical loop-holes to circumvent the ideas of the precise plan. this is tantamount to buying a waterfront mansion in mexico. YOU DON’T BELONG. move to mission beach boardwalk and if you can’t afford it, move somewhere you can… as far as i’m concerned these people are doing far worse for OB than starbucks (and the many other places that snuck in without the starbucks-like hoopla – e.g., subway, of which there are 2). i’ll sign a petition to keep this bullshit out any time…


Seth May 27, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Chris, as someone who serves on the OBPB, I fully encourage you (as a private citizen) to consider the implications of our community’s Precise Plan update on future development. There have been many community members who have worked tirelessly for nearly a decade now to provide a vision document for the next 20-40 years in OB. Without this update, lawyerly types are more easily able to find the loopholes in a plan originally written in 1975 for the purpose of maximizing their own gain. With a newer plan, the rest of the community has more say in what goes on. This is by far the biggest issue facing OB right now, especially in light of recent comments by City officials that they do not believe that funding for these neighborhood plan updates will be available, despite what Mayor Sanders promised at a community meeting in OB just over a year ago.


The Mustachioed OBecian May 26, 2011 at 12:54 pm

I wonder what a poll would look like among property owners and renters in OB regarding “gentrification” of businesses/residences. A couple weeks ago, there was an article in the OB Rag about The Joint opening up. Wouldn’t that be considered “gentrification,” and if so, isn’t that a good thing that a nice restaurant with good beer and food is replacing a restaurant that was, well…not as nice? As a home owner, the improvement of town is a good thing. It increases the value of my place.

It doesn’t mean we have to turn into La Jolla, as some might suggest, but replacing blighted properties with improved ones, assuming it’s done within the confines of the law, seems like a positive.


dave rice May 26, 2011 at 9:06 pm

If this was being done within the confines of the law, they wouldn’t need to ask for a variance to allow something that deviates from what the law allows…


Bob Dobbs May 26, 2011 at 1:32 pm

I’m a former San Diego resident . Spent a lot of time in O.B. and miss it a lot . But yeah, this is a bummer. Tragic if that O.B.-character and vibe was lost . . .


Altered E May 26, 2011 at 4:53 pm

I don’t often re-post, but I admit, I don’t understand how consideration of some regulation on size of buildings and their footprint would directly mean no renovations, or taking away jobs or stifling development. I think all those opportunities can coexist with balanced regulation and concern for the over-all picture of OB, including views of the beach and finding comfortable matches with the scale of existing neighborhoods and areas.


annagrace May 26, 2011 at 6:07 pm

I think it is worth asking if there are costs to our communities when gentrification is reflexively and unquestioningly accepted as a positive force. “It raises property values!” “It eliminates dwellings and lots that are not aesthetically pleasing-aka blight!” “It brings in a “better” class of people!”

What happens to whole parts or all of our communities when the guy who fixes your car, the elderly widow living on a fixed income, young couples, your letter carrier and single mom teacher’s aides can no longer afford to live in those communities, or are “displaced” when the landlord sells the property to the highest bidder? Should that matter to us?

Is there a difference between the value of one’s home, where one lives- the particular block, the particular community– and the property value assigned by your friendly real estate agent?

And finally, for those who have found themselves by luck and or pluck living at the beach or on a spectacular canyon, do they have the right to keep the views of those incredible, stirring spaces all to themselves by building multi-story dwellings that block out everyone else’s views- their neighbors across the street, the passerby searching for a glimpse of water, or green?


OB Dude May 26, 2011 at 6:27 pm

I have been in a few of these places…the plumbing is poor, electrical needs to be updated, the walls are paper thin and parking is limited. My friends that lived in this area did not get budget rents by an means and the landlord had to be begged to fix problems but for the time they lived there they loved being able to walk outside and be close to the ocean.

I don’t think what is currently on this street is attractive so I welcome change and bringing great designs and funkiness to the area. Aren’t most of these lots two units back to back and which take up most of the lot size? If so, then it doesn’t appear rebuilding increases the footprint. I am inclined to say that if someone owns one of these units, has the money to rebuild and have a “nicer” place to live then good for them (similar to The Mustachioed OBecian comments). I thought it is outlined in our community plan that West Point Loma Blvd has a higher FAR and views are not protected???? Right now, there is no view from the street all one can see are the existing duplexes.

What would be nice is no buildings on this site of the street and a beautiful park. Dream on, right?


dave rice May 26, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Well there is a (not quite beautiful) park just on the other side of the block in question, across the parking lot from the beach. And people in the older two-stories across the street might differ as to whether there’s an impact on views being imposed.


OB Dude May 27, 2011 at 12:45 am

Real Estate…location, location, location. For those that live across the street from they should have been well aware that there views were not guaranteed. They should could their blessings on the number of years they have been able to enjoy there view from their 3rd floor! There is a height limt of 30 feet on the coast…that has prevented OB from turning into Huntington Beach or Miami.

As for square footage…some people like small and cramped, others big and airy…it’s all a matter of preference and what one can afford. Tolerance is what OB is known for???


Pat May 27, 2011 at 7:18 am

Great article, very informative.
Your posts on planning board activities are a great service to OB.
Many thanks to Tom and Bill for traveling to No. Ca. for standing up for what their (and many other OB folks vision for the future of our community).
If we could just get city planners to see our vision through our precise plan and adhere to it our lives would be much easier.


Danny Morales June 2, 2011 at 1:53 am

Pat-Whatzamadder wit U? A goddamn commie? The whole subtext of this article is about increasing the floor/area ratio in OB to make it more profitable for the real estate industry to do business here. And like the commercial zones becoming profit centers for the tourist industry the city isn’t going to listen to the mere residents any time soon. After all isn’t the business of government business?


Allen Lewis May 27, 2011 at 7:43 am

OB is my home town, from 1950 to 1972, and when I return for a visit it’s nostalgic to see very little change over all. I would rather keep things the way they have been, but in many way’s it’s not, for those of you that have lived in OB for over 30 years you know what I’m referring to. I think of OB when I go to BC Canada to visit my girl friend. There is a place called White Rock right on the border on the sound where complete blocks have changed from beach town type houses to condo. Keep that in mind. I very much hope that doesn’t start in OB.


The Mustachioed OBecian May 27, 2011 at 9:56 am

Not everyone has to live at the beach. It’s a luxury, and certainly not a right. The mechanic, school aid etc don’t have to live 2 blocks from the beach; they can choose to live a mile from the beach for much cheaper.

And why should someone investing in a home at the beach not take value into consideration as some here would suggest? That doesn’t make any sense at all.
Asking for a variance does not an illegality make. It’s within the confines of the law to ask for as much. If I can afford to build a second story onto my house so that I can get an ocean view a couple years down the road, why should i worry about the neighbor nehind me who did the same thing to his place 10 years before. As mentioned earlier, location, location, location.

So is it then agreed to as well that restaurants such at The Joint are unwelcome because it’s an improvement on the old Greek place? Or Pizza Port and the architecure studio across the street? Or are developments only opposed when they aren’t pleasing to the eye?

Improving properties in OB doesn’t have to change the character at all. It’s simply an improvement on what came before. At what point would the community then find it permissible to re-build? Or should we let our community fall apart and become blighted?


annagrace May 27, 2011 at 10:37 am

M.OB- your position is that the rights go to the privileged.


RB May 27, 2011 at 10:56 am

If you expect people to be tolerant of you and expect them to respect your rights, you might try doing the same.


annagrace May 27, 2011 at 11:26 am

I believe that I parsed the comment accurately and I stand by it. You can agree or disagree RB, but spare me the “tolerance and respect” claptrap.


RB May 27, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Well, spare me ‘privileged’ claptrap. I, like many others, arrived in OB with no money, no inheritance, no sugar daddy and no envy of those who had property here before me.


Patty Jones May 27, 2011 at 2:17 pm

RB, your two cents have not offered anything to this discussion and frankly I’m growing weary of your attitude. Moderate yourself.


OB Dude May 27, 2011 at 11:59 am

Just curious about your comment…

“privileged” like defined to an “exclusive or chosen group of individuals”?

What about people who work their butt off night and day to save money to buy their dream spot and enjoy their home. Work is hard and nothing is free. There are some people that choose not to work and that is certainly their right to choose not to work but that does not mean that rents near the Pacific Ocean should or will remain cheap. People gravitate to southern CA because of the beauty and the weather. This drives up the cost of real estate. It’s just the way things are.

Someone could come in a buy up all the old duplexes on West Point Loma and put in a gated exclusive community….that would change the character of our area. I am happy to see that some people who are lucky enough to own one of these lots be able to build/renovate their home …. they probably have worked very long and hard and deserve to do enjoy it….in their way.


annagrace May 27, 2011 at 12:53 pm

There are people who work their butts off day and night who will never be able to amass the money to buy their own home. They are the working poor who are being displaced in even my own poor City Heights neighborhood. A large apartment across the street from my little house provided housing for the past 20 years years to 16 working poor families. The complex was sold and turned into condos right before the real estate boom went south. None of those families could afford to buy their apartment and every one of them left.

It’s just the way things are? We’re not supposed to question that assumption? If we had anything remotely like a functional housing commission, they would be investing in all of our communities and buying up those kinds of existing rental properties and maintaining them as low cost housing. At the beach in OB, across the street from me, throughout the city. Our locally based community development corporations should be adequately capitalized and be doing the same. Or we could have a robust silent second mortgage program to provide subsidies for low income families to purchase a condo or home.

Paint was slapped on the condo building, grass and palms were planted. How did this affect the property values on my block? Not all. Property values plunged when the market crashed and they are still in the tank. For those of us who were not upside down on our mortgages, the property values don’t much matter anyway- the “value” of my property is that it is my home. This is where I live, have lived and intend to live. Most of the homeowners in this particular area have that same attitude.

The vibrancy and economic well being of my immediate community were diminished when those families left. They largely supported the egg man and the green grocer and tamale lady who would stop on the block every day. Those very hard working small business people all disappeared.

I own my home and I feel privileged. Most of the people work very hard on my street and they not only don’t own homes, they lack stable renting situations. And I don’t believe that’s just the way it is.


The Mustachioed OBecian May 27, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Being able to purchase a property in OB doesn’t make me privileged, it makes me fortunate to be able to afford to buy a home in a place that I love for which I worked very hard for many years. Perhaps the privilege belongs to those who feel it’s their right to live somewhere that they can’t afford and expect to be subsidized by those whom can afford it. So I’m not sure what privilege has to do with anything.

Again, are we opposed to only homeowners and their improvements, or also the new, nice restaurants opening up in OB as well?


annagrace May 27, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I own a home and if you do too, then we are both being “subsidized” by that nice middle class welfare that enable us to write off our mortgage interest payments. Because of that subsidy, my mortgage is much less than the rents of the poor, who don’t even get the fifty buck renters rebate from the state anymore.


Frank Gormlie May 27, 2011 at 9:35 pm

As our old friend Lane used to say “bump^”


dave rice June 1, 2011 at 10:49 am

I would say destroying many small middle-class residences and replacing them with a few luxury residences changes the character of a community. Whether you feel that’s an improvement or not is a matter of opinion, but I don’t think you can reasonably say it’s not a significant change of character for a neighborhood.


OB Dude June 1, 2011 at 11:06 am

On that same note….
I would also say that owners or landlords of the current properties that do not improve them or provide adequate plumbing or other services also change the character of the neighborhood and not in a positive way. The landlords are absent, they collect market rents and they give little to the community when they let their properties depreciate. Stebbins is new and big (but there are 3 stories across the street) but it’s not “that luxurious”.

I am guessing that if many on this post had the money to live in one of the duplex or a unit like Stebbins they would choose the later.

Does anyone know how long Stebbins owned the property before renovating it? Just wondering…maybe he bought this worked hard for many years and now is able to build his dream home. I don’t see the harm in this?


dave rice June 1, 2011 at 12:58 pm

I’d agree with you on slumlords not adequately caring for existing (and oftentimes historic) buildings. These people need to be taken to task as well. Which, isn’t that essentially who Stebbins and Cox are/were, if they owned these units for a long time and intentionally allowed them to fall into disrepair?

As far as the nature of how luxurious the building may be, I’m willing to bet that while it doesn’t have the square footage of suburban country estates set on Rancho Santa Fe acreage, it’s got a lot of features most of us wouldn’t consider standard issue for the masses. But that’s going a little far to quibble over whether or not someone needs a separate fridge for their wine, because I’d certainly like one on my back patio for a beer keg…

I can’t speak for everyone on the post, but I personally moved out of a 2,000 sf house for a 850 sf apartment (just slightly bigger than the larger of the two units that comprise these duplexes. The big space was too much for me, and I accept that living in a city calls for for either greater cost or more density – in most cases both. I accept the trade off, and I pay as much to live here as I did in a place twice the size where I came from.

On your question of longevity, it looks like the Stebbins have owned their place since at least 2000, the Cox property hasn’t changed hands since 1997.


Seth May 27, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Not directed to anyone in this discussion, but I wonder that should ten years hence, if a bunch of Russian/Chinese/Japanese/Indian millionaires start buying up property here in order to build McMansion vacation homes that they live in maybe 1-2 weeks a year, will the property rights people will be first in line to complain about who let OB go all to hell? Not saying, just saying.


Danny Morales June 1, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Seth, you’re getting better w/age. Beautifully said, if I may say so myself.


OB Mercy May 28, 2011 at 9:28 am

Annagrace, I’m not poor, but I am a renter and I did get the $60 renter’s rebate the last two years living here in OB.


annagrace May 28, 2011 at 9:56 am

OBmercy- thanks for the update. While I was still working at the library a few years ago, the rebate had been suspended due to lack of funds. I am glad to hear that the state has found the money to reinstate t. And I didn’t mean to imply that the renters rebate only went to the poor. Thanks again.


Citizen Cane May 28, 2011 at 1:38 pm

On the subject of ruined views, I have to say that the city threw thew the first punch when they built that parking lot about 1970/71. The public sand went all the way up those duplexes. Now those property owners get to look at cars, motor homes, and half dead grass.


Sunshine June 1, 2011 at 2:50 am

what these people are doing to the charm and character of OB is bullshit. great article, frank. this needed to be said for a long, long time. In my opinion, the Stebbens residence is an intrusive eye-sore imposed on the residence of OB via legal loopholes. the shipfront houses that line that portion of West Pt Loma Blvd are not ugly; just old and in need of some good old fashion TLC. they are homes to many kind, good, and community oriented individuals. how many bbq’s do you think the Stebbens will be invited to now that they gone and ruined the neighborhood? STOP GENTRIFYING OB.


Danny Morales June 1, 2011 at 11:32 pm

Thanks Sunshine for your insight regarding the forces now shaping the future of Ocean Beach. In 1963, A.L. Krober indicated that of all influences upon an historical event, character was the most ethereal. I’ve had the opportunity to personally interact with Stebbins, Cox and some of the other property owners on this block. The stucco, plastic and glass that’s been erected without so much as a reach-around disregards all the natural elements and doesn’t even kiss the subtle architecture of the ship-fronts as a by your leave. But wait, there’s more…


OB Lawyer June 2, 2011 at 8:45 am

I hate to say it…but we knew this was coming…right??? The City approached the OBPB back in August 2010 and posed the very same question. Will you eliminate the the 25% FAR requirement in the OB RM2-4 zone? See the excerpt from the agenda.

Item # 4- Action Item RM-2-4 Floor Area Ratio (FAR). – The City of San Diego is seeking input regarding the floor area ratio (FAR) requirement for medium density residential development in the RM-2-4 zone. Currently Ocean Beach is one of only 2 communities that limits the medium density RM-2-4 zone to a .7 FAR, with 25% of that required to be dedicated to parking. Shall the City of San Diego modify this requirement that applies to the RM-2-4 zone within Ocean Beach? Options being considered are 1) Allow FAR to be developed consistent with citywide RM-2-4 zoning (maximum 1.2 FAR with at least 25% reserved for parking); 2) Increase the maximum FAR for the RM-2-4 zone in Ocean Beach to .95 and continue to require the 25% set aside for parking (which would net .7 per existing FAR limit); or 3) Keep the maximum FAR for the RM-2-4 zone in Ocean Beach at .7, but eliminate the requirement for at least 25% to be reserved for parking.

The OBPB voted unanimously AGAINST this action and I think even had some choice words for the City…akin to “hell no” but I’ll keep it clean here. Heck, I even think there was an OBRag Post on the meeting by Dan Morales.

The City has been devising a way to raise the FAR in OB since the OBPB put the asterisk in the SD Muni Code in the 70’s by the RM2-4 zone that states in OB and PL the max FAR in RM2-4 will be .7 (vice 1.2 which is the FAR elsewhere).

Now the City has devised a perfect plan to at least move the FAR to 1.0. They’ve eliminated the requirement for 25% of the FAR to be reserved for parking in substandard lots without alley parking through a variance. Although that isn’t at all why variances exist. They exist to give a person a break on the rules when they can’t build what everyone else can build for some reason.

I fail to see why the people on this block could not have built the regular size .7 FAR house with the parking included!!!!!! The reason simply doesn’t exist and it appears from the staff report that they are using all kinds of double talk against their “planning” documents to circumvent the LAW.

Seems harmless enough right? Except that RM2-4 makes up approximately 2/3 of the parcels in OB (almost everything west of Sunset Cliffs). Further, it’s not like this is the only location in OB that doesn’t have an alley behind it. Lots of the cross streets don’t have alleys for parking for the most part unless they happen to have a curb break.

People….if you can’t see this trend and read what the City report Frank is quoting is telling you…you are blind. The City is developing a case of precedent against your Precise Plan and will now allow 1.0 FAR to be built anywhere someone asks. Now, I’m not 100% that means that all of a sudden that OB will be gentrified and all of us Po’ Folk will be kicked out….No, it will take years to move on this. But not for West Point Loma area, for we already know that there is another project being proposed. I’m sure it will look identical to the others.

The shame is that all of these years that all of us who followed the rules and built our little slices of heaven at .7 FAR like the rules we ALL agreed on are now feeling pretty foolish.

Congrats to Frank for keeping this in the forefront of the news and for Tom G and others for fighting this potentially illegal move by the City. I’m proud to say that the OBPB has this one right and that the City Attorney needs to look into why the Planning Department is changing the zoning in OB one parcel at a time instead of the correct process which includes public notice and a Process 5 hearing if I’m not mistaken!

Can we get an update from the meeting last night here or what??? Danny is falling down on the job :)


OB Dude June 2, 2011 at 9:46 am

I do not condone exceeding our community plan’s FAR but I do support one’s right to improve or rebuild their property if they so choose.

Faulconer should be pushing for getting the OB plan finalized. It was funded, worked on and received plenty of community input and support and does not need any tweeking. If he can’t do this for our community …. don’t re-elect Kevin!


dave rice June 2, 2011 at 10:47 am

I’m not worried about Faulconer’s re-election to the clowncil, I’m worried about his aspirations to be mayor.


Danny Morales June 2, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Since council member Kevin is going to be termed out, the question of his reelection is moot. If he has ambitions for higher office then the campaign funds from the tourist and real estate industries will be secured by NOT threatening the interests of those sectors. Furthermore, expecting change to come though the new and improved precise plan makes Samuel Beckett’s Vladimir and Estragon appear as some sort of flaming radicals. Frank’s article is spot on the solution.
It’s going to take concerted action from the entire community to make a difference in this situation. Ocean Beach has surrendered too much of its natural abundance to the market for us to delay any longer. The question is do yous want to hold the line on gentrification in OB? Well do ya’ punk?


doug porter June 3, 2011 at 8:33 am

actually, Falconer may NOT be termed out. The law on term limits sets those limits on representing a numbered council district, not on the position of City Councilman/woman. So if redistricting (a big “if”, granted) manages to change Kevin’s residence into another City Council district, he’s free to run again in that district. This is why redistricting is a big deal.


OB Dude June 3, 2011 at 9:43 am

Continued councilman..mayor…board member on the port….etc. Based on his recent disclosure he could easily be beholding to special interests


obDADA September 25, 2011 at 5:15 pm

SAD daY foR OB……..


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