Community Planning Lesson #2 – Gentrification Coming to Ocean Beach

by on July 6, 2011 · 72 comments

in Environment, History, Ocean Beach, Popular

Okay class, let’s take our seats, get out our pens and notebooks. Hopefully, you didn’t forget too much from Lesson #1.  And as in that earlier lesson,  if I screw up, Landry, Tom, Seth, Gio, Jane, and others on the Board – or those who are knowledgeable about city and OB planning – can correct me in the comments below – so be sure to check those out, as well.)

Today’s lesson about gentrification coming to OB is going to focus on the 5100 block of West Point Loma, for that is the front line in this gentrification crisis.

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.

Gentrification is all around us, but one way it has been slowed down over the decades is with the 30 foot height limit.

The 30 Foot Height Limit

In general, there is a slow process of gentrification going on in Ocean Beach. It is slow and gradual, as a new 3 story house pops up here, and over a block away another pops up, and in time, every block in OB has a large, single-family residence built out to the max, all the way up to 30 feet.  They cannot go higher because of this sacrosanct limit.  You can build 3 stories with 30 feet.  And some builders, in order to get around this limit, pile dirt on the lot in order to produce a base that is higher than the original, in other words they raise the grade higher than the original. And then they go up the thirty feet. Unfortunately, this has been more common than people think.

The 30 foot height limit was passed by San Diego voters in 1972 – in reaction to the widespread unbridled apartment construction close to the ocean or bays going back over three decades ago.

It was November 1972, and San Diego voters overwhelmingly approved  Proposition D – which was what the 30 foot limit was titled.  It established a 30-foot height limit on new construction whether on private or city property in the city’s coastal zone.  This coastal zone was west of Interstate 5, with two exceptions: Little Italy and Downtown.

The ballot had language on Prop D that stated the intended purpose of the proposition was to preserve “the unique and beautiful character of the coastal zone of San Diego,” and prohibited buildings that obstructed “ocean breezes, sky and sunshine.”

And we are so glad that voters back then did that. That was a people’s victory, and must be protected.

5100 Block of West Point Loma

So, what is going on at the 5100 block of West Point Loma?

Well, decades ago, a series of 15 duplexes were built all in a row, all next to each other. They are single story, with parking for 2 vehicles in the front and small yards in the back.  The fenced back yards butt up against the grass at North OB, so they do not have alleys or alley-access. Originally part of one development, most now are singularly owned.

A lot of people feel these duplexes are ugly, dilapidated, and some are quite run-down.  But people live in them, and without any study of the rents of these units, we can lump them in with much of the rest of north-west Ocean Beach, an area that has been called the “war zone” over the years – much to the disdain of realtors and speculators.

This sector of OB is also the more “low-rent” neighborhood of our village, which allows low income people to live at the beach.  This includes seniors on fixed incomes, young families, students, surfers, sailors, and working people without many resources. Living at the beach is one of those joys, and OB is one of the last remaining beach towns in Southern California where poor people can reside.  The units of these duplexes are not large, obviously, and this is part of their attraction and distraction.

When the new Precise Plan was written and instituted in the mid-seventies, this area of OB was obviously included. It’s in District 1 of the OB Planning Area.  And as much of the western portion of Ocean Beach, this area is zoned RM 2-4. And it’s been that way ever since.

Now, during Lesson #1, we just touched on parking as an issue. We said then:

One of the other requirements and restrictions to building is the parking element.  Under the requirements of the RM2-4 zone in the OB Precise Plan, the building must include enclosed parking.  So, that 1,750 square foot area must include an enclosed parking space, which usually makes up 25%.

Again, going back to the issue of the size of the lots, the duplexes along this stretch of West Point Loma are all 25 feet in front and a 100 foot depth.  That’s a total of 2500 square feet. This size is very common in OB – in fact it’s the “standard” lot in much of the village.

With the FAR (Floor Area Ratio – if you don’t know what that is or have forgotten – return to Lesson #1) being 0.7, the most a home builder or developer can build is 1,750 square feet.  Under the zoning for this area, RM 2-4, the Precise Plan requires that any parking be enclosed, and that this enclosed parking has to be included in the 1,750 square feet. Okay so far (no pun intended)?

So, what’s the problem?

The problem stems from property owners who own these duplexes coming forward with plans to first, demolish their duplex, and then build large, chunky three-story single family residences. And these property owners do not want to follow the Precise Plan as they want to get around the requirements of the parking restrictions and the liveable space.  Up to now, the City of San Diego seems geared to happily allow them to do just that. To the detriment of the rest of us.

The duplex owners want to take the 25% reserved for the enclosed garage, and add it to their living space. They are doing this by either getting the City to authorize a car port instead of a garage, so the rule that the Precise Plan and the zoning has for parking is trashed. Or in the case of the most recent planned house, the City agreed to allow the owner not even to have to build a car port, and the parking space is at the front of the lot.

Why or how is the City doing this?

Stebbins residence, already constructed, on the left, and the current Cox property on the right.

The City is granting these owners and builders what’s called variances.  These variances allow the builder to get around the rules of the Precise Plan.

So, for example, both the Stebbins residence at 5166 West Point Loma and the Cox residence next door, at 5164, were granted variances that allowed, first, the Stebbins to build their bulky, out-of-character place – which has been constructed, and has allowed, second, the Cox builder approval to build something very similar – but even without the car port in front.

These deviations from the prescribed plan are being handed out by the City – which has demolished its own Planning Department – under a reasoning that disses the OB Precise Plan, the zoning of the area, and the will of the people. (See this accounting of the Stebbins and Cox residences process from an earlier post.)

The City is doing all this by, first calling the RM 2-4 lots “substandard”, and using that logic, are granting these variances.  But as we discussed in Lesson #1, the most common lot in OB is the 100 foot by 25 foot lot – so how can these plots be called “substandard” if they are, in fact, the standard for our community? The City, of course, is saying that the lots are substandard compared to the rest of the City, and that the zoning for that area that includes West Point Loma is just wrong.

Both the Stebbins and Cox residences were granted two variances that chill the protections to our community under the Precise Plan and under current zoning laws.

The first variance the City seems eager to grant is to allow parking in the front, instead of in an enclosed garage or even a covered parking area. The second is to allow that 25% of the buildable space reserved for parking now to be part of the living space. (There is a third variance which has to do with elevation – the building is supposed to be 3 feet about the median high tide.)

The City has been arguing that because the lots are “substandard” and because the zoning is “wrong”, that developers like the Stebbins and Coxes deserve these variances in order to throw up these 3 story behemoths.

Chapter 12 of the City Land Use Code defines variances for us.  First, we have the purpose:

§126.0801 Purpose of Variance Procedures

The purpose of these procedures is to provide relief for cases in which, because of special circumstances applicable to the property including size, shape, topography, location, or surroundings, the strict application of the development regulations would deprive the property of privileges enjoyed by other property in the vicinity and under the same land use designation and zone.

And then we have what must be determined or found in order to grant a variance:

§126.0805 Findings for Variance Approval

The decision maker may approve or conditionally approve an application for a variance only if the decision maker makes the following findings:

(a) There are special circumstances or conditions applying to the land or premises for which the variance is sought that are peculiar to the land or premises and do not apply generally to the land or premises in the neighborhood, and these conditions have not resulted from any act of the applicant after the adoption of the applicable zone regulations;

(b) The circumstances or conditions are such that the strict application of the regulations of the Land Development Code would deprive the applicant of reasonable use of the land or premises and the variance granted by the City is the minimum variance that will permit the reasonable use of the land or premises;

(c) The granting of the variance will be in harmony with the general purpose and intent of the regulations and will not be detrimental to the public health, safety, or welfare; and

(d) The granting of the variance will not adversely affect the applicable land use plan. If the variance is being sought in conjunction with any proposed coastal development, the required finding shall specify that granting of the variance conforms with, and is adequate to carry out, the provisions of the certified land use plan.

Now, we could pick this apart line by line and show how the variances already granted to Stebbins and Cox do not meet these standards.   For instance, after the Stebbins residence was approved, Cox came along and said ‘we want to build a similar structure just like Stebbins.’

Well, right there in sub-section (a), it states the variance sought must be due to conditions “that are peculiar to the land or premises and do not apply generally to the land or premises in the neighborhood.”  That might have applied to Stebbins but certainly not to Cox.  That’s just the beginning.  And there’s already a third applicant – another duplex owner – who wants to do the exact same thing as Stebbins and now Cox.

If the variances granted are to allow the builder to get around the Precise Plan and its zoning requirements, how can the City then comply with sub-sections (b), (c), and (d)?

Significantly, the City is calling the zoning in this area “wrong”. If the zoning is truly “wrong”, then there are procedures for changing the zoning, and that procedure is outlined in the City’s Municipal Code:

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 (the Process Five) and have a full public hearing on the issue. Zoning 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.

Okay, class, that’s enough for today. Get out there and enjoy the remainder of the day or night. Just remember this lesson.  Gentrification is a complicated process but it also is an unforgiving process, as once it’s done, it’s done.

{ 72 comments… read them below or add one }

Allen Lewis July 6, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Isn’t this the American way? Frank, they may have read your story on “Can Progressives Be Patriotic?” and said right on to that, but went right ahead and cheated to there own benefit. This is what our hole system is about, we have become a country of cheaters just like our government. Americans talk a good story but fuck you in the proses. Very few follow the rules, or when something comes to a vote it’s worded in a way it’s hard to tell what your voting for. Good luck on trying to save my home town, but I must say when I go back to visit the only thing that stays the same is Sunset Cliffs, for the most part.


Robert Burns July 6, 2011 at 8:54 pm

I spent a lot of time dealing with local coastal program amendments sought by a group down there to bring in one big development in the 1990’s. I still have those materials should anyone want to review them. I don’t really have a community character gripe here but I am irritated that once again the appearance of corruption has arisen amongst City development servicers who definitely know that variances or project denials are required for such projects and at best have no concern for cumulative impacts nor common sense. I suggest that you finger everyone in the chain of approval and consultation and look for developer ties and divorcing spouses (bribes are likely well disguised except where someone surveils or snitches).


Allen Lewis July 6, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Any one who has lived in San Diego for any time knows that the government along with the police has been corrupt sense the beginning of time, (got to love the divorcing spouses). I’m thinken that it’s not about community character but about the character of people, so if you find a way to get what you want then screw you I don’t care what you think this block should be. It’s not about corrupt government we all know that’s what we live with and created, it’s about people that support it and use it to there best entrust. The Government will never change intel the people do.


tj July 7, 2011 at 12:36 am

“low-rent” neighborhood of our village, which allows low income people to live at the beach”

Affluent Democrats, like Republicans – don’t want that …. anywhere near them ….

“Hypocrisy is my least favorite sin.
Mark Twain


Kathy July 7, 2011 at 5:37 am

I’ve lived on this block 11 years, “low rent district”, my ass. Average rents are $1100/1 br and $1600/2 br. A few years back, these places were selling for $700,000+. The housing crisis least affected the beach communities.

Ugly houses? Yes, but like some unattractive people, there’s an inner beauty that those close only see. Our neighbors are our friends, some are like family. Other than the occasional weirdos who come and go, we all get along, are noise tolerant, and look out for each other.

War zone? This block is virtually crime free. Our proximity to the beach ensures a visible police presence.

Location, location, location, that’s what it’s all about. No where else in OB is there a block of residential property on flat uniform lots, just steps from the beach.

We are happy Stebbins finally got his house built. It’s lovely. Don’t know the guy, other than he went thru hell to get his plan approved. So many revisions, it must have cost him a fortune.

We expected more to follow, knew about Cox, but not the third guy. This is good. Why? Because all of them will make it easier for the rest of us to improve our properties. Not to the extent that Stebbins has, we don’t have that kind of money and we rely on rental income.

I agree with the City’s flexibility, the willingness to provide variances so owners can overcome the limitations these small lots present. While the City’s interest is revenue gains from increased property values, the block will undergo a gradual facelift, a look of variety, an upgrade from “ghetto” to “eclectic”.


Frank Gormlie July 7, 2011 at 9:11 am

Sounds like you’re willing to go with the gentrified nature of your future. And if the rest of the neighborhood goes, so goes OB. Then we get to say ‘bye-bye OB, nice knowin’ ya’.


bobob July 10, 2011 at 5:59 pm

so if the people who own those properties want to fix them up its gentrification….and that apparently is a bad thing…hmmm.


Seth July 7, 2011 at 11:43 am

Speaking only for myself, the major issue here is whether the City is attempting to do a de facto rezoning through variances. If the point is to get parts or all of OB rezoned, there is an actual process for that to take place. Let them go that route and we can all have a conversation about whether or not that should happen. If it were to take place through repeated variances without actually rezoning, that is of very questionable legality, to say the least.


Deborah July 7, 2011 at 8:03 am

I tend to agree with Kathy’s points. Change can sometimes be hard, but any money people are willing to invest in their homes will ultimately improve our fare city. I am very attracted to the organic nature of the gradual facelift our community is undergoing. I additionally love the eclectic nature of the improvements being made — so unlike the CCNRs of the “gentrified communities” I think the article’s author is trying to compare us to. :-)


Frank Gormlie July 7, 2011 at 9:12 am

There is nothing organic about gentrification.


john July 7, 2011 at 9:22 am

Let me start by saying (some of you know this/me) I’ve been renting at 5168 for 16 years, 5170 for 2 before that. I live next to Stebbins, and I’ll be sandwiched by the third prospective builder if his goes up.
When I moved in, “The War Zone” was indeed the name of these streets but then those were the days a quaint little motorcycle shop was open doing business across from Lucy’s on Voltaire. ALL of OB, hell, all of the world was a lot rougher around the edges in those days. OB has changed, some think for the better, others are not so sure. The world has too for that matter.
Kathy (a good friend as are most of us who have been here a decade or more) has a lot of good points and I agree with most. Stebbins’ home IS lovely. I doubt she’d quite feel as ambivilent about it had Alex (her neighbor in a similar fashion) been the first to make that move. What it does is break up the village, the community. Where there used to be a house just like mine, and a neighbor who lived like me, well I look out my window or kitchen door and see a white plastic fence. I look up, my neck straining, I see a deck looking down on me…. oh but that’s the lower deck. There’s another 10 feet above that.
David Stebbins has always been a friendly guy, and I told him with a smile as he began construction, well Dave I don’t like what you’re doing but I am not one to stand in the way of progress. The build went surprisingly unobtrusive to my life, a bit of noise, nothing extreme. Dave’s still my neighbor and we’re still friendly, but the neighborhood I have called my home for almost 2 decades is definately being fractured, and I think that is one point Kathy may have been a bit short sighted on when she chose the word “eclectic” to describe the changes going on here.
If these changes were of the intent of improving the neighborhood, they would complement the existing properties, like what I presume Kathy is alluding to with their property-not contradict them. They would add cohesion to the “village” if they followed the spirit as well as the letter of the precise plan- not offer such blatant division.
It’s a touchy subject but this can’t help but raise an issue I believe Danny Morales has discused, that of class warfare. You know one of the reasons OB has long been a tight knit, friendly community with so many familiar faces, is because of basic human need. The woman who lived in front of me years ago was a single mom with two teenage sons, worked as a waitress at nights, she had an older car and I used to do minor repairs on it as a favor, because I always owned “project cars” and had my tools out. The neighbor couple next to her, Chuck and Sherri, used to bring me plates of home cooked food because as a single guy I wasn’t big on cooking. A few times I’ve hit Kathy’s neighbor Alex up for a loan between paydays. I’ve fixed a few things for him that would have been wasteful to throw away. Kathy has shared food with me more than a few times, I’ve herded Alex’s dogs back into his yard numerous times, and even helped man the hoses when the house next to his caught fire years ago. We look out for each other.
Most of us humans have need or want for things, that other humans have more than they need. So we pitch in together, it feels as good to give as it does to receive of course.
I look out the window, at that plastic fence. strain my neck looking to the sky, I don’t need anything from Dave, my neighbor. I can’t imagine Dave will ever need anything from me.
That, my friends, is what gentrification is about.


Frank Gormlie July 7, 2011 at 10:48 am

Bump ^ – nice job John.


Patty Jones July 7, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Double bump^


Aging Hippie June 23, 2014 at 8:46 am

^ This.


chico July 7, 2011 at 10:51 am

Very well said John! I tended to agree with Kathy’s comment at first, but you raised some very interesting points that helped further explained why the author of this artilce (Frank) is so against the gentrification of OB. Kudos to you for a very well thought out commentary and helping to enlighten some of us who are just kind of on the fence as to why is it’s such a big deal that people are against others who want to improve their properties if they had the financial means to do so and which could only mean a “cleaner” OB. Thanks.


The (Now) Bearded OBecian July 7, 2011 at 10:59 am

I think we can all agree that the people and character of OB are timeless and, quite simply, wonderful. However, at what point would we consider it ok for properties to be improved upon? Would we rather have properties/business crumbling before us, or improved? Would we prefer to have poor restaurants and services, or an influx of good ones? Isn’t that also a means of gentrification?

It seems that gentrification is a fine line that needs to be straddled with a delicate touch. What some see as an invasion ruining our community, others will find that it’s simply a generational improvement upon what came before. I’m not sure what the answer is.


Frank Gormlie July 7, 2011 at 11:22 am

Yes, but now you’re at least thinking about the problem.


Kenloc July 7, 2011 at 11:17 am

I wonder what the people who lived here before the duplexes were originally built thought about them at that time. New construction along the coastline.Modern(for the time) looking housing.There goes the neighborhood.
Should these buildings be left to deteriorate to keep rents down in the rest of the hood?
Should they knock down the duplex and build it again exactly is it was? I’m curious to hear what YOUR suggetions are for the property owner regarding HIS property.Even if he rebuilds at a smaller scale,his property value goes up,area looks nicer,rents go up.
Perhaps we can get a law passed that says you can’t build anything ever,raise rents ever,or do anything else that might make the community look newer or cleaner because peoples rent might go up.We can even give tax breaks to people who let their building fall apart.
To call these folks “developers” is kind of lame.They are home owners.


Frank Gormlie July 7, 2011 at 11:28 am

It’s difficult at times trying to explain the course of development in OB over the last 40 years to folks who’ve moved here since, and did not have a taste of how badly the planning crisis was in OB and throughout the beach areas by the late sixties and early seventies. We here at the OB Rag have tried to explain and describe this history – and there’s all kinds of historical posts on this website – just do a history search, go to the navigation bar and look for the OB Time Machine. Even if newer folks acknowledge this history and still think gentrification is okay, then that’s the death knell for OB as we all know it now. Go up to Venice in LA or look at other beach communities and tell me what you see. You’ll see beach communities with maxed out gentrified huge homes for the wealthy. Hell, just go look at Mission Beach and Mission Bay for that matter. Mission Bay has been so gentrified there ain’t no community left.

Gentrification changes a community because it changes the kinds of people who live in it. Yet, if there’s no one left in OB who cares about this – which I doubt – then that will signal the future for OB.


Kenloc July 7, 2011 at 12:04 pm

You still didn’t get to the main point of my comment.Not how things used to be,but how it is going to be.What’s your vision of how OB should be?What should be done when buildings start to crumble?Let’s say old Mr.Stebbins decided to just sell his property the way it was and move to a bigger house.The person he sold it too will have paid a pretty penny for it even in the old condition.That put’s a person who is not on the low end of the pay grade too,does it not?
To echo another commentor,why do businesses like the Joint garner praise from the rag but property owners improving their homes are villains.Surely a Sushi joint that serves Tapas and wine in place of an old greek restaurant is gentrification too,is it not?When the owners of other properties see this place doing so well won’t they raise the rents on others,as was your fear of Starbucks moving in?


Frank Gormlie July 7, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Kenloc – you, again, are mixing things up. (You’ve been pushing this idea of The Joint being a business “gentrification” for some time now.) First of all, The Joint is owned and run by locals. No comment has to be made about Starbucks and other corporate chains. Stebbins could have improved what he had, or baring that, he could have built a new house without violating our Precise Plan. You make no comments about that. The Precise Plan is our community’s blueprint for such issues. Plus you make no comment about how the City is now operating illegally and granting variances when it doesn’t have the legal power to do so. Ol’ poor Mr Stebbins, who I understand is so wealthy he could afford to hire a well-connected and establishment-prone awyer to run his project for him. He was able to swing his power and wealth around and get what he wanted. Sounds familiar for San Diego.


The (Now) Bearded OBecian July 7, 2011 at 12:45 pm

So, if locals improve upon their property or business, ie The Joint (or the new place going in next to Espresso’s where the old laundry mat used to be), then it’s not considered gentrification?


Frank Gormlie July 7, 2011 at 1:06 pm

You are also comparing apples and oranges, here, commercial vs residential. Chris Stavros, the owner of the new place and of the Olive Tree Market, has been in OB longer than most, and has been active in the community as a businessperson, hires locals, and they stay with him.

Not only that, The Joint just opened (and we hope it stays open) and Chris’ new place (ditto) has yet to open, as I understand. Neither enterprise therefore, has proven that they’ll be around during this recession.

Gentrification, the way we are using it (see the definition) has to do with residential areas being “improved” and in doing so, removing the former class of residents and replacing them with more upper-class people.


Kenloc July 7, 2011 at 1:10 pm

I think you are confusing me with someone else about pushing any idea on your site for some time now,as I haven’t commented here for over a year until the other day.I stop by this site from time to time to get local OB news but usually prefer not to comment as my opinion is different than the other dozen folks that comment here and you all seem to get in a twist about different opinions.Anyway, I did indeed say that he could have rebuilt a smaller home and the property value still would have gone up,eventually raising rents,etc.He could have sold it and the same thing would happen,increased value,higher rent.The point I was making about VRBO is people that own 2 bedroom condos in old buildings are renting them to vacationers.At least these folks live in the home.So yay, businesses on Newport that cater to a more affluent crowd,as long as the crowd doesn’t actually purchase a home here.Seems like your stance on what is considered gentrification flip flops a bit in that instance and I was merely asking you for clarification.The fact that it is owned by locals is a weak argument.In fact,isn’t that worse?Locals are inviting “them” to our town to eat!When does it end?! I bet they like Stebbins and Cox money there……


Frank Gormlie July 7, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Kenloc, if so I apologize. I’ve heard it before recently.


Kenloc July 7, 2011 at 1:35 pm

you have.I have read it before here as well and thought it was a good point.apology accepted)


john July 7, 2011 at 1:08 pm

It should be said that there are a number of these duplexes which are quite nice and are anything but an eyesore- but then their owners are not allowing them to crumble for a few years so they can go through the permits process holding up the “we must redevelop this ghetto” sign.
Buildings “crumble” because you let them. Home Depot sells this stuff, I think it’s called paint? You should check it out!
(one could say Stebbins let his house fall apart for that purpose although it’s just as easily argued the man would be a fool to throw thousands in paint and woodwork on a home it was fully transparant that he was getting ready to demolish- or maybe both are true?)
All smart alec comments of mine aside, I can see the point you’re raising and it’s certainly an issue, but that is why the precise plan was drawn up and a board formed to enforce it. Properties do deteriorate and development of some form becomes necessary. That being said some would argue these structures conform to that plan merely on technical, objective definitions like the 30 ft ht. limit. However the board is there to provide the subjective judgement, projects as they come up should not be “community changing” and that’s what those words like “scale and character” (I believe those are what they say) mean. Improving OB on a gradual basis is not being opposed by anyone, changing the community into something the vast majority have long expressed displeasure with, is.


Seth July 7, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I would suggest that anyone contrast OB to other SoCal communities on the subject of gentrification. Most of them have sacrificed community character for individual economic interest to a rather large degree. The boardwalk at Mission Beach is lined with expensive, oversized vacation rentals that are largely empty during the offseason. There is no doubt that property rights are an important consideration in any discussion about gentrification, and that property owners do in fact possess the right to improve their properties and maximize their values within reason. But this cannot be the only consideration, and perhaps particularly for those who knew their lots were of substandard size when they purchased them.

I am not one to throw around the gentrification word at the drop of a dime. I serve on the OBPB and do believe that cities are living, breathing entities with a natural process of regeneration. When looking at any project, I try to weigh all sides and make a fair (non-binding) recommendation to the City on them, and try never to have a complete opinion of them until I hear all the information. I will seek to do this for all future project as well. But speaking only for myself, there is definitely the possibility shaping up that the City is going down a very precarious road here. One of questionable legality, with the potential to completely change the character of our neighborhood.

People NEED to know this and have a grown-up conversation about what this means and what they want OB to look like in the future. Wherever the conversation goes from there is called democracy.


Kenloc July 7, 2011 at 12:24 pm

You don’t have to have huge home to make it a vacation rental.Check out VRBO s website( vacation rental by owner) You’ll see the soul of OB being rented out on a daily or weekly basis as we speak.


Frank Gormlie July 7, 2011 at 12:32 pm

I just did, and you and the website prove my point. Thanks.


Kenloc July 7, 2011 at 3:48 pm

I was pointing out that gentrification comes in all forms .In my opinion all of these folks renting out their 1 and 2 bedroom condos as vacation rentals are doing OB a far greater disservice than a homeowner who overbuilds a bit but still lives in his overbuilt home.


Frank Gormlie July 7, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Good point. If these folks in 10 years or so cry ‘what happened to OB?’ all they have to do is look in the mirror.


Allen Lewis July 7, 2011 at 1:19 pm

I think it’s all about nostalgia. For me OB is my home town starting in 1950, by 1972 it was hard to find a place to live in OB that I could afford. so the lady in my life and I moved to Hill Crest, My Mom still lived in OB but when she wanted to own her own place she had to move. So know when I go visit I head to OB for that nostalgia feeling of my day’s there. There has been a lot of change, and then a lot has stayed the same. Feel lucky that OB has been very slow to see Gentrification. I have lived in Anacortes Wa. for 15 years and have seen it change from a sleepy fishing town to a suburb of Seattle, and we are 70mi away. When I go home to OB I can still walk past the places I lived in the early 60’s. Everything comes to pass even OB, I’m just happy it’s slow for OB. At 61 this year I’m thinken I will be dead before I can’t walk past the places I lived in OB.


Kathy July 7, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Thanks to everyone who joined this conversation. Rather than reply individually, I’ll continue with a new comment.

As anticipated, Stebbins’ remodel has generated interest among other owners wishing to expand or upgrade their living space. Most owners can’t afford to invest in architectural plans that risk rejection, or costly remodels that don’t add living space. Stebbins’ tenacity paved the way to explore just what we can do, and not succumb to anticipated roadblocks.

Frank, gentrification is of no specific relevance on the 5100 block. The only poor people around here are homeless squatters, who set up camp in my back yard. Stebbins relinquished rental income to reside in his new one family home. His former tenant had to move. His neighbor plans a similar project, another plans something, and we “discussed” adding a second story at some future date. Tenancy conversions, revised floor plans and multi-levels, won’t transform the current flavor of this block of 15 homes. The lot size is what it is, hardly enough to construct a mansion, upscale condos or vacation rentals.

John, the argument is about forcing low income people out, because property upgrades have caused a significant increase in home values and rents. It is not about maintaining that 50’s look. These are certainly not historical homes. Fifteen owners can do what they please, or do nothing, to alter the structural appearance of their homes, upon approval.

The 5100 block homes were built in the early 50’s, economy built, uninsulated, flat roofed boxes on a slab, often mistaken as trailers. They are in various stages of disrepair due to their age, termites and environmental elements. They continue to disintegrate because absentee owners don’t give a crap, and resident owners are bewildered by imposing building limitations.

The Precise Plan does not deprive us from making significant structural changes. We don’t answer to an HOA. The fair rental values in my block are 92107 consistent, variations are dictated by amenities and property owners.

Frank, it’s ridiculous to suggest we maintain our properties in a way that attracts or accommodates low income families. And, it’s offensive to refer to my neighborhood as a low income, low rental war zone. These insinuations are contrary to taking pride in our homes, and beautification of our community, or as you say “village”.

What’s your point?


Kenloc July 7, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Well Said! or as you ragsters may say………Bump^


Kathy July 7, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Reread your comments, and we are obviously on the same page.
Bump^ing you back. I’m not a regular here. Unless it’s about my backyard!


Nancy July 7, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Kathy, “You go girl” I live across the street from the 5100 block and its just wonderful,
always has been and in my eyes (and time left) always will be.


Frank Gormlie July 7, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Kathy, your response is well-thought out – although I don’t agree with it all-, and you’ve added some history and background about the 15 duplexes on West Pt Loma.

My point is: gentrification is a process, and by definition it is a process where older neighborhoods are destroyed and newer, more up-scale developments come in to replace what was taken out, and it includes the replacement of lower-income people and/or people of color with higher-income people. This process is and has been happening in OB.

In most other areas of OB, it is occurring on a piece-meal basis, one house here on this block, another house on another block over there, etc. You can see this if you travel around OB.

But it is now on the 5100 block of WPt Loma where the gentrification process is most clear and has the potential to cause the most damage to OB. Owners of the duplexes are circumventing prescribed rules and regulations (floor area ratio, parking requirements) outlined in the OB Precise Plan and being enabled by the City of San Diego which is acting illegally in granting variances to these homeowners (who hire developers).

The OB Planning Board was split on the Stebbins residence but was nearly unanimous against the Cox residence.

My point, Kathy, is that if every one of those 15 lots ends up over the next few years with 3 storied bulky houses with very little space between them, it will present a 30 foot wall of concrete, wood and stucco, blocking views, breezes, and access to our public properties.

And once this sector of north-west OB goes gentrified, then it becomes a slippery slope for the remainder of that neck of the woods.

Your disclaimer of living in a ‘low-rent’ area of OB – not meant at all as an insult but more of an historic description of that neighborhood – confuses me, and as you say you’ve lived there for 11 years, I don’t know how to respond. I could ask ‘do you close your eyes as you pass through that neighborhood?’ but I won’t. Sometimes we all “see” what we want to, I do it too.


Kenloc July 7, 2011 at 6:04 pm

I know many people who don’t live in OB because it is cheaper to live in other parts of the city. Rents here really aren’t that low , unless your comparing it solely to other beach towns. Ask anyone on the street here if their rent is cheap and I’m sure they will tell you it’s not.I realize what the warzone was in the past, and have read the history and heard the stories.It is quite different now and, again,if you ask folks on the street if they’d like the neighborhood to go back to the war zone days I’m sure most would not.
So what is gentrification and what is improvment?In the eyes of the beholder I suppose.People don’t want OB to become MB,but they dont want it ghetto either.I think it’s a tough balancing act but it can probably be done without demonizing people that want to improve the home in which they live.
On a side note,people of color live in OB?Are yo sure they aren’t just really tan white people?


The Bearded Obcian July 8, 2011 at 3:42 pm

That’s pretty funny. My wife is Chinese and was the only Asian person for years in ob. Or at least it certainly seemed that way to us.


Kenloc July 9, 2011 at 12:30 pm

My wife is Mexican and has a dark complexion.I tell her she is the darkest person in town =)


bobob July 10, 2011 at 6:10 pm

I appreciate where your coming from frank but this article ignores the fact that on every block all around ob houses are going up built out as much as possible in height and footprint. I get the argument that the city is doing something shady and maybe illegal down there. But the argument that approving of the stebbins home or others on that block somehow is paving the way for “gentrification” I would say look around, that ship sailed long ago my friend.


john July 8, 2011 at 1:36 am

Well there’s certainly points we agree on and others we don’t, but I think I can best summarize how it is we can disagree within these posts yet still be on the same page on the overall issue:

“among other owners wishing to expand or upgrade their living space. ”

I don’t think anyone could dispute that had this been all these people had attempted to do, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation in the first place. What you have in mind is reasonable, of course because I know you are a reasonable person. Thus rather than beleaguer talking points that are superfluous considering we have much in common as neighbors and friends and it would hardly change the course of these events anyway, I will leave any doubts about where this is all heading to be told by the horse’s mouth.

These are some of the comments (forgive the typos, C/Ping from an adobe acrobat document) from owners as offered in Stebbins’ appeal- where he also did argue:
applicant claims that if 6 more owners build on the block this could create a walling off effect.
Appellant provides no evidence of how this would come about other than vague statements.”

This from the owner of 5184:

“I am currestiy residing out of stats or I would appear personally at the council hearing. 1 plan to spend my retirement years in Ocean Beach, and I believe that David’s project will bs an
a set to the Ocean Beach community. It particularly will be an improvement to the area which
was some years ago described to me as “crack alley'”

Has he ever even seen the house he owns? He isn’t the only one who thinks beaches and sand are appropriate for wheelchairs and oxygen tanks, our third project applicant @5172, who has never lived there the 17 years he’s owned it, states:

“I plan to rebuild my place when I retire, it is time to clean up this area…..”

He’s let his own property fall into such disrepair a mild storm in the spring destroyed the patio awning.

This gem from another absentee owner, this time @5172:

I have seen the concept drawings and can only
say that this would do a great deal for us as homeowners and for the beautification of OB.
Its time that the area sees some gentrification and David’s project is a step in the right direction.


john July 8, 2011 at 2:15 am

(ctd, noting the address of the second to last comment actually was 5170)

This from Cox, who seems to have a hotline to city council?

To: Counciimsn Kevin Faulconer
202 CSt ms#10
San Dieoo.Ca 92101
CC tc: David Stebbins
San Diego, Ca. 92107
Dsar Mr. Faulconer,
My wrfe and I own the property directly next door to Mr. Stebbins proposed project Our
address is 5164 W. Point Loma Blvd. As you know, our lot and structure are essentially identicaL
We are in favor of Mr. Stebbins plans to improve his properly. We also feei this wiii be a benefit to
the community. We would very much iike to see the structures on both sides of us follow his lead.
To my knowJedge. these one story structures were built in the SO’s and are over due for
Alvin and Joan Cox
PS; We attended Michael Aguirre’s talk at the San Diego Yacht and the open day ceremonies and
noted your attendance at both. Thank you very much for your work with our beautiful city and our yacht club.”

So perhaps we can call the neighborhood fourth of July party a “cotillion” or “soiree” as we pass grey poupon from our mercedes benzes (real ones like Dave’s, not “parkers”, love ya Alex!) and stare at each other through large insulated windows?

The point of all these is that none of these people live here. The Precise Plan was implemented by people who did, and had strong sentiments against “mission beachification” and didn’t want it to happen here. If these people want luxury beachfront living, there are endless properties for sale just a mile across the channel! What’s going on here?

Probably business as ususual, buy low, sell high, take the money and run. Mission Beach is already developed, as was said the housing crisis least affected the beach communities….

My real estate broker has the inside track on a block of beachfront properties, all we have to do is squat for awhile, then build and encourage the others to do the same to raise property values, we’ll make a bundle!


OB law(yer) July 8, 2011 at 9:02 am

There it is. Gentrification driven by capitalism – profit – greed. Bump? not sure what that is but I guess it means “I agree”.

My guess is that none of the people above have any interest in ever living in OB and the days are numbered on how long Stebbins will live there as you can see from the picture at the top of the article which shows a big massive iron gate blocking off the rif raff from Mr. Stebbins fancy mercedes. That clearly says “stay away you trolls”.

Think that Stebbins was at the marshmallow fight? ha ha….ok I’m done poking fun.


Kenloc July 9, 2011 at 11:46 am

I think you touched on an important underlying element to the whole gentrification topic.Owner occupied residences vs. rental units.
Most of OB is rentals.Many by landlords who allow their buildings to fall into dissrepair.After all, if the tenant s still paying rent it isn’t broken,right?
The side effect to this I suppose is keeping rents lower. I’ve lived in many places around town and when the landlord finally does do something to improve the building you can bet a rent increase is close behind.
Now let’s imagine if “all of these people that don’t even live here” move into the homes they own and kick the tenants out.Or if the home is sold and the new owner is going to occupy it.Homeowners love to fix up the homes they live in.They take better care of the homes they live in.They have more money than the old renters do and want nicer restaurants and services.New businesses open to accomodate them and make a profit from them.
This is already happening. And the more owner occupied homes you get,the more “gentrified”Ob will become.I think the catalyst for this movement was the booze ban on the beach.Clean beaches free of drunks.The drunks moved to the alleys.Police kick in phase 2 and ticket the crap out of them and drive them out.Cleaner streets with less drunks.People that visit OB see clean family friendly beaches and want to come here.And so it goes……….I don’t think zoning and building codes will stop this ball from rolling,nor do I think singling out a homeowner for overdoing it on his remodel will either.It’s not what I or many others want,but I feel it’s already happened to a degree and it appears to be inevitable


Seth July 9, 2011 at 9:38 pm

All true, Ken. The one important thing about the zoning, however, is that it sets the rules of the game. At the risk of oversimplifying, the rules either apply to everyone, or no one. The same argument that was used to help get Mr. Stebbins his variance has already been used by a neighbor to get another one. This is the beginning of a precedent. Hard to turn down the next person’s variance when it is the exact same argument. And this same argument could potentially be made well beyond that one block of West Point Loma, which is why Frank is writing this article. If not for the FAR levels in OB, it would already be a very different place. If we are setting the precedent that this rule no longer needs to be followed due to that same argument, it could have a serious impact on this community.

For me personally, I have no interest in making this about one homeowner or group of homeowners. I don’t resent anyone for trying to build themselves a nice place. But my sense of fairness kicks in if I think the rules are being applied selectively. If the rules are going to be changed, it should be done up front and in public.


Kenloc July 9, 2011 at 10:57 pm

You make a good point about the Far level,Seth.I suppose if you hinder the amount of house one could build here you would keep a certain element out of this side of OB because he can’t have a palace to reside in.I kind of feel that ship has sailed though.I see big places popping up all over OB,not just here.They are actually not THAT big in comparison to most McMansions,they just look huge compared to the dumpy little place next to them hat was built 100 years ago.
Perhaps OB is on it’s way to becoming like Haight or SOHO and Washington Square,once the place of rebellious freedom now coveted for it’s “artsy bohemian”feel by the uppercrust.They made small apartments and lofts “trendy”.I can certainly see that happening…or has it started already?


Kathy July 7, 2011 at 7:27 pm

The basis that has formed our opinions is too distant to ever agree.

My priorities are ranked by what affects me most and fulfills my personal needs. I am knowledgeable and influential on things close to me or in my control.

You attempt to control less personal needs, things that affect others, to satisfy your big picture of what you perceive is best for everyone, with no knowledge of our little worlds.

My eyes are wide open in my environment. You admit you have not studied the rents on the 5100 block, yet dismiss my first hand knowledge with an anecdotal historic description. Our 1 BR unit rents for $1100. I found at least 25 listings on Craigslist for 1 BR rentals in OB today. One was $1600, one was $1100, the remainder were in the $900-$1000 range. This block is considered “on the beach”, the advertised units were 1/2 block or further.

I live here and want to live among the same class of people. Our tenant pays higher than average rent and deserves to live in a nice setting. Home improvements are contagious and upgrade the neighborhood. And, not to the exaggerated extent you imply . . .
“if every one of those 15 lots ends up over the next few years with 3 storied bulky houses with very little space between them, it will present a 30 foot wall of concrete, wood and stucco, blocking views, breezes, and access to our public properties.”

Again, you display ignorance of the 5100 block. With our homes 70 inches apart, side doors and bathroom window adjacent to our neighbors (one guy used to say “hi” to me from the shower), there’s no breeze and a view I could do without. The only guy on my block with a breeze and a view is Stebbins.

My priorities include lighting and street conditions where I ride my bike, entertaining venues unique to my community, affordable shopping and dining. I could care less if the guy on the next block offers vacations rentals or remodels his home.

You, on the other hand, yearn for yesteryear.


Frank Gormlie July 7, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Your response reflects, to me, a belief that I, the author of the post, am alone in this understanding of what’s coming down on the 5100 block of W.Pt Loma. Please don’t be fooled by such reckless thoughts. The entire OB Planning Board – except 1 – voted against the Cox residence.

Okay the rents on that block are higher than average for one block from the beach (?), dunno. Go east a block or two, check out some of the apartments, other duplexes. Unless your “environment” only extends to your front yard, you cannot miss what I am talking about.

While you admit you are motivated by fulfilling your own personal needs, you then say “home improvements are contagious and upgrade the neighborhood.” Bingo! We agree – wow! That’s what I’m talking about. Why didn’t Stebbins, Cox and now the 3rd applicant consider “home improvements” instead of totally demolishing what was there and throwing up a bulky 3 story, allowed because the City is granting illegal variances. Try to grasp a more community-oriented view of things.

If by saying I “yearn for yesteryear” you mean I yearn for the days that the OB Precise Plan was upheld and that the OB Planning Board was respected by the City, you are absolutely right. A lot of people’s time, energy and wisdom went into that document, including OB merchants, professionals, single-family homeowners and renters, months of meetings, research, and discussions … all into the OB Precise Plan, a blueprint on landuse and development for the community, yes, the “village” as you say with disdain, I think.

I’ve explained my position, which reflects both the current Planning Board – the most representative body in OB – , and reflects the lessons of 4 decades of fighting gentrification and finally it reflects the OB Precise Plan.

Thank you for this opportunity to clarify (and repeat) my views.


OB Dude July 7, 2011 at 8:26 pm

I have to agree with Kathy on some points. The first is they are NOT cheap to rent. Currently, from the street there is no view so whether they are one story or two story or even three (like across the street) the view belongs to the property owner. Not to passers by.

After being in a few of these units you realize they are termite ridden, plumbing needs to be replaced, no sound proofing so you easily hear your neighbor plush their toilet, the rooms are choppy and small. This block is an old small track housing development which has seen it’s day. I am ready to embrace some interesting architechure and hope that whomever lives here will be a good neighbor, take care of their property and love OB. Most people have a few dreams…for many its their home…dream on.


Kathy July 7, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Thanks for the reinforcement.
I don’t even think these were intended for year round living, more like vacations rentals. There’s small gatherings of similarly constructed homes, this side of Cable, between small apartment complexes and other mixed residential. Which leads me to believe many more like these lined the streets and were eventually replaced to accommodate OB’s growing population.


OB law(yer) July 8, 2011 at 8:55 am

Thanks for bringing up the legal context of the discussion Frank. You are absolutely correct, the process for approving a variance depends on determining HARDSHIP. There isn’t and has never been any legal determination of a true hardship in order to grant the variance for the FAR bonus! What an oversight by the City!

I doubt the Planning Board would have been against either projects had they recommended building the same size home that exists on 90% of the RM 2-4 lots of OB (which would be ~1500sf). No one here makes a valid point to show me why they couldn’t have built the same maximum size that everyone else is allowed (which is ~1500sf home with the remaining 250sf in the garage). Nobody is against them replacing the Shipfront Duplexes, even though they are a definative archtectural style and represent a much more modest time in our history than the Stucco McMansion that Stebbins built.

Make no mistake, Stebbins bought his FAR bonus with a fancy land use lawyer from LA and Ol’ Mr. Wolfsheimer and a ton of pressure on our favorite downtown flip flopper Faulconer. Staff’s position is that the FAR bonus is allowed because the REST OF THE CITY gets to build to a higher FAR on RM 2-4 zones right? Pray tell, where are the rest of these homes? Please tell the court, loudly, so that all can hear….and give us a map as well. We’d love to see these mythical homes (which I doubt exist).

My colleague Mr. Burns refers to a previous effort by others to change this entire block previously that failed. In fact, Stebbins first tried to rezone the entire block to get a bigger FAR, then tried (and failed) to work the loophole of getting bigger homes by putting underground parking (in a flood zone). I even offered my services during one of these efforts, but was denied. Hmmf. I guess I don’t have the clout! Frank…talk to Bob and get these papers and make them public!

My discussions with the Walkers on the street as well tell me that the truth is that Stebbins had a coalition of folks who would have all built at the same time if the underground parking concept had worked. This would have represented an FAR more like 1.3 or higher because they would have had an 800sf underground garage. That was finally large enough to make the single home development folks jump and the cost would have been reduced through volume. Rumour continues that there were dealings for all of the homes on the block and even investors ready to back Stebbins had the concept been approved…. Quite a profit to turn on 14 homes in the 2 million range that are currently listing and selling below $600K. The dealings went bad at some point, the Walkers, who previously wholeheartedly supported the effort, pulled out and now are no longer supporting Stebbins and his dealings.

It doesn’t take a detective to figure this stuff out, you only have to watch the footage from the City hearings on this stuff to know that he has been working to create these bigger homes for quite some time. And even in the hearing at City Council, he was still arguing for the underground parking even after the City made him revise the project to the design you see today.

Truth be told…the City actually APPROVED Stebbins underground parking idea at first and then had to reverse their orginal decision when they realized they were in violation of FEMA regulations! All points brought up by the apellants of that original project. The City then fishtailed into the design you see today with the parking out front and the size of the home 25% bigger than most was most likely a CONCESSION because of their original error!

Great follow up Frank…and great comments on the subject as well. You are hitting the point although clearly some folks here are still missing it. Gentrification is driven by capitalism which is driven by greed (which isn’t always wrong or bad). But we clearly subsidize it when we illegally grant size bonuses to projects instead of following the rules by which the entire community agreed. John makes the best points of all about gentrification…. very well said indeed.

I welcome the opportunity for a Process 5 hearing on this issue and I’ll gladly lend my services to the appellants this time seeing as how Stebbins and crew didn’t want my counsel the last time. Stop loopholes for the rich…. let them build a ~1500sf home like the rest of us did. Mr. Seth (you get my vote again sir) says it best….Let’s have an open PUBLIC discussion (Process 5 hearing) on the issue and then if democracy says that OB is ready for an FAR of 1.0 then so be it……..

My guess is that the true people that live in OB will defend our .7 FAR and keep OB’s character the way it has developed for almost 30 years. Small, quaint and downright neighborly. Kudos to the planning board folks for their continued service and for defending our planning document!


Seth July 8, 2011 at 10:01 am

Great post, and certainly worth noting that whatever people’s position on this topic is, there is plenty of middle ground between being forced to remain in “termite-infested trailers” and building beyond the allowable FAR.


Kathy July 8, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Thanks for your informative post. It represents a legal perspective and discloses behind-closed-doors discussions, as well as some misrepresentations.

Admittedly, I was in defense mode when these conversations began yesterday, resenting the implications that my neighborhood is a slum. And, that owners who plan extensive renovations to their property, would meet the same resistance Stebbins faced before he finally got approval. However, I think it generated a lot of interesting talk.

When Stebbins began submitting his rebuilding plans, I too, was mistrustful and in disagreement with the underground parking in a flood zone, wondering what impact it might have during heavy rains. Although infrequent, the street has been knee deep in water, with several inches of accumulated water on the walkways between houses. I remember Stebbins defense that the area around his property remained “bone dry” when it rained, and the “mistaken” approval followed by retraction of his plan for underground parking.

I was also leery of his intentions, wondering how he funded several different architectural plans and the administrative costs to submit them. When he described the block as a “beach ghetto”, I questioned why he would sink so much money to build a dream house among “eyesores”. He didn’t strike me as a beach person. I couldn’t understand his persistence, when he could buy a comparable house with a yard in a nicer neighborhood and, avoid the expense and disruption to tear down and rebuild, and find alternate living quarters. I surmised he had bigger plans, and financial backers, to take over the block. Now, that is what I describe as gentrification. It didn’t happen and I don’t anticipate it will .

If there was a “coalition of folks who would have all rebuilt at the same time” or $2 million offers to buy homes on this block, we weren’t in on it. If this were truly the case, every owner on this block would have been approached early in the game, to feel them out – can they be bought or do they want to buy in . Speculation, exaggerations and rumors.

As Seth commented, hopefully a middle ground will be established for acceptable renovation projects that will give a better look to this block, without the predicted gentrification. There is diverse ownership on this block. Many rely on rental income and can’t afford to displace tenants or change tenancy to one family. However, those in a financial position to do a complete renovation may find a “tear down and rebuild” is the best option, because of the termite infestation on this block. Stebbins probably chose a structural architecture and stucco that withstands the elements and is termite unfriendly. Expansion options are “up” only.

These plans should not be perceived as gentrification, nor should changing the current uniformity of structures on this block. It seems the two owners who submitted their plans are meeting resistance too. Has a precedent been set, to discourage owners from pursuing building projects of similar magnitude as Stebbins? It certainly seems so, based on an incorrect interpretation of gentrification.


OB Dude July 8, 2011 at 10:41 am

Who cares what kind of car someone has? If people would not steal and vandalize there would be no need for locks or gates.


john July 8, 2011 at 3:10 pm

As said I’ve lived at 5168/5170 for nearly 2 decades, I’ve never had a car broken into or stolen here, (and my cars have usually had custom sound systems, one of the ways I’ve made a living over the years) nor have I ever heard of any neighbors experiencing this. (we’re probably in agreement philosophically, I do use alarms and steering wheel locks)
Ironically the only crime I’ve heard of here was Stebbins getting burglarized twice…. might of had something to do with using cardboard for windows as the permit process was being delayed, who knows?
I think his point was that the carport with the automatic, remote control iron gates, is indicative of someone who lives completely insulated from the surrounding community. This may not characterize the first builder, he certainly doesn’t act snooty to me. However this sets a precedent for the rest to follow, and the kind of community represented by a row of 15 homes like the picture in this article above, or this:
has a name indeed!

(look at the storage sheds next to that fine house. Oh wait, those aren’t sheds…)


OB Dude July 8, 2011 at 4:48 pm

John, you must be very lucky…This is not a town without crime. I know plently of OB residents and businesses that have been wronged (vandalized, robbed, car stolen, identity stolen, etc.) right here in OB so I don’t put people down for trying to protect their home, family or belongings….you should either! I hope you will always be crime free. Stebbins did not deserve to get ripped off now matter what you think of him, his house, the stage of construction….you should be made as hell at whoever robbed him. Protecting your neighbor should be something we all hold near and dear.


john July 9, 2011 at 12:52 am

Probably not luck so much as not leaving to0 easy of an opportunity, but it’s an interesting point you raise about protecting your neighbor, I attribute the relative lack of crime on this block to the intimate nature of the structures, and friendly nature of all who live here- we tend to recognize who belongs, and who doesn’t. Toward gentrification, around 1990 I lived up in the UTC area for about 2 years in a so called upscale or luxury apartment building. There are upscale single family homes in the area also not unlike the ones we’re discussing here, and it’s not uncommon for you to go quite some time without seeing your next door neighbors if you even know who they are. Nobody sees anything or would even want to get involved if they did. Everyone rises in the morning, rushes off to their rat race yuppie job, stops at the spa or club (what used to be called a gym) on the way home and closes the gate on their yuppie box for the night.
The crime stats for both car burglaries and thefts were the highest in the entire city, though superficially it certainly was an attractive area.

As for anyone “deserving” to get ripped off, well of course they don’t and I’d have stepped out with a baseball bat had I seen it happening. (unless the perp has a gun, then I ring the law. I don’t own a gun as I don’t believe in killing anyone over “stuff”)
However don’t you think putting a piece of cardboard in place of a broken window, a good sized one at waist high level at that, for a year or more is kind of inviting trouble?
(I only mentioned it for the sheer irony of it all-that the only crime of note I’d ever heard of happened to involve the subject of our discussion-who I will reiterate has been as good a neighbor as any, aside from that wrecking the neighborhood thing-LOL)


JPinOB July 8, 2011 at 12:50 pm

I walk this area in OB almost every day. After reading all these comments I took a walk again this morning and paid closer attention to the layout etc. When walking on the street side I see no real difference. You can’t see any beach/water views on the 5100 block as it is. Also, the 5000 block has multiple 2 and 3 story homes, apartments and motels so what is the issue w/the 5100 block?

I notice the difference when walking the trail along dog beach more but I think its only because I was trying to see the huge disparity between the sizes of properties on the 5100 block. They’re far from the trail/beach area for most people to notice anyways.

Either way, I hope if the currents owners of those properties do tear down and build larger homes they make them look a little nicer (beachier) than the Stebbins home. (just don’t care for that type of architecture?)


OB Dude July 9, 2011 at 10:25 am

If your block has been free from crime, you are lucky. I live in a neighborhood where we watch out for one another and have a crime watch but that does not guarantee that we are crime free. Stuff happens. Even though some people may have more “material goods” then their neighbor does not mean they are bad, or unfriendly, uncaring about the environment or their neighbor, or deserve to be robbed or ridiculed. People make choices in life….some like to live basically and enjoy the surf every day and some work their butts off for all various reasons. But in the end, we are all people and should respect one another for the choices made.

Here some info on our community…………..for whatever it’s worth.

OCEAN BEACH from San Diego Police Dept. JAN 2011- MAY 2011
Murder 0
Rape 2
Robbery 4
Agg Assult 30
Violent Crime 36
Res Burg 25
Comm Burg 4
Larceny 98
Veh Theft 30
Car Prowl 31
Crime Index 193
JAN 2010 – Dec 2010
Murder 0
Rape 5
Robbery 29
Agg Assult 30
Violent Crime 80
Res Burg 114
Comm Burg 18
Larceny 233
Veh Theft 87
Car Prowl 94
Crime Index 533


Kathy July 9, 2011 at 12:17 pm

And, may I add a relatively low number of DUI’s, in comparison with other beach communities and locales with a large concentration of bars within a small radius.

There’s few cars on Newport on the busiest bar nights, most are cabs and cops! It represents a responsible crowd and makes our streets safer.


C March 3, 2012 at 9:50 pm

I googled “OB ruined by gentrification” and wound up here. I haven’t lived in OB for almost 18 years now and probably have no right to join this conversation, but I find the changes to that once eclectic, unique, laid back, gritty beach town to be very depressing, and that Stebbins house is unattractive and lacking in character. I shudder to think what Newport looks like now — upscale shops? It’s too bad, the world is becoming more homogenous and cold by the minute.


Geoff Page June 23, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Excellent, thought-provoking discussion in these comments.

For me, the whole thing boils down to one issue, the City allowing variances when it had no defensible basis for doing so. I’ve listened to developers with projects in areas that did not fit well but were allowed because of the zoning and their response to the community was, “If you don’t like it, get the zoning changed.” Well, that response is perfectly legitimate for people like Stebbins but the City allows an end around that the community does not have and that is to grant variances that are, quite frankly, illegal. The problem is the Development Services Department not the Stebbins of the world.


Aging Hippie June 23, 2014 at 1:17 pm

So you are saying that one who accepts a bribe, or succumbs to intimidation, is guilty, but one who offers a bribe, or intimidates, is not guilty?


Geoff Page June 23, 2014 at 1:21 pm

I’m not sure if your comment was for my comment, Aging Hippie because I didn’t say what you’ve commented on. But, I will answer philosophically, that both parties of a dishonest deal are guilty.


Aging Hippie June 23, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Then I would say that “the problem” is both wealthy people with a false sense of entitlement, and nest-feathering politicians. The latter may seem easier to address, but the fault seems to me to be equal, or if anything greater on the first party who initiates a dishonest transaction.

I think too often we give the rich a free pass for thinking they are more important than their fellow human beings, or that they are above the law.


Seth June 23, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Speaking as a private citizen, the us vs them approach gets us nowhere in this discussion and IMO misses the big picture. It’s land use, not Chargers vs Raiders. These homeowners are perfectly entitled to request a variance, and to at least some degree, even have a legally-defensible basis for doing so. Other property owners in this same zone are able to put their parking underground 6 feet or more underground, allowing them to use all of their 1,750 sqft for habitable space.

As they are in a FEMA floodplain, that option is not available to 3 of the 4 homeowners in OB that have recently been granted FAR variances (the 4th property had other considerations).

Is that fair/unfair? People are going to have different opinions about that, and different interests at stake, and that’s fine. I don’t see any need to vilify anyone for interpreting it differently than myself, and certainly no need to equate asking for a variance with a bribe.

What I do see, however, is variances being granted without the proper findings. That I am not OK with. I think Geoff has it right. The issue lies with those granting them, not those asking for them.


Aging Hippie June 23, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Why do you think variances were granted without the proper findings?


Geoff Page June 23, 2014 at 1:57 pm

I feel both parties of a dishonest transaction are equally dishonest. I was working on a construction site years ago when a guy came on-site trying to sell a bracelet with a $1500 price tag on it for $50. The tag was from Zales and I think he even admitted he just lifted it. I refused it and, had it been the days of cell phones, I would have called the cops. I refused it and another guy bought it and I told him he was just as guilty as the thief because he knew it was stolen. People steal things to sell them because they know they can find another dishonest person to buy their goods who is too timid to steal but not to timid to buy something stolen. I haven’t accused Stebbins of bribing anyone but I am saying the City is being dishonest by granting variances they know they should not be probably because of pressure from above.


Aging Hippie June 23, 2014 at 2:09 pm

I would say that definitely either a carrot or a stick was involved in some way, although in our society that’s perfectly legal, we refer to bribes as “campaign contributions” and threats of litigation as “access”.


Marc Snelling June 24, 2014 at 9:44 am

The planning history of the 70s is key to the debate here. We can argue about whether the Stebbins residence fits OB’s community character or not. (To me it obviously doesn’t fit.) But the issue of gentrification is bigger than this one project or even all the projects on WPL.

I live in a community that put up 22-story apartments in the 70s in the same community as single and two story family houses. These types of developments decrease the value of the neighboring properties as ‘homes’ and make them more valuable as ‘development opportunities’. People have gone from having sunny, private backyards to having yards that are shaded most of the day and visible from dozens of balconies.

It’s only because of the 30-foot height limit and Precise Plan that we are having theses discussions. Without them OB could have a 22-story building on WPL. I’m guessing nobody would be talking about property right and ‘improving’ the property then. The only ones in favor would be the developers.

Stebbins set a precedent here as the first to get a variance and that is why his place is in focus. If everyone else does the same thing, it is no longer a variance. The Planning Commission is clearly the biggest part of the problem here.


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