Are They Going to Slip Something By Us Again at “The Inn at Sunset Cliffs”

by on April 29, 2013 · 12 comments

in Culture, Environment, Ocean Beach, Organizing, San Diego


OB Inn at Sunset Cliffs 02

The Inn at Sunset Cliffs – corner of Sunset Cliffs Blvd and Point Loma Ave.

Many, many years ago, before I was a school administrator and working 11 months a year, my husband and three daughters took a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico City, Guadalajara and surrounding areas.

We were gone a little over three months. When we returned we were amazed to find that the six vacant lots on the corner of Sunset Cliffs and Adair had houses on them; many already sold, and they were two stories high.

We were never notified of these potential structures, but they effectively removed any view that we had of the ocean, even if we were standing on the top of our sun deck. We were horrified to find that we could no longer view the fireworks on the Ocean Beach Pier on the 4th of July.

Skipping ahead to today, April 28th, I was stunned to find out that there is a potential building change going to be asked for that will totally destroy the Sunset Cliffs area.

Let me tell you what I know – and let me stress I do not know how much truth there is to this, but people are talking, just like we heard the “talking about the VFW building.”

“The Inn at Sunset Cliffs” – corner of Pt. Loma Avenue and Sunset Cliffs – is seeking permanent and private ownership of the coastal area just west of the hotel.

The Ocean Beach Planning Board hearing is scheduled for this Wednesday, May 1, at 6:00pm at the Ocean Beach Recreation Center.

OB Inn at Sunset Cliffs 01A survey of the property shows that “ . . . the Inn does not own some of the coast property that it proposes to continue to fence off from the public. The City permit process has ignored or eliminated state and city environmental laws and requirements that protect Sunset Cliffs from private development and guarantee the public’s right to access, use and enjoy our coastal bluffs, beaches and ocean.”

Although I cannot state that the following is completely true, what I have been told is that the Inn is owned by wealthy Arizona people that have hired well connected local lobbyists who have aggressively pressured City Hall to remove important coastal act protections and documented constraints on this property.

The Inn and the City seek to formally approve the removal of these public rights without informing the people about what they are really doing.

In 2008 The Inn was listed For Sale in the amount of $9.7 Million dollars. The information sent to residents that might have been impacted by the sale stated, “ . . . The zoning, FAR and 12 attached garages create the potential for future conversion to 27 condo units or a “fractionalized ownership hotel.”

However the property did not sell then. They stated that there were plans for “24 parking spaces” but if there are only 12 attached garages, where will the other cars be parked?

A letter dated June 29, 2010 from the City of San Diego to the owners of the Inn, stated that there were several violations that needed to be corrected. As an example, citing the top 3 violations,

  • 1) The construction of a concrete patio, fence on top of the sea wall, and stairs leading to the lower concrete deck adjacent to the Sensitive Coastal Bluff Edge without the required Site Development Permit/Coastal Development Permits.
  • 2) Operating the premises as a commercial venue for weddings where the hotel lacks the facilities associated with conducting weddings (no banquet room, restaurant or dance facility) and no area to accommodate gatherings of large numbers of people is considered an intensification of use without a Site Development Permit and Coastal Development Permit.
  • 3) Garages constructed to provide off street parking for the original apartment and hotel use are being used for storage, elimination required off-street parking. I do not know if these violations were ever fixed, but suffice it to say that the “Notice of Violation” is 8 pages long, and I only cited a small amount of the first page.

The Inn has been good to many people in the area. They offer a discount to home owners that are having work done on their own home – albeit still too expensive for me; at one time they threw a party for the residents of the area which included drinks, food, and entertainment. (I have not been invited to a party there for several years and do not know if they still do this.) They are members of the OB Merchants Association and the Town Council.

All of this scares me. If this possibility is approved – and, once again, as far as I know they are only asking for a renewal of their permits at the meeting on May 1st, granting the Inn at Sunset Cliffs’ private ownership of the coastal area probably means that there will no longer be the public’s right to access, use and enjoy our coastal bluffs, beaches and ocean. And, if what I have heard is correct, and I have trouble believing this will be the case, the Inn will also be required to install a drainage system that dumps polluted run-off water directly into the ocean at Pt. Loma Ave. instead of into an available storm water diversion system.

Please don’t just sit by and let this happen. Let the Planning Board know that we are opposed to this move. Please join me at the meeting on May 1 at 6:00pm at the Ocean Beach Recreation Center. Let the Planning Board know that we do not want to see any condominiums where the “Inn at Sunset Cliffs” is now. You know the saying – use it – (your right to free speech) or lose it (access to the beautiful beach at Sunset Cliffs.) This is another situation we must fight.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Pete R April 29, 2013 at 11:59 am

A few key facts need to be corrected here:
A. The issue before the OB Planning Board on Wednesday night is not one of property ownership. Decisions about property ownership are the responsibility of government bodies much higher up in the food chain, such as the city, the State Lands Commission, and the CA Coastal Commission. The ownership issue is actually the subject of a pending lawsuit, which is still ongoing and is not within the purview of the Planning Board.
B. At this week’s meeting the OB Planning Board will only be considering a development permit for the concrete surfacing of the lower deck area at the Inn. (Item #1 listed in the article above.) This would be an “after-the-fact” permit, as the concrete deck has been in existence for several decades but was never permitted. The other issues mentioned in this article (parking, weddings, condominium development) are not relevant to this meeting.
C. The drainage system that the city would require the Inn to install (as a condition of the permit) will divert runoff INTO the city’s stormwater system, not the other way around.
D. It should also be noted that, due to the location of this site, the city’s permit decision will be appealable to the CA Coastal Commission. Therefore it is highly likely that the Coastal Commission (not the city) will have the final say over this particular permit. The Coastal Commission is also aware of, and is monitoring with legal staff, the ongoing lawsuit over property ownership.


judi curry April 29, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Thank you Peter. I realize this is a “hot button” item, particularly since we know there were plans a few years ago to sell the property and turn it into condo’s. I know of many people that have erected buildings without permits and were later forced to remove them. Is that a possibility in this case also? Just because it is there doesn’t mean it can’t be removed. Just as an aside – I am concerned about the feasibility of putting anything “heavier” on the site then is already there. I used to live on Pescadero Dr – not Avenue – the street that paralleled Sunset Cliffs on the East and the Ocean on the West. It was a duplex and we lived on the top floor – the owner lived on the bottom. One night we heard a loud crack and found that the sundeck was no longer there in the morning. We moved out in July and by September the duplex was no longer there anymore either. Why should the Inn be allowed to put something up illegally and keep it there when others have to remove their structure?


Seth April 30, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Thanks, Pete.

I assume the concrete deck is on private property, then?


@earthysara April 29, 2013 at 4:35 pm

“The Inn at Sunset Cliffs – corner of Pt. Loma Avenue and Sunset Cliffs – is seeking permanent and private ownership of the coastal area just west of the hotel.”

That’s all you need to know.

Let the OB Planning Board – and the San Diego Planning Department – know that the gifting of private coastal land is unacceptable.

I stayed at the Inn a few years ago, and it’s a truly lovely location. The owners shouldn’t be allowed to exclusively keep the public portions of that location for their private profits.


judi curry April 29, 2013 at 4:59 pm

That’s why we all need to show up en mass. Wednesday, May 1, 6:00; OB rec center


Susie April 29, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Thank you Judy for the info. I will be there and would like to say hello and meet you
as I would like your input on another location of a known allegedly illegal unpermitted
dwelling. See you there.


judi curry April 30, 2013 at 6:51 am

Thank you Susie. I will be there a few minutes before the meeting starts. Will be going with friends, and the item is the 2nd on the agenda. If, for some reason we don’t get to talk tomorrow, let’s meet later in the week and talk. Judi


nostalgic April 29, 2013 at 7:35 pm

This important property was once at the South end of Spalding Park, now Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. Was it the North end of the park? Nobody knows for sure what it really was, all those years ago. It sold as a private parcel in 1927, during the real estate boom of that era (followed by the quick bust). This property was split into two lots in 1953. It is unique – from the tip of Point Loma to Dog Beach, there is nothing quite like it. What are the Arizona owners plans there? It will certainly make a difference to the surrounding community.


judi curry April 30, 2013 at 6:52 am

Thank you for the fascinating information. Lived here over 45 years and didn’t know that history. Judi


nostalgic April 30, 2013 at 1:55 pm

The project consists of what is on the written plans and not what people say. Funny how that works.


Marco Gonzalez April 30, 2013 at 2:01 pm

One quick point regarding Pete’s post, above: While it is correct that the concrete slab (not just the “surfacing”) has never been permitted, the owners of the Inn and their consultants have been unable, or unwilling, to identify when that original deck construction actually took place. We do know that they did a bunch of illegal work on the deck in 1991, and then were under strict orders from the Coastal Commission not to do any further deck work — which they ignored.

This is not a simple “after the fact” permit application, as the lower deck is constructed on what is technically the bluff face, which is classified as Environmentally Sensitive Lands. My organization (Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation) is suing the Inn because we don’t believe the lower deck could ever be permitted.

There is a long history of violations at this property, and those should not be swept under the rug. Come to the meeting and find out more about this important issue!


judi curry April 30, 2013 at 3:09 pm

You are a gem, Marco. Thank you for this added info. Judi


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