A Response to City Planner on Ocean Beach Community Plan Update

by on June 21, 2013 · 0 comments

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

  • Editor: The debate continues. Here, Geoff Page – former chair of the Peninsula Community Planning Board – responds to  Maxx Stalhim’s “Everything You Wanted to Know About the OB Community Plan Update …”.  Stalheim is a senior planner with the City of San Diego and was instrumental in developing the Draft plan in its final years.

    OB Plan Bd district map best

    Current planning board districts and zoning for Ocean Beach.

By Geoff Page

I hope everyone with an interest in this subject matter reads [the] piece by Maxx Stalheim, carefully. It is very much the same as what I originally criticized. Parts of this statement are definitely worrisome.

The first part I found disturbing began with the question “What is different about the new plan?” Stalheim wrote that this is a new document and “it represents a “no change” update.” Somehow, this word choice seems contradictory to me. It sounded like doublespeak. Stalheim stated that “the Neighborhood Commercial Designation for the Voltaire Street and Pt. Loma Avenue districts will be replaced with a Community Commercial Designation” without bothering to provide a modicum of definitions for these terms.

To put it simply, the Community Commercial designation allow a lot more commercial development than does the Neighborhood Commercial designation. To see the differences go to Chap 13 Art 01 Div 05, Commercial Base Zones and look under CN for Neighborhood Commercial and CC for Community Commercial. This could matter to those of you who live in these “re-designated” areas.

Stalheim wrote “certain properties in the southeastern portion of the community will be re-zoned to correct an existing inconsistency between the present zone and land use designation.” Stalheim stated earlier that “no new land use designations or zones are proposed.” I suppose by “new” he meant, what? He just said in this section that a land use designation will change and the a portion of the community will be re-zoned. And, the rezoning is needed because of an inconsistency between the present zone and land use designation. Inconsistency? How did that happen. There is a clue further down where he talks about rezoning residential areas. Again with the rezoning that isn’t happening?

Stalheim stated “The update includes a new Urban Design Element to guide the appearance of new development. The intent is to assure that new development is compatible and complementary with existing small-scale structures.” This is what the oft-ignored community plans have always been for but have been powerless to stop deviations from. This is not “new.” “The Urban Design element also identifies coastal view corridors with specific recommendations for view protection.” As long as the corridors are public streets but there is no way a community plan will protect views across private property, not until this protection is included in the Municipal Code.

Stalheim said “The new plan also includes numerous recommendations which reflect the community’s strong connection with coastal resources. The recommendations are intended to protect the resources and to guarantee public access.” Guarantee of public access to coastal resources is, and has been, state law for a very long time, just in case someone thought this was a wonderful new idea here.

Stalheim wrote “Mitigation for the traffic impacts included constructing a new bridge on Sunset Cliffs Blvd. over the San Diego River. A new bridge costs approximately $20 million and is economically infeasible.” Why? Bridges are replaced all the time all over the country as they age and as populations move and expand. The Sunset Cliffs Bridge serves much, much more than just Ocean Beach or the rest of Pt. Loma, it is a major thoroughfare and it is inadequate for the current population. Why is it economically infeasible? Because we spent our money on PetCo Park or want to spend money on a stadium for a billionaire?

Now we get to the one that really angers me, “How will the new plan be implemented?”

Stalheim wrote “There are a couple of areas in Ocean Beach where an inconsistency presently exists and needs to be corrected. The rezone will change the existing RS-1-7 zone to the RM-1-1. “The zone change will not result in an increase in new housing THE SUBJECT PROPERTIES ARE ALREADY DEVELOPED.” This is stealth rezoning by allowing unmonitored guest quarters and companion units to be built in the RS-1-7, single unit areas that have effectively turned them into the RM-1-1, multiple unit designation.

The city, until recently, allowed these units to be built on RS-1-7 lots with the prohibition of putting kitchens in the units and requiring the owners to file a paper with the County that states they will not rent the units out. But the City never created an enforcement arm to monitor this, unless you want to call Code Enforcement that arm. It is a withered arm. The owners put a kitchen in after the permits are signed off and rent the units out. Presto RM-1-1. And changes in the Land Development Code now allow those kitchens and now even allow half bathrooms in what are called accessory structures once designed as uninhabitable. Believe me folks, the City has been stealthily rezoning the single family areas for years contrary to the Municipal Code. “the subject properties are already developed.”

How did that happen Maxx? If I lived in one of these RS-1-7 areas Stalheim is talking about, I’d be furious. This is part of the plan I am going to review personally.

And this about public facilities, “The specific projects are then incorporated into the PFFP and Development Impact Fees are collected to fund the construction of new public facilities.” So, if we want new public facilities we need to allow development in order to collect the money to pay for the facilities? Isn’t this why we have so much trouble with the Development Services Department? A city department funded by the fees from the developers they are reviewing has little incentive to deny a project and cut off those fees. Until the DSD is again funded independently from this revenue source, problems will continue.

My point is not simply to be critical but to expose doublespeak. This is the language the City, and Stalheim, use to make the community think everything is beautiful and, if not listened to carefully, it works. In order to have real protection for what is in the community plan, its requirements must be codified in some manner. And, the project reviewers downtown must not be allowed to “interpret” the rules to allow variances from these requirements. A community plan is a good thing for every community to have. Making it enforceable is the next step.

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