OB Planning Board Approves Community Plan Update With Modifications – Finally!

by on December 13, 2013 · 9 comments

in California, Culture, Economy, Environment, History, Ocean Beach, Organizing, San Diego

OBPB spec meet 12-11-13 009

OB Planning Board Special Meeting, Dec. 11, 2013 (Photos by Frank Gormlie)

Board Chair Disallows Any Discussion on Kodiak or on Changing Zoning in Ebers – Point Loma Ave Area

Finally, after a 12 year process, the community plan for Ocean Beach has been officially “updated” by a unanimous vote by the OB Planning Board.  The vote occurred at a Special Meeting called just to deal with the plan update, held on Wed., December 11th in the usual meeting hall at the OB Rec Center.

Through a long and often tedious process, the Board went over dozens of proposed changes to the update by residents and Board members alike with outlining the recommendations of the sub-committee, a group that had weeded through over a hundred proposals garnered from the community in a series of board meetings, at a town hall hearing, through letters and emails.  The Board began this most recent process of the Update in early July 2013.

Before moving into the one agenda item, Board Chair Tom Gawronski headed off allowing public comment that consisted of  more proposed changes to the plan or comments about the new restaurant Kodiak, as he ruled that the Board would not hear anything of that nature offered at this late date in a process that began over a decade ago.

A few residents of south OB and from areas in Point Loma adjacent to the Ebers-Point Loma Ave intersection had attended the meeting with hopes that they would be allowed to press their case to make zoning changes in order to prohibit any restaurants like Kodiak in that commercial strip.  But they weren’t able to voice their concerns. Later – near the end of the meeting – a few did make comments in order to add language that distinguished the commercial area from the other commercial areas of OB. The Kodiak wasn’t even raised.

With this matter settled, Gawronski turned the special meeting over to Gio Ingolia, chair of the sub-committee that dealt with all the proposals and thrashed out a series of recommendations.  He and vice-chair Peter Ruscitti then went patiently and painstakingly through each of their proposals.

OBPB spec meet 12-11-13 008

The Board awaits the arrival of its ‘man of the hour’ – Gio Ingolia (D5). Seated L to R is Barbara Schmidtknecht (D2), Andrew Wilson (D3), Scott Therkalsen (D3), Chair Tom Gawronski (D6), Peter Ruscitti (D6), John Ambert (D1), Raeanon Hartigan (D7), and Bill Bushe (D5).

Much of the discussion on the Board was then between Ingolia (District 5), Ruscitti (Dist 6), and Board members Raeanon “Ray” Hartigan (Dist 7) and John Ambert (Dist 1), and much of it informative and detailed – much too detailed to be listed here.  (All the approved changes and modifications to the plan will be made available in the near future at the OB Planning Board website.)

Mid-way through the process, Lt Natalie Stone burst into the meeting room and jokingly said she had a warrant for Gio’s arrest – as he had been late to the meeting gathering his materials.  After this round of laughs, she introduced Captain Dave Nisleit, the new head of the Western Division for the SDPD. He said he was recently from the Gang Unit and announced “there’s no gangs in OB”.  Nisleit is as tall as Stone is short – and they made for a odd couple, but both were full of smiles and warm vibes. They turned and left as quickly as they had entered, and the Board once again turned toward their reports.

The sub-committee did – it turned out – accept several proposals from the OB Rag and this reporter.

Here, briefly, are a few of the modifications the Board was unanimous in approving and such language would be inserted into the Plan Update in the appropriate sections  (these are from my notes and are not the official language)  :

  • A parcel’s natural grade level should be used to calculate the 30 foot height limit;
  • Maintain all public land free of private development;
  • Coordinate with SANDAG to research feasibility of having light rail or trolley to the beach area;
  • Add “walk-ability” and “bike-ability” descriptions everywhere possible;
  • Provide more bike resources in “high-activity” areas, such as bike parking, racks and lockers;
  • Have developers provide as much bike parking as car spaces;
  • Provide view protections to “Surf Check Alley” view cone;
  • Research into when exactly the main OB Lifeguard Station was built (the Plan said 1983, others say 1947 – but it had to be sometime in the late 1970s?)
  • Coordinate with MTS to provide more service, for more mass transit;
  • Add language to promote private leases for recreation to provide or encourage recreational use to the community – such as Barnes Tennis center – on public land;
  • Remove language that calls strictly for “native plants only” and replace with drought-resistant and other appropriate plants;
  • Add Torrey Pines to list of OB trees to be protected;
  • For any planting, trimming or removal of trees on public or right -of-way space get approval through both the Development Services of the City and the OB Planning Board;
  • It was clarified that the southern boundary of the OB Community Plan Area runs down the middle of Adair Street, so that residents on the north side of Adair are in OB whereas those on the south side are in the Peninsula Community Plan Area.

When it came to a discussion of Board members individual proposals, the sub-committee had not had sufficient time to make any recommendations, so what followed was a discussion that was somewhat difficult to follow – as audience members did not have the documents Board members were referring to.

Chair Gawronski did allow at this point some brief comments from the public on zoning changes regarding alcohol. He also made it plain the the ABC rules on any application for sales of alcohol, and that “it could come before the Board for public feedback – then the Board would allow public comments on the issue.”  But tonight was  not the night for that full discussion. Board members clearly were not in any mood to shelve the process of approving the Plan Update or bog down the process this late in the game – after all the opportunities the public has had up to now to make comments, proposals or recommendations.

Here are some of the other recommendations or thinking:

  • The Board did not wish to recommend density bonus or FAR bonus (floor area ratio) incentives”, as “too controversial”.
  • They do wish to encourage sustainability in new development;
  • They called for pedestrian improvements such as alternative cross stripping, raised crosswalks, improved traffic signal timing;
  • Called to create dedicated intra-city bike-ways;
  • They wish to discourage lot-splitting;
  • Encourage “side-walk cafes”;
  • No corporate logos on public facilities;

There were other changes but were simple language edits or were involved in the minutia too deep to really follow.

Finally, Gawronski opened up for comments from the public and the only real issue was to include some brief language about the Ebers-Point Loma corridor neighborhood.  After a few back-and-forths everyone came to a consensus on the exact wording.

Then came the vote – and Tom made the motion to approve the proposed community plan with the modifications made at this meeting, with a second by Ambert.  It passed 8 to nothing.

Next up for the Community Plan Update: It will be before the San Diego Planning Commission at the end of January, and the EIR will be finalized the first week of January.

So, a process begun in 2003 by the City Planning Department  – when it existed – to rewrite the OB Precise Plan – a time when I was chair of the OB Planning Board – has reached a significant threshold with this final approval by the current Board.

And the city planner, Teresa Millette, and all the volunteer planners of the OB Board can now take well-earned breathers.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Giovanni Ingolia December 13, 2013 at 2:46 pm

I want to thank everyone who participated during the Public Review Process. Every comment we received is very valuable in understanding the community’s needs. I encourage the community to come to the Planning Commission and City Council to speak about the Updated Community Plan. Once those dates are finalized they will be placed on the OB Planning Boards website at http://oceanbeachplanning.org/resources/communityplan. So please bookmark that page and check in the early week(s) of January. If you have any questions feel free to contact me at gingolia@hotmail.com.


Giovanni C Ingolia
OB Community Plan Update Sub-committee


gristmiller December 14, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Where did they plan for Two giant drug/junk stores??


gristmiller December 14, 2013 at 12:29 pm



Frank Gormlie December 14, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Gristmiller, we’re in a phase of capitalism where local communities don’t get to tell land owners who they can rent space or buildings to, only make conditions, like 30 feet high, side setbacks, FARs, bulk and scale … etc. OB had to fight like the dickens in the 70’s to get a democratically-electing local planning body that had some say in local development.


gristmiller December 14, 2013 at 10:43 pm

That is all well and good (maybe), but greed is not an outlier of capitalism, it is the mainstream, and needs to be countered by advisory groups. Amidst whatever circumstances that exist in OB, another drug/junk store makes no sense! “some say in local development” has to include “just say no”, like dear Nancy told us. By the way—can you start a sentence with a quotation mark and a phrase?

I would miss the Rag.


Alex Alexander December 15, 2013 at 8:43 am

Anything else rather that Rite Aid.


Alex Alexander December 15, 2013 at 8:46 am

that was “than’ rather than “that’. I apologise.


mr.rick December 16, 2013 at 7:00 am

The old (I think) pink Spanish styled life guard tower was still in place when I went away in ’74. And when I returned in ’78 the old one was gone and a new big shiny new tower was in place. That was a long time ago, you might want to check my recollection,


Frank Gormlie December 16, 2013 at 10:19 am

Mr Rick – thanks for the history; let’s figure this out – I’ll do a post and ask the nation of OB.


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