The Construction Boom in Ocean Beach

by on April 16, 2014 · 36 comments

in Culture, Economy, Environment, Ocean Beach

OB construct Sarato cranclosEvery now and then the OB Rag monitors the state of development and construction going on within the Village of OB. Here, we’ve done it again with the following photos.

But we have to say:

There’s a Construction Boom Going on in OB!

OB construct Voltar 01

There’s a huge development coming in down at the waterfront, there’s the work being done at the corner lot at Voltaire and Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, and there’s the construction of the third large mansion on West Pt Loma. And we’re not talking about all the street repairs, cross-walk installations, one-way streets and detours.

OB construct Sarato prklot01

Saratoga and Abbott: the Ocean Park Villa Condos

The largest construction project that OB has seen in possibly decades is happening right at the waterfront. It’s impossible not to notice it.  But a 3 story 10 condo complex with partial-underground parking is going up at the corner of Abbott Street and Saratoga Avenue. Called the Ocean Park Villa Condos, they were set to be built a year ago. (See this history of the project.)

OB construct Saratog back02This project more than any other development challenges OB’s sense of self, as it will drastically alter OB’s waterfront.  And some say for the better.  But others fought this project going in.  No one really defended the old dilapidated two-story apartment box on the corner, and even the old Hodad’s / Dempsys building didn’t inspire anyone to do a rehab.

See this diagram of the project (excuse the poor quality):

Saratoga Park New plans good 01

Take a walk with us as we tour the outside of the construction site – on Tuesday, April 15, 2014.

 OB construct Sarato loadrfrt

This – above – is the front of the site – off of Abbott Street.

OB construct Sarato back 01This view is from the northeast edge of the grass at Saratoga Park.

OB construct Sarato grassThe grassy Saratoga Park, looking east.

OB construct Sarato insidbacThe site from Saratoga Avenue looking south towards the lifeguard station.

OB construct Sarato insidgravlThe construction site from near the corner of Abbott and Saratoga.OB constructSarato undrgrd sidwlk

The above gives you an idea of how deep the hole is – the foreground is at sidewalk level.

Sunset Plaza at Voltaire Street and Sunset Cliffs Blvd

Next up on our tour of the construction boom going on in Ocean Beach in mid-April is the drastic make-over going on at the large corner lot at Voltaire Street and Sunset Cliffs Boulevard.

OB construct Voltar 01The former Dover Plumbing building is history, and a large hole has been dug and a massive mound of dirt now waits for removal.

OB construct Voltar02

This is the site of the future Sunset Plaza – owned by World Oil.

OB Sunset Plaza NewDrawArtist rendition of the future Sunset Plaza.

This corner has quite a colorful history – and history of contention (see this), once a gas station, then a recycling center, then a guerrilla community garden, and then an empty lot collecting trash during the Great Recession.

The owner – World Oil – tried to install a gas station several times – but was blocked by both the community and the city.

Now that the owners presented OB with a despicably maintained lot that marred the village’s entryway for years – for a decade – it drove the community to the point where a common attitude became: ‘well, it’s better than nothing.’

OB construct WPtLoma frt01West Pt Loma – “The Wall” Begins

To complete our tour of the boom going on in OB, we must visit what’s happening along West Pt Loma near the beach.

OB construct WPtLoma vucarImmediately, we are reminded of the Wall that has begun.

A series of large houses circumvented the OB Precise Plan, obtained questionable variances and now have created what we are calling “The Wall”. It’s a wall of cement, stucco, wood, and glass – and if allowed to continue, it will “wall” off that portion of the beach from the rest of the community.  This is what gentrification is all about.

OB construct WPtLoma frntsignThe OB Planning Board has been fighting this gentrification, by denying proposals, then having to appeal City decisions.  In fact, n late 2012, the Board called for a moratorium of the granting of variances along this section by the city.  And, language in the new draft OB Community Plan strengthens a ban on improper variances.

OB construct WPtLoma beach02Here above is a view from the parking lot on the beach side.

What does it all mean?

Well, for us, it’s a continuing indication that OB is at a development crossroads – and the Village needs to sit up and pay attention – and get involved in the OB Planning Board.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Tyler April 16, 2014 at 2:29 pm

They may be large and out of character from the rest of the older development, but can we stop calling them mansions? They aren’t even close to being mansions.


da john April 16, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Full Definition of MANSION – Merriam-Webster
A large and impressive house : the large house of a wealthy person
a (1) : manor house (2) : a large imposing residence

Large imposing residence, I’d say that about nails it.

The problem is 3 full families could live comfortably in the square footage of one of these houses.


DonCharly April 18, 2014 at 8:23 am

About time dumps vs better. Better is Best


da john April 18, 2014 at 8:49 am

One man’s dump is another man’s home.

Better may be best, but bigger is not inherently better.


Debbie April 17, 2014 at 8:45 am

The old places along West Point Loma walled off the area along time ago. I like the new places….some funk and style….seems like they fit into OB just fine. Good for those that live there and are lucky enough to enjoy it. I bet they work hard to make it happen.


Tyler April 17, 2014 at 11:49 am

I’m with you, Debbie.


da john April 17, 2014 at 5:54 pm

Funk, maybe.

Style, I strongly disagree.

You would have to be willfully ignoring the one story house sandwiched between these stucco monsters to ever make the statement that they “they fit into OB just fine”

If I remember correctly the new precise plan is trying to impose some relation to the existing fabric of our neighborhoods in regards to new development.

This is not that.


Debbie April 17, 2014 at 9:29 pm

So you feel these new houses have no style? Does that mean the ones that exist do have style? I know people have lived these one-story rentals which are not insulated, termite infected, poor plumbing and in some cases with mold. The owners make a mint off the renters and improvements are minimal. Different strokes for different folks.

Also the rental units along W. Point Loma are not exactly “affordable” ….see example of nearby rental $1,450 for 550 sq. ft.


da john April 17, 2014 at 10:37 pm

I believe these existing structures have the vernacular style of a beach community in that they are small and simplistic, they offer a far lower bar for entry into living in the area than say a 1.5 million dollar 2,800 SF home does.

These new places scream look at me, but leave me alone. I can’t think of another gated driveway in ocean beach that isn’t facing an alley.

Also, I believe the existing houses where “the wall” is going up are made of concrete block and thus probably a lot less susceptible to termite damage than the wood framed 3 story houses being built to replace them.

All the insulation in the world isn’t going to make these new huge homes more energy efficient than just the simple act of keeping it small and living in a small place like 550 sf.

If your plumbing stinks when you rent it’s a lot easier to up and move after a year to a new place (rent even fluctuates with the seasons if you are the super frugal type.)

If you sign a 30 year note on one of these beasts and the contractor did a junk job with the plumbing the buck will be stopping with you, not some owner who can be nagged, and even possibly bashed on yelp.

Different strokes for different folks indeed.


Debra April 18, 2014 at 11:40 am

I agree with you 100%, da john. The last house I owned was brand-new and full of problems, plumbing (hot/cold pipes switched), leaky windows and even termites, from being built with sub-standard materials with poor quality construction. The house I have now, built in 1941, has NEVER had issues (other than ridiculously small closets :D ) and that’s after 20 yrs of living in it.
What puzzles me about these new huge homes, is why not leave some OUTDOOR space on the lot–for a yard and such, in order to enjoy the balmy weather, you’re paying so much for?


John O. April 16, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Really, this is just the beginning. Everybody knows that gentrification is inevitable. Affordable housing is a laughable term thrown out by politicians. OB will still be here in the future, and it will look taller, more attractive (to some), and will be inhabited by a new, and more affluent resident. Times, people, and the values of a community can and will change.
We’re all quite lucky to live in OB… even with “the wall”.


obracer April 16, 2014 at 10:18 pm

well said John O. , I’m working on ” the wall “, and the new leadership at SDPD Western is doing a very good job of cleaning up ” the wall “.
The problem at ” the wall ” has been a CHOICE, police had choosen not to enforce current laws that would discourage and prevent the gathering of bums at the wall, not homeless just dirty bums. These bums ( mostly on heroine ) are allowed to use our beaches, parks, bushes and fire pits to sleep, those that sleep on the other side of the wall just crawl up with blankets and sleeping bags onto ” the wall” .
I’ve been keeping a close eye on the wall, I know who does what at the wall and when and where and why, most important I know who allows it.
Every time we get a new captain at western division I fell like I have to toss a bowl of spaghetti at the new captain, every piece of spaghetti represents issues that affect the quality of life in Ocean Beach and along ” the wall “. We have had three captains in about a year at western, all three captains have taken a handful of spaghetti as solved several issues including illegal lodging. For more than ten years Captain Vasquez watched Ocean Beach rot with bums and drugs along the boardwalk, he ignored the same issues others have solved very quickly. It is a disgrace that Vasquez is now asst. chief considering what he allowed Ocean Beach to become. He left the OBMA police Lt. behind, please take your trash with you Mr Vasquez !
The choice for now is to enforce current laws, Thank You SDPD , great job !
I’ve got tons of spaghetti ready for the next one.


ObJamie April 17, 2014 at 1:05 am

Thanks for the multiple laughs OBracer.


John Filthy April 17, 2014 at 4:57 am

Different wall, and different heroin than you are talking about. Maybe you could put up a “no bums” sign.

And as for gentrification being inevitable… Tell that to Detroit.


da john April 17, 2014 at 6:01 pm

I would have to imagine the presence of these “bums” down on Newport would only encourage the people developing the large residences to look for a less gritty neighborhood.

You must have not even read this article to see what “wall” is being referenced.

Why don’t you give the “bums” some of your spaghetti instead of throwing it against the wall. I bet they could use a decent meal.


DonCharly April 18, 2014 at 8:39 am

Da John ……other than comment here….do you do anything for those that do not have a decent meal……and by the way the meal is just a moment in life that will not help at all. You think day by day.
All those that really want to help must have a long term plan to live a DECENT LIFE !


da john April 18, 2014 at 8:45 am

I’m not the one on here trashing the homeless fella.

Look in the mirror and ask yourself those questions.


RB April 17, 2014 at 6:54 am

The value and zoning of the land correlates with the size and type of structure you put on it. No rational investor or buyer will spend $500-800K for the lot, just to put or leave a $100K structure on it.


da john April 17, 2014 at 11:59 am

The community has a tool chest of public incentives to utilize to change this status quo.

Say you could build a 3 unit building there with less parking than required if one of the units is kept affordable. The developer wins he can build out more area, and we win because a less well off family can help keep the neighborhood diverse.

This is just one example of how the city or planning board can push development to be more inclusive. It may be utopian to think we can keep the area from gentrifying. But I personally think we can use incentives to make the development better for the community, not just those lucky enough to be able to buy those houses just for the land and knock them down to build a a large imposing single family residence.


Christo April 17, 2014 at 12:20 pm

We win?

No, we lose. Specifically- we lose street parking.

We have enough multiple unit crapholes built to satisfy the lowest possible cost that pushes parking issues onto city streets.

Cheap housing at the beach is not a divine right nor should it be legislated.


da john April 18, 2014 at 9:34 am

Free parking at the beach is not a divine right either.

What about those of us who use public transport to commute, lowering our carbon footprint.

In the big picture, if we don’t begin to legislate some type of energy use standard (these houses will consume far more than their predecessors) it will be a moot point. Everything over there will be under 6 feet of water.


RB April 17, 2014 at 1:04 pm

I see what the developer would be contributing. But I just don’t see what you are contributing to this utopia. While 10-20 units could and has been used to reduce the cost for low income inclusion, I don’t think only two units can cover the cost of a third.


da john April 18, 2014 at 9:41 am

There are reams of options to exploit in the municipal code. regarding, FAR parking exclusions etc.

The issue may be that the area needs to be rezoned to promote the type of development that would be more inclusive. It would take public awareness and will.

At the end of the day, with a residential zoning, your initial statement is 100% correct. If OB want’s to stay funky we may need to hack the code to get what we want. I’m not sure if it’s possible, but I hate to have a defeatist attitude.


James Cullem April 17, 2014 at 9:20 am

This is a good development but on the other hand there are negative effect on it as there will be a destruction of the environment.


Kyle April 17, 2014 at 11:15 am

Anyone know whats going on with the building next to java jungle? they’ve been working on that for a bit. Would love to know what its going to be.


Tyler April 18, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Have they actually worked on it? I’ve never heard work going on in there.


da john April 18, 2014 at 12:37 pm

The same architecture firm that has a sign up on the building site next to the lifeguard shack has a sign up at that building. They must be going through the city for some type of change or something.

The only work I’ve seen done since the plywood went up is the smiley face.


ObJamie April 20, 2014 at 11:58 pm

OB AleHouse…lots of work going on inside.


bl April 17, 2014 at 2:26 pm

got notice they want to turn our rental units (4) into condos to sell…sucks. Quigley house, 5151 Long Branch.


John Filthy April 19, 2014 at 12:40 pm

The wave of condo conversions is what me an ex-OBcean. I love OB, but paying $350,000 for a “condo” that was an apartment for the last 50 years is not worth it. One of my friends who still lives in OB has his landlord trying to get him to buy his apartment instead of rent it. The math doesn’t work out so he keeps renting. I moved to another city and bought a house with four walls on a 50×100 lot for less money.


Tyler April 18, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Any updates on the CVS and/or the grocery store that’s supposed to go in? Is this actually happening?


duckfeet April 19, 2014 at 4:30 am

OB’s bad repuation, and the jets overhead I kind of figured might leave us one raggedy little beach town for ‘the rest of us.’ But I was wrong. I actually figured this was going to happen when they began putting up the ‘berm’ to ‘protect’ the stores from water during storms. Didn’t work but blocked the view from Newbreak. I told my bodysurfing buds it was just a trial run before they threw up the condos. Was considered a joke, naturally…who’d want to put up condos in OB? Or like Izzy used to say: the beggars, bums, and young panhandling wall-nuts keep the rents down!

Not anymore, Izzy. :) I guess they’ll ship us all over to El Cajon, when they finally tear down the little cheapo cottages up by the pier. I just got back from moping around The Bowery in NYC, now that they’ve pretty much got rid of the poor people there (send’em to Jersey), and let the rich kids hang out in the Village and talk ghetto.

Never figured that the Lower East Side of New York, and Hell’s Kitchen’s demise and gentrification in the last decade should have been any kind of instructive trip for this Obetian. But again, I was wrong. And so is this.


Holly April 19, 2014 at 9:03 am

See this OB Rag article:


George Above the Cliffs April 19, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Everyone thank the Lord for the thirty foot height limit and the coastal commission. Without that Ocean Beach would look like Miami … a giant vertical ghetto.


da john April 19, 2014 at 7:38 pm

Try and find a vertical ghetto in midtown Manhattan, you are more likely to find a 100 million dollar penthouse. What’s the difference between Miami and Manhattan. Manhattan is walkable, and has the best public transportation system in the country. Miami has neither. People actually like living in dense areas. I’m sure it would be offensive to some to hear you call their building a ghetto.

It must be a real Randian dream living up there above the cliffs.


ObJamie April 21, 2014 at 12:02 am

You left out this and it’s three sisters coming to the same road…


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