OB Planning Board Gears Up to Oppose San Diego Planning Commission

by on June 5, 2014 · 15 comments

in Civil Rights

At last night’s meeting of the Ocean Beach Planning Board, the Board approved a Petition to be circulated throughout OB that supports the OB Community Plan- as a show-down with the San Diego Planning Commission approaches.

One week ago, OB’s Community Plan Update was before the Commission for its review before it headed to the full City Council later this month. Even though they voted to approve the Plan, the Commissioners did so after they made two modifications – one of which took the teeth out of the OB Plan, so OB planners feel.

At last night’s meeting, after a presentation by Plan Update sub-committee Co-Chair Gio Ingolia, the Board voted unanimously to support a petition to preserve the language in the Plan that keeps the teeth – or the tool of floor-area ration restrictions.

From L to R: Seth Connolly, Scott Therkalsen, Valerie Paz, Tom Gawronski, Drew Wilson, Pete Ruscitti, John Ambert, Andrew Waltz (partially hidden), Robert Shamoun, and Kevin Becker.

The Petition – which will be available here – will be circulated around the community with the hope of gathering hundreds of OBcean signatures in support of the Community Plan. Other ideas for the campaign to mobilize the community for the City Council hearing on June 30th include circulating the Petition at Farmers Markets and at the OB Street Fair later this month, as well as having all the OB groups that endorsed the Plan circulate them among their respective members.

Meeting with Councilman Ed Harris, Mayor Faulconer, other Council members, placing signs in OB storefront windows about supporting the Plan, letter-writing, a facebook page, and a press conference are all also being planned as part of the campaign to convince the City Council members to support OB’s unique Plan. Also, another mobilizing meeting is planned for Monday, June 16th at Dog Beach Dog Wash at 6pm.

OB Plan Bd meet 6-4-14 009

Gio Ingolia and City planner Teresa Millette before the Planning Board.

Last night in the Rec Center, ten members of the OB Board sat before nearly a full house. Gio and Teresa Millette of the City stood up and gave an update to the Board of the last months news, including a rendition of what came down at the Planning Commission meeting last Thursday, May 29th.

In his summary, Ingolia explained that some Commissioners are completely against the FAR of 0.70, whereas some have no problem with how the Plan refers to variances. “It concerns me,” Ingolia said, “that the Planning Commission is getting set to get rid of it [the FAR of .7] all together.”

He went on and said that the language that the Commission objected to had been given to OB by the City Attorney’s Office. Their office felt that the original language that the Plan contained “created a conflict with the Municipal Code,” he said, so the City Attorney gave OB new language that was inserted would have no conflict.  The current draft of the Plan has that language – this is the language that the Planning Commission wants struck.

Here’s the actual crux of the text.  Within the Plan, the current Draft has under Urban Design Element:

“Goal 4.2.9  Urban Design Element

Maintain the community’s small-scale character and avoid exceptions to established floor area ratios to the greatest extent possible under the law.”

An asterisk on the last word “law” simply explained: “Existing regulations specify FAR’s of 0.7 ….for the RM-2-4 … zone….”

The Planning Commission’s recommended change states:

Maintain the community’s small-scale character and evaluate exceptions on a case by case basis to achieve the goals of the residential guidelines.

If the Commission has their way, Gio went on, “then no where in the Plan is the FAR discussed – if the language [of FAR] is taken out.”

The language is in the current Plan, he said, to avoid a repeat of the exceptions – all the variances granted by the City in earlier cases, “a de factor rezone,” he said.  “If they want to change the zoning, then go through the entire process.”

Ingolia continued, there’s over 200 properties in OB that could qualify for variances under the same reasons that the Planning Commission used to approve the variances on the 5100 block of West Pt Loma Avenue; “no alley access, under 6000 square feet, ….”

“The goal of the language was to prevent skirting the process.” Gio then asked the Board to support the Petition that his sub-committee had written up and presented. Coming over to the meeting, Gio recounted how he ran into friends and businesspeople – all who would sign a Petition. “People are ready to sign,” he said emphatically. He made a final plea of asking everyone to come down to the City Council meeting on June 30th at 2pm.

Planning Board Chair Pete Ruscitti also commented that the Planning Commission does not want any mention of FAR in the Plan.  It’s difficult, he said, to explain the issues to people. “It’s not about any individual property; it’s about homes getting around what the Board approves.” There’s only “four to five people [in OB] who want it struck.”

Other OB Board members made comments.  Seth Connolly said that “they are always testing OB to see if there are still activists here, to see if the younger people care or not.”

Member Scott Therkalsen cautioned the Board to not place all their eggs in one basket, not just to focus on the Petition, but to focus on strengths, like meetings with the Council members, and a possible law suit.

And in fact, Councilman Ed Harris had just met with David Stebbins, the property owner on the 5100 block of West Pt Loma who has been leading the opposition to the Plan. His aide at the meeting, Chet Barfeld stated that:

“Ed Harris is aware of the Planning Commission decision. He’s very concerned about changes made by the Planning Commission to language worked out between this group and city staff.”

Finally, it came to a vote, and everyone on the Board shot their hands up. The Petition to Support the Ocean Beach Community Plan will be circulated, endorsed by the OB Planning Board.

In other news:  there were no appointments made as no applicant was ready. Board member Bill Bushe is unable to continue serving for health reasons, so his seat in District 5 will be available – probably in July. There’s also a vacancy in District 1.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott June 5, 2014 at 1:47 pm

If you are interested in preserving the community plan that was written over a 12 year period by community members and has the support of every community group, here’s one simple thing thing each concerned citizen could do leading up to the city council hearing: call the district 2 council office and ask that a message be left for Ed Harris:

Here’s the number: (619) 236-6622

Nothing fancy, simply state “I would like the councilman to know I am in favor of preserving the current language of the OB community plan. The plan was created through the hard work of the entire community of Ocean Beach over 12 and the current language has the support of every community group in Ocean Beach. Please ask Mr. Harris to support community members and the current language of the community plan by not accepting the proposed amended language offered by the planning commission in response to one single resident’s concern”

If you have 5 extra minutes here’s the mayor and other council members contact:
Mayor: (619) 236-6330
Sherri Lightner: (858) 484-3808
Todd Gloria: (619) 236-6633
Myrtle Cole: (619) 236-6644
Mark Kersey: (619) 236-6655
Lori Zapf (the new D2 rep): (619) 236-6616
Scott Sherman: (619) 236-6677
David Alvarez: (619) 236-6688
Marti Emerald: (619) 236-6699


Bill Smith June 5, 2014 at 2:17 pm

To call Councilman Harris a lame-duck would be greatly exaggerating his power. Gretchen did a nice job trash talking Ms. Zapf over the past year – perhaps not a wise decision, good luck OB. Don’t count on Faulconer either, at this point in time OB basically has no political support amongst elected leaders; it is time to rethink your strategy. The decisions you make now are going to either help or hurt your political power base for the next decade.


Aging Hippie June 6, 2014 at 8:00 am

Translation: we the rich bought all the elected representatives at the level above you, and we now own them, so we will do whatever we want to your little town including turning it into La Jolla, get used to it.


obracer June 6, 2014 at 7:36 am

Ocean Beach has changed for the better over the last 12 years, the O.B.P.B. does not represent the majority of residents in O.B. TODAY, maybe 10 years ago, but not today.
The City’s Planning Commission represents all residents of San Diego TODAY.
Over the last 12 years the average income in O.B. has gone up at least 30 % , rents have almost doubled, home ownership has also risen, however the O.B.P.B. is still stuck in 2002 with the same members or former members demanding to have their way.
There is a reason for term limits.
Dear O.B.P.B. Members
Move on, find something else to do, your ideas from 12 years ago are not relevant today.


Aging Hippie June 6, 2014 at 7:56 am

The OBPB represents my interests as a homeowner and resident. The SDPC represents the interests of the wealthy, including landlords, flippers, and realtor-lawyer-builders, at the expense of my interests as a homeowner and resident.

I don’t presume to speak for the majority of OB residents or even the majority of OB homeowners, neither should you.


obracer June 6, 2014 at 8:58 am

Exactly what I would expect to hear from an aging hippie holding on to 1977.
Your time has passed , get over it. O.B. will never be La Jolla, O.B. will continue to evolve and grow like most other beach towns in California.
The majority of older homes along the California coast where built as second homes, these small, older beach houses are now owned by full time residents that need space to raise families.
Changes along W. Point Loma Ave do not change the character of Ocean Beach or it’s residents, it’s simply the desire of those that don’t have access to these properties to try and control what others can do.
An aging hippie will not be changed by a construction project across the street or down the block.
Build it ! build it big ! and build it now !


Seth June 6, 2014 at 9:53 am

How about just build it according to code? This isn’t even in the realm of community activists trying to impose overbearing standards, or even those of their own community plan. This is about getting the City to enforce their own law.

If the code doesn’t matter, where are we? I guarantee your tune would change in a minute if I were using the variance process to open an undesirable business next door to where you live (adult bookstore, recycling center, medicinal marijuana dispensary, etc…). I bet you’d be all about enforcing code and not abusing the variance process at that point, no?


Aging Hippie June 6, 2014 at 9:55 am

^ This.


Scott June 6, 2014 at 2:13 pm

In fact OB racer I believe you are very strongly in favor of following the law. You have repeatedly pushed to have the police trailer moved and the justification you continually use is that it is not legally there and according to city and coastal commission rules it has to be moved. All people are asking for in this instance is a similar enforcement of the current laws.

Also, as far as representing the opinion of the majority of the community, I believe you said the same thing when fighting the police trailer (an issue, by the way, that I totally agree with you about). However, whenever the issue came up at any community meeting the majority of people had the opposite opinion of you (and I). In this case again at every meeting and community event the majority is clearly worried about maintaining the current character of the community unlike yourself.

I’m 33, on the OBPB, have made many motions, and have disagreed with the “old guard” on issues. I moved to OB instead of PB purposely and I am very interested in maintaining the character here; past leaders have maintained that character by enforcing the rules and I’m in favor of a continued policy of forcing home owners to build their homes according to the legal code.


obracer June 6, 2014 at 6:33 pm

And the trailer sits regardless of the law. Just like the issue with the trailer the city’s planning commission made some changes to make the project actually temporary, the added requirements and the promises of a clean boardwalk due to an increase in police presence was a win win situation. Those 4 parking spots affect more people than someone building 100-200 sq ft over F.A.R. on their own property. It’s not a height issue it’s square footage. What’s next ? house color ? fence type ? we don’t need an H.O.A. in O.B.
The ” character of the community” will be defined by it’s residents, not by what they drive or where they live.
I think this is the only issue the planning commission didn’t like, oh well , lets move on , the rest of the update is intact. I support the community plan update as it stands.
Thank you for serving our community Scott.


Seth June 6, 2014 at 9:19 am

3/4ths of the board is under 45 and/or have been on it for 5 years or less.


obracer June 6, 2014 at 9:36 am

Seth , I respect your opinion , and your service to the community, however 99 % of decisions are made by the other 1/4 , attend a meeting and listen to who makes motions, it’s not the 3/4 on the board it is one or two people that run the show, the others are puppets that go along with the “old guard”.
The minutes are public record.
I stand by my assertions, the O.B.P.B. represents a small fraction of the residents of Ocean Beach.


Aging Hippie June 6, 2014 at 9:49 am

You need some proof for that claim.


obracer June 6, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Attend a meeting.


Seth June 6, 2014 at 10:21 am

All good, racer.


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