Are These Residences Coming to Abbott the Right Project for OB?

by on September 3, 2014 · 37 comments

in Culture, Economy, Environment, Ocean Beach, Organizing

At tonight’s OB Planning Board meeting, the owner-applicant of a set of three, 2-story single family residences that he wishes to build on Abbott Street and Voltaire at their intersection will be looking for approval from the Board.

The three one-bedroom units are planned for the 5000 square foot lot at 2185 and 2191 Abbott Street and 5095 Voltaire Street.

The OB Rag was given an artist’s rendition of the planned buildings – seen above. The plan is to construct them on that empty lot that has been there for decades, as the lot was recently sold.

OBceans need to study the images and determine whether these planned projects are the right thing for Ocean Beach – do they comply with the small-town character that is so cherished by village residents? Or do they contribute to the growing impulses of gentrification?

If you wish to study the images, the plans and blueprints more, and give your opinion, you need to attend tonight’s meeting at the OB Rec Center, at 6pm sharp.

The OB Planning Board’s Project Review Committee reportedly is recommending “approval” by the whole Board.

If these buildings are approved, they join the massive condo project at the other end of Abbott Street that will alter the beach side street drastically.

Here is how the lot currently appears.

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve September 3, 2014 at 10:14 am

I’m not a big fan of these units being built in OB but on the other hand, this part of the War Zone could use some help. The cheapest rentals in OB are generally in this 2-3 block radius so I wonder what will happen to rent prices if these are built. I have a feeling if these units are built and the War Zone stays the War Zone (as it has for decades), the people inhabiting these units won’t be living there for very long once they realize exactly where they are.


Jeff Levinson September 3, 2014 at 4:17 pm

I live just down the street on muir and would welcome these units. The vacant lot just collects trash and junk. It’s an eyesore and this looks like a quality project


sunahine September 6, 2014 at 12:18 pm

? make love ?
?not war ?


Tyler September 3, 2014 at 11:14 am

I like the design of the exterior, and they are only 1BR so they won’t be massive. As long as they are within the FAR and provide offstreet parking I’m all for it.


Dan Shay September 3, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Many garages in OB are used for storage and I have even seen people living in garages in OB. So the off-street parking requirement is sort of an empty rule except with regard to driveways and maybe carports.


Seth September 3, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Agree Dan, but I also think that as the regional population growth continues to boom, we will a greater demand for parking and greater incentive for people to actually use their off-street spots for that intended purpose. One planner had suggested including a recommendation to initiate resident permit parking stickers in the precise plan update, and while I don’t support that *yet*, it’s probably the way it is going eventually.


Frank Gormlie September 3, 2014 at 1:54 pm

One thing that will happen will be increased pressure for parking on Voltaire and Abbott, as the empty lot provided car spaces for the array of cottages next door.


Dave Rice September 3, 2014 at 10:28 pm

I sometimes parked 1/2 mile or more from home when I lived on the 2200 block of Abbott…it may not seem like much, but another dozen cars on the street (especially on street sweeping days) will make a noticeable difference.

That said, I don’t entirely hate these units. They’re more modern than the area, but they’re still only two stories and they’re definitely “quirky,” which to some degree fits with the neighborhood character. That, or I’m tired of hating on everything I see…


Mickey September 3, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Seriously, you could possible complain about these.
They are taking empty lot that people illegally use for
parking and the homeless use for a camping and a bathroom.
The individuals who live in those are going to park
their vehicles in their garages. No one wants their vehicle
vandalized, puked on or stolen in the “War Zone.”


Geoff Page September 3, 2014 at 3:35 pm

These units will not be lived in, they will be vacation rentals. Anything this close to the beach will end up this way. What person, who can afford the high price tag for these, will want to live in that part of OB?

I haven’t seen the floor plans but I would not be fooled by the one bedroom designation. One of the most common tricks pulled by developers is to have two rooms but one has no closet so it can be designated a den or a study even though the room may be the same size as the bedroom. Once it is built, putting in a closet or an armoire easily turns it into another bedroom.

What we are not seeing are any developments intended to be used for apartments at any reasonable rates. That may be too much to wish for with the price of property now in OB. This sort of development is only beginning to wash over lower OB, in a few years, it will be very different.


Seth September 3, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Debate over them being 1 or 2 bedroom units has been brought up by both the City and the OBPB Project Review Committee. I would guess that it will come up again at tonight’s meeting.

On a more general note, your point about affordable apartment stock is well taken, but I feel like people want it both ways on this. Actually approve an apartment complex, and people will complain about increased density. Personally, I have seen a bunch of small-scale units built or rehabbed in the last 8 years. The new ones likely won’t be affordable apartment rentals right out of the gate, but that may change as the structures get older.


Geoff Page September 3, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Seth, Yes I’ve seen this “bedroom” issue be brought up by planning boards and the City but the City allows this anyway and has no enforcement system set up to monitor these things. Same thing with lots of other named rooms like study, game room, office, etc. Some of these are legitimate but some are clearly not. Why would a one bedroom condo need a separate “office” that is as big as the bedroom?

I’m curious about the small scale apartment units you’ve seen built. Keep in mind that many projects are started as apartments because these buildings do not require planning board approval. What happens later, as I’m sure you know Seth, is the developer then asks for a map waiver to convert the “apartments” to condos. This allows developers to bypass the planning board reviews. I got to the point that I voted against every map waiver because of this trick. This project doesn’t appear to be doing that but if they become rentals they will be vacation rentals.


Frank Gormlie September 3, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Geoff – Agree with you there. The owners won’t live there – and will rent them out. The development could change that intersection – the cottages just next door are for sale, as is the liquor store across the street and the lot next to that. Whether the change is for the “good” or not is a different point.


Geoff Page September 3, 2014 at 5:30 pm

That is the subjective question, Frank, is it good or bad. The area could use some improvement in most folk’s minds, although some people like the laid back funky look. I’m one of those. But to go from that to super expensive small homes that really aren’t suitable for families and will not be affordable for regular Obceans doesn’t seem “good” to me. It is inevitable unfortunately. People with money will like it. People without money will, as usual, be out in the cold.


da john September 5, 2014 at 7:13 am

Right on Geoff. I can’t think of any new affordable rentals that have been built in OB recently at all. The only new apartment building I can think of is going up next to the the lifeguard tower and ‘m pretty sure that won’t be affordable.

I really think the only way to entice a developer around here to build more affordable units would be to give them slack on the parking requirements so they can build on more of the land. Only in exchange for a certain amount of affordable units of course.


Geoff Page September 5, 2014 at 11:55 am

Actually, da john, if developers include a certain number of affordable units in a project, they can get breaks on parking, setbacks, and, unfortunately, height. That last one has become a problem. The land in OB, especially that near the beach, is just too expensive to make affordable housing possible. Those units near the lifeguard tower will never be homes, they will be vacation rentals. It’s a sad reality but OB has become a desirable place to live for people with money who once shunned the area. It was inevitable, OB has been a great secret for those of us who live here for many years but the secret is out.


Seth September 5, 2014 at 1:55 pm

No doubt, Geoff. To elaborate on the affordable housing part of this conversation, I think it is important to define terms. IMO, when people in OB are talking about affordable housing, they really don’t mean the official, density-bonus, Section 8, senior/low-income families kind, but rather just being able to go on craigslist and get a room somewhere for $1,000 a month or so.

I don’t know that this is going to go the way of the Dodo, but there are obviously great pressures in the housing market pushing it that way. Exploding regional population, some degree of gentrification, internationalization of the vacation rental market, etc…

What I think can be done to help offset this, within reason, is the development and rehabilitation of small-scale units (750-1,000 sqft). This actually constitutes most of the projects I have seen in OB over the last 8 years or so, with people throwing a second-story unit above their garage, or otherwise squeezing out an extra unit somewhere.

Trade-off, as I know you are aware of, is the increased density and extra strain on infrastructure. But IMO, it allows for a very different kind of gentrification that you might see in Mission Beach, and at least provides a stock of potentially affordable rental units going forward.

Other point along those lines I would throw out there is that there is a temporal aspect of this as well (since that 2-dollar word was already used at the meeting the other night). People should expect the newly-constructed units to be affordable, they should expect that from the older ones that aren’t in quite as good condition and therefore not as desirable on the market. Good news there is that the only thing we need to do to enhance that stock of the rental housing market is to just sit here and wait for them to age. There are certainly a lot of absentee landlords (and termites) who are holding up their end of the bargain on that.


Seth September 5, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Excuse me, I mean that people should NOT expect newly-constructed units to be affordable. My bad!


Dan Shay September 5, 2014 at 2:16 pm

You read my mind regarding affordable housing. I was asking myself if people really want housing projects in OB or rent control or what? Housing projects seemed like a good idea years ago, but they created many problems and we learned it is better to spread out the affordable housing if we are going to have it. There is definitely a balance between allowing the market to take its course and regulation. Many well intended social initiatives, rules and regulations end up having unforeseen negative consequences like the crime/poverty zones created by housing projects. On the other hand if we let the invisible hand free market take its course we end up with a destroyed environment, monopolies and child labor. As I think Geoff said in another post, the main reason OB, particularly North OB, is “cheap” is because it is in the flight path and that is not changing anytime soon. I agree with what you said about smaller units if our goal is affordable housing. Still, some people do not care about affordable housing and want nicer units with less people and less cars in OB – I guess like La Jolla. In the end, most OBecians end up moving east when they want “affordable housing”.


Pedro Tavares September 8, 2014 at 3:21 pm

That number is five, Geoff. Five units allows a project the bonuses that come with providing a certain amount of affordable units. Those bonuses potentially include, as you pointed out: parking, setbacks, and height. Though there’s no getting over the 30′-0″ coastal height limit so it’s a moot point around most of OB. The most important thing you left out, however, is it gets a project a density bonus. But it all starts at 5 units. If OB wants to encourage affordable housing then it needs to do something about its density. I’ve written in the comments here before about how RM-2-4’s density is hurting OB and causing housing stock to plummet ( RM-2-4 has been systemically halving the density in OB since 1970. Without the ability to replace a duplex on a 2,500 sf. lot with another duplex it will continue to occur.


Christo September 3, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Funny you say that about the “office” Geoff. My home was built in 1932 as a 1 bedroom. It has since been “Obfunkified” to a 3 bedroom that is listed as a 2 bedroom because the ORIGINAL bedroom has no closet.

There will be some bewildered tourons in those pads…


Sandra September 3, 2014 at 8:28 pm

I heard OB will be the new Venice. So any outcome on the meeting?


Frank Gormlie September 3, 2014 at 10:39 pm

See tomorrow’s report.


Bearded OBcean September 4, 2014 at 9:56 am

I still remember living down on Abbott and Lotus almost 10 years ago. 3 am and four cop cars are below my window with 6 popo and their guns drawn on a car, sending a police dog to take care of business. Anything that improves this area would be welcome. It’s a shame that this is still probably a common occurrence in that neck of the woods.


Duke Kahanamoku September 4, 2014 at 11:11 am

” It’s a shame that this is still probably a common occurrence in that neck of the woods.”

No it’s not. I have lived in that vicinity for 8 years and have not once witnessed anything similar to what you describe.

I do know that another multi-unit complex(es) will have a negative impact on this dense and congested neighborhood. There is not adequate parking as it stands, I see cars parked illegally in alleys every night because of lack of parking.


Marc Snelling September 4, 2014 at 11:30 am

I lived on Abbott steps from this vacant lot for five+ years and I never had these concerns. The issue I see with these units is parking. Illegal or not this project is removing spots. Parking is really bad in this area especially in the summer. Whenever I came back from work late I often had to park near Sunset Cliffs.

I’ve never seen this lot used for camping, or used as a bathroom. It is way too out in the open for that.


Geoff Page September 4, 2014 at 11:04 am

Bearded OBcean – It’s nice to see an OBcean that can remember as far back as 10 years ago. Just kidding.

But seriously, I have to take issue with this comment. You cite one instance where there was a police action as if that happened all the time. I moved to La Jolla in 1977 when I first came to San Diego. In the first week, my buddy and I had hundreds of dollars worth of diving gear stolen. Shortly thereafter, my car was stolen and pulled from the surf in the middle of the night. A few weeks alter, it was stolen again but this time I caught the thieves and got stabbed twice in the process. Now, do you think all that was representative of La Jolla? I doubt it.

You close by saying what you witnessed was “still probably” a common occurrence in this area, which doesn’t sound like you really know this for a fact. Unless you have some police data to support this, OB doesn’t deserve that kind of comment. This is a great town with no more or less crime than anywhere else. If you look at the statistics, PB is far more dangerous.


Bearded OBcean September 4, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Deserve’s got nothing to do with it. Why is it still called the “War Zone?” People have been hoping that it would improve for a lot longer than 10 years, and it’s still the “War Zone.” I don’t need to pull of crime stats to know that some parts of OB are harder than others, you know? Why do you think rent is cheaper on that end of town?

One of the better parts of life at that end of OB before I moved to the Southern side, was that I found probably $100 in cash over the years on the ground while taking my dog out for walks. A thick bag of grass too.


Geoff Page September 4, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Deserve has everything to do with it. OB is full of people who do not deserve to have their town denigrated like that. Why is it still called the “War Zone?” Who calls it that? People from years ago. If you ask people about OB outside of OB they all still think it is full of bikers and hippies from the sixties. OB got hung with that and it has never gone away but it isn’t that way anymore, even if it ever was.

You do need to pull crime stats if you make a statement like you did, so far an unsubstantiated comment. Now you’re making the statement that rents are cheaper in the area because of crime? How about because the places are much older, not well kept up, small spaces, lots of young people? Have you done a square foot comparison?

Perhaps your attitude has been affected by the move to the “Southern side.”


Bearded OBcean September 5, 2014 at 10:24 am

Geez man. I have as much a romantic and nostalgic feeling of OB as much as anyone. That’s the reason I own a home in OB. Look at what a condo or house sells for in North OB compared to South OB or what rental rates are going for? Why do you think that is? No one’s denigrating town or its peeps. It’s reality.

If you don’t know that people call it the War Zone, you need to get out a bit. Read the threads, man. It’s not from years ago. It’s from the right and now. Look at the first comment on this article. Sorry man. To see what’s in front of one’s nose takes a constant struggle, you know?


Geoff Page September 5, 2014 at 11:51 am

There are a lot of reasons why homes in the southern area are more expensive. The main reason is that south OB is not in the flight path. The other big reason is that area is not subject to the tourist traffic and everyone going to the beach. If you think it is crime then find someone in real estate and ask them if homeowners in the north area have to disclose that the homes are in a high crime area. Good luck.

As for the “war zone” designation, if you took a poll of folks on the street, I guarantee people below a certain age or who have not been in OB for a long time would not know what the term refers to. It’s an old term, man.


Graham Wellington September 4, 2014 at 10:41 pm

Does anyone know what the boundaries are for the war zone?


sunahine September 5, 2014 at 4:14 am

do you really think these new dwellings will be affordable on an annual salary less than $45k?

stat tuned


John O. September 5, 2014 at 3:31 pm

Those places look great. Granted parts of OB are “gritty”, but it is still a great place. Sprinkling in a few new, modern residences would be a welcome change. Regarding, the affordability of OB… it has likely been the most affordable beach area in San Diego (other than IB) for decades… and will likely continue to compete for this designation, even with some new development.
I’m in the same boat as all of you (and any other beach loving person) in the sense that I’ll always live (or try to) by the beach. Gentrification is as real and unstoppable as the tides…
Regarding the parking issue, we all know about this so unless you’re new to California and beach living, this is a standard problem… get used to it, get a closer job or work from home, get a bike, and pray that the trolley comes to the beaches one day (or not). Name a beach area that doesn’t have a parking problem.


obracer September 6, 2014 at 5:15 pm

What part of the building permit application asks if you are going to live in the home ? does it ask how many years ? no , because it’s none of your business. When YOU buy the property YOU can decide whether to rent it out or live in it , until then don’t get in the way of progress.
Ocean Beach would still be sand dunes if we listened to the winning that occurs about ANY construction in Ocean Beach.
Applications to rent in O.B. are from people earning 48k – 75k if you don’t earn that much you will not be able to afford the majority of rentals O.B., get over it.
10 years ago it was 18k-39k , rent was lower, tenants moved more often, today’s renters are more established and stay 5+ years on average.
Investing in real estate is not a hobby, it’s risky, very stressful and it’s a living for most investors.
Build it , build it big, build it now !


DonCharly September 7, 2014 at 8:42 am

Just like the old republicans senators, and their close minded views, which thankfully are dying out of their positions in the senate, the “old” Ocean Beach residents and their views in progress and construction will be expiring soon. New construction is good and rids of the ugly and the undesirable. Let O.B.e.autiful.


Wireless Mike September 7, 2014 at 9:31 pm

Absolutely hideous! There goes the neighborhood.


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