Peninsula Community Planning Board: ‘If you build it, tell the truth.’

by on December 4, 2014 · 4 comments

in Culture, Economy, Environment, History, Ocean Beach

Historic Treadwell House, a 60 Foot SDG&E Tower Allowed and the “Monster Perpetual  Rehab”

By Tony de Garate / Special to the OB Rag

If you build it, tell the truth.

That seemed to be the message the Peninsula Community Planning Board was trying to send in opposing Carleton Row Homes, a four-unit condo project at 3015-21 Carleton St. in Roseville, at the board’s monthly meeting back on November 20.

In a stunning 12-0 vote, the board sought to strike a blow against a proposal members characterized as containing “two levels of subterfuge,” and riddled with “euphemisms” and “gibberish.”

“I think it’s time to put our stamp on our community and state we aren’t going to put up with this,” board member Dominic Carnevale said in making the motion against the project.

Pt Loma Plan Bd carleton plansBut proponents for the applicant, Acropolis Developments, defended the proposal as conventional and straight-forward, and charged the board’s action ran contrary to years of precedent.

“We’re not trying to pull any tricks,” said Al Gueddar, a principal for Acropolis. “I’ve counted seven projects that were all approved in the same way. We’re just doing what’s been done for years.”

Despite the board’s adamant stance, it’s unclear what lasting impact the action will have. Board member Jarvis Ross predicted Acropolis would obtain city approval to put the condos for sale in short order.

Board members cited two reasons for its opposition. Firstly, they accused Acropolis of submitting the proposal for city approval in a way that minimized community input. At this point, it’s helpful to explain development permits can be divided into two general categories: ministerial or over-the-counter – which only require approval from city staff; and discretionary, which must be reviewed by a community planning board like the PCPB, which is sanctioned by the city to make land-use recommendations.

To begin building multifamily housing often requires only construction permits, which fall into the ministerial category. To sell the units as condos, property owners may apply for a “map waiver” to legally subdivide the parcel, a discretionary process that triggers notification requirements and a planning board vote.

In the case of the Carleton Row Homes, the city approved construction permits last December. But by the time Acropolis applied for the map waiver on Sept. 19 and sent out notices to surrounding neighbors, the units were well under construction. Some board members and residents consider this a loophole the city should close.

“We would have had a chance to review the plan,” board member Paul Webb said. “There would have been a design review opportunity that we don’t have now.”

Roseville resident Korla Eaquinta echoed those sentiments. “By the time these ministerially approved apartments come around for a map waiver, community and planning board involvement are an afterthought,” she said.

But Liz Carmichael of Ecohouse, the project’s architect, said even if the map waiver had been requested before construction had begun, there would have been no requirement to allow board input on the condo design.

“It would just be the building envelope and not really the full set of plans – not a full-on design to review,” Carmichael said.

The second reason for opposition, or “level of subterfuge” as board member Bruce Coons put it, was conflicting information on whether the condos contained two or three bedrooms each. By city code, a developer must provide 2.25 parking spaces for a three-bedroom condo and two spaces for a two-bedroom.

Plans approved last year by the city classified the project as having two bedrooms plus an upstairs den and adjacent storage room. But, until recently, Acropolis’ own website had a different description. Last month, at the very time the applicant first appeared before the board in support of the map waiver, Acropolis’ own website described the units as “3 bedroom … luxury units” and included drawings depicting the den as “bedroom/bonus” and the storage room as “walk-in closet.”

When the OB Rag asked about the contradiction after last month’s meeting, Carmichael said it was a mistake on the part of the webmaster.

“… I think there was a disconnect and the graphic designer was not looking at my architectural drawings for the marketing package,” Carmichael said in an email.

“The intention of the den was for a second living area to be enjoyed along with the roof deck because of the amazing views. The storage area is for easy placement of outdoor furniture without bringing it all the way down to the garage for storage,” she said.

The Acropolis website was corrected by Oct. 31, Carmichael said.

See caches of the previous three-bedroom depiction .

And Roseville resident Korla Eaquinta pointed out floor plans with the “bedroom/bonus” and “walk-in closet” depictions are available on, and handed out copies for board members. But project representative David Parot of Ingenuity Engineering Corp. pointed out even if the condos had been classified as three bedrooms, the entire project would have only required one additional parking space.

Carmichael said she’d be willing to present condo projects to the board before construction as part of the “information item” agenda in the future.

“I’ve been before this board for 15 years. I do care about this community and what it thinks,” she said.

Wear replaces Bush

Rollin Bush received a round of applause at his last meeting representing District 2 San Diego City Councilmember Ed Harris, whose interim term ends Dec. 10. Bush introduced his replacement, Conrad Wear, who will be the new council representative for Lorie Zapf. He’s the son of Byron Wear, a former member of the San Diego City Council who previously served on the PCPB. Conrad Wear’s local credentials include a high school diploma from High Tech High, attaining the rank of Eagle at Boy Scout Troop 500, and a stint at the Peninsula YMCA, where he worked along side board member Jon Linney. After earning a degree in political science at UC Berkeley, Wear said he met Zapf at an election night celebration and talked his way into an internship. He’s been a community representative for Zap since February.

 Fate of Treadwell House to be decided after Harris leaves office

Bush did note with a bit of annoyance a loose end that will be decided after Harris’ departure: the fate of the famous Treadwell House, 579 San Elijo St., in the La Playa neighborhood of Point Loma.

The City Council had been scheduled to rule Nov. 18 on whether the house merits historical designation, but that date has been pushed back to February, Bush said.

“I won’t share with you why I think that happened,” Bush noted cryptically.

Historic designation, which inhibits the ability to develop, is opposed by the owners. Coons, president of Save Our Heritage Organization, has praised the two-story, Colonial Revival-style mansion built in the late 1920’s as a World War II landmark.

Pt Loma Plan Bd SDGE TowerNo height limit for 60-foot tower

A presentation from six representatives of San Diego Gas and Electric describing the utility’s ongoing rebuild of the Point Loma Substation was well-received – though the disclosure of a 60-foot communications tower provoked a few furrowed brows. The substation has been at its current Point Loma Heights location nearly seven decades, fronting Udall Street, Wabaska Drive and Wells Street.

The tower was erected Nov. 17 and is one of 20-25 towers to be in use throughout the utility’s service area, said SDG&E spokesperson Claudia Valenzuela.

“How do you get around the 30-foot height limit?” Ross asked, referring to the voter-approved law that has placed a limit on building heights for 40 years.

Valenzuela said substation designs are approved by the state Public Utilities Commission, which does not impose a height limit. She also pointed out the tower is only 10 feet higher than existing equipment in the substation.The towers are part of the utility’s smart grid, and will report back in case of power interruptions or vandalism. This will pinpoint any problems so repair crews can respond quicker, she said.The project will include landscaping to screen the substation from view. Old vegetation will be removed and replaced with 41 mature evergreen trees of various species, including African sumac, firewheel, willow pittosporum, Australian willow and carrot wood, said Bill Click, the utility’s Landscape Contracting Administrator.

Cañon Street Park progresses, but questions raised

Pt Loma Plan Bd empty lotMomentum is building on the effort to place a pocket park at a quarter-acre vacant lot along Cañon Street, though at least one board member had concerns about whether the PCPB should lead the endeavor.

Architect and PCPB member Bruce Cook has agreed to draw up a landscaping plan for the plot of land,which sits just west of where Avenida de Portugal dead-ends and is controlled by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

And Burtech Pipeline has offered a $5,000 in-kind contribution for site cleanup, board member Jon Linney announced.

Board member Don Severns said he and Linney have received an “overwhelmingly positive” response when going door-to-door to present the idea to residents. Severns said he hopes to recruit the Point Loma Foundation to act as sponsor and vehicle for accepting tax-deductible contributions, though he said he fundraising is a ways off in the future.

“The ball’s rolling. We should give these guys a hand,” PCPB Chair Julia Quinn said.

But board member David Dick had logistical and legal concerns.

“We don’t build structures,” he said. “It seems to be a bit far afield in terms of what we do in our charter, in our purpose, and why we exist. I’m not opposed to the idea – I just want to know a bit more about it.”

Criminal charges sought in perpetual house remodel

Six criminal misdemeanor charges have been filed against Francisco Mendiola, owner of a house at 1676 Plum Street, a structure decried by neighbors as an eyesore and public nuisance. The house has been the subject of neighborhood code compliance complaints since 2010, records show. Danna Nicholas of the San Diego City Attorney’s office told the board Mendiola’s neglect was too severe for mere civil charges.

“Mr. Mendiola earned a criminal complaint. This has been going on too long. This is just too disrespectful.”

Neighbor Jerry Lohla said the saga of the house began when Mendiola removed the sidewalk and mailbox abutting his house seven years ago without permits.

Navy to move fuel pipeline to Rosecrans?

The Navy had an open house for a proposal to repair and relocate five miles of the fuel pipeline that runs from La Playa to Miramar on Dec. 3 from 5-8 p.m. at Portuguese Hall. Comments on the proposal’s Draft Environmental Assessment are due Dec. 6. By a 12-0 vote, the board authorized Quinn to examine and respond to the assessment. Creating the biggest stir is the Navy’s proposal to move 3.5 miles of pipeline to Rosecrans Street.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Korla Eaquinta December 5, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Thanks Tony, Nice summary.


Tony de Garate December 10, 2014 at 11:34 pm

Thanks, there was a lot to summarize. The Beacon reporter, Dave “Schwabbie” Schwab, and I agreed we couldn’t remember a meeting with so many reportable issues on the agenda.


AM December 9, 2014 at 9:19 am

I can not believe that 60 foot tower was erected without so much as a notice! What a surprise to come home from work one day, look out my front window, and be greeted by this ridiculous steel tower! Seriously? Do the citizens get to vote on this??


Tony de Garate December 10, 2014 at 11:31 pm

I think many share your surprise that the height of the tower is governed by the CPUC, and apparently not the City of San Diego. SDG&E says the station will be better concealed once the 41 mature trees are planted.


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