Peninsula Community Planners: City Puts the Kibosh on Cañon Pocket Park

by on March 2, 2015 · 11 comments

in Culture, Economy, Environment, History, Ocean Beach

Pt Loma Canon poket Prk

Canon Pocket Park

City Planner Defends Carleton Row Homes and Condemns Cañon Pocket Park

 By Tony de Garate / Special to the OB Rag

City Planner Addresses hot-button issues

Yes, there are structures in Point Loma taller than 30 feet. However, those buildings were properly approved by the city’s Development Services Department and do not violate the landmark height limit initiative approved by San Diego voters in 1972.

Similarly, there was nothing irregular about the city’s approval of Carleton Row Homes, a four-unit condo project at 3015-21 Carleton St. blasted by its detractors as a deceitful proposal and currently under appeal to the San Diego Planning Commission

But recent grassroots improvements to a vacant lot supporters call Cañon Pocket Park, on the other hand, were improper. And the city’s Park and Recreation Department will fence off that quarter-acre space west of the Avenida de Portugal cul-de-sac if anyone organizes a similar activity in the future.

Those were a few of the nuggets offered up by Tony Kempton, senior planner at the city’s Planning Department, who addressed the Peninsula Community Planning Board at its February monthly meeting.

The board has been at odds with the city on several land-use issues in recent months, and called upon Kempton to provide clarification. Kempton is the Planning Department’s representative to the board and, on every agenda, is allotted time to make a report if he so chooses. Here are the highlights.

Explanation forthcoming for 30-foot height limit?

Last September, the board sent a letter of protest to Mayor Kevin Faulconer, charging the city improperly allowed Portugal Place, four condos at 3102-3104 Avenida de Portugal and 1120-1122 Locust St., to be built more than 30 feet above grade.

The letter charged a document adopted in August 2013, technical bulletin BLDG-5-4 entitled  “Determination of Building Height in the Coastal Height Limitation Overlay Zone,” was overly generous to developers. Neither Faulconer nor anyone at the city has responded, board members say.

Kempton acknowledged criteria used to measure height is confusing and said a meeting between two departments — Development Services and Planning — has been scheduled to figure out a better way to explain the issue. He said he would return to the board’s March 19 meeting and provide an update.

Height limits are “based on somewhat esoteric and technical documents not readily understood by the average layperson,” Kempton said. Furthermore, he agreed structures have indeed been built taller than 30 feet and suggested the technical bulletin “seems to have been a way to compensate applicants for a property on a slope.”

Pt Loma Carleton House

Carleton Row Homes under construction.

Carleton Row Homes approval defended

There was nothing improper about the city’s approval of Carleton Row Homes, a four-unit condo at 3015-21 Carleton St. in Roseville, Kempton said.

The board last November voted 12-0 against the project (, charging the developer was evasive by applying only for ministerial, or “over-the-counter” permits that don’t require a meeting with the Planning Board in order to start building.

It was only after construction began, board members said, that the developer applied for a required “map waiver” to classify the units as condos, a process that triggers notification requirements and a planning board vote.

Because the applicant didn’t seek a map waiver before construction, it evaded community scrutiny, board members charged. The board lost a Jan. 21 appeal to the San Diego Hearing Officer, and rightfully so, Kempton suggested.

“That’s something that’s allowed;  I’m just giving you an informational item on the process,” he said.

The Hearing Officer did agree with the board, however, that the developer wrongly depicted the units as two-bedroom instead of three, said Board Secretary Don Sevrens. The board has appealed to the San Diego Planning Commission.

Park and Rec says ‘Stay Out of Cañon Pocket Park’?

Kempton had a reproachful response to an effort to beautify a quarter-acre plot between Cañon Street and the western cul-de-sac of Avenida de Portugal once classified as a street right-of-way but now controlled by the city’s Park and Recreation Department.

Supporters of a park teamed up with Burtech Pipeline in January  (link: and hauled away — free of charge — 12 dump loads of dried-up foliage, urban trash and discarded construction debris, said second vice-chairman Jon Linney.  In addition, Burtech equipment smoothed the surface to slow erosion, he said.

Linney, who has led an effort with Sevrens to turn the lot into a park, characterized the endeavor as a “cleanup” that enjoyed the support of neighbors and passing traffic. But Kempton said Park and Recreation officials saw things differently.

“I’m told by the park planning people any further attempts to grade the Cañon pocket park will result in Park & Rec coming in and fencing off the property, so do not attempt to do that anymore,” Kempton said.

“Somebody went in there with a grader, apparently, and moved some gravel around. Does anyone here know anything about it?”

The admonition was met with disbelief.

“We’re the ones who did it,” Sevrens answered. “The city has not contacted us in an appropriate fashion, and we don’t appreciate being charged, tried and convicted without the opportunity to respond.”

Linney said Burtech had obtained the necessary permits for heavy equipment.

Said Matt DeVol, a neighbor who supports the park:

“There wasn’t any grading done. It seems this is becoming common wisdom to city officials that haven’t even come out to the lot.”

“It seems like a vocal minority in our community is stirring up a lot of trouble,” he added.

There were members of the audience who applauded the effort.

“You guys should get a medal,” La Playa resident Jim Gilhooly said.

“No good deed goes unpunished,” quipped Korla Eaquinta of Roseville.

After the meeting, Linney said Kempton’s warning did not comport with the tone of an email he received from Park & Recreation District Manager Steve Palle.

“He pretty much said, ‘thanks for your hard work, next time come to us,’ ” Linney said.

Asked if the admonition would temper the quest to develop a park, Linney replied in the negative. He said Park and Rec officials have been supportive, and a meeting is to be held with several department officials and a representative from District 2 San Diego City Councilmember Lorie Zapf.

In other news:

Peninsula Community Board Elections – March19th

March is election month. Terms expire for five of the 15 members, and an additional one-year slot is available to fill out the term of Bruce Cook, who has resigned. Candidates must be at least 18; live, own property or run a business in the Peninsula Planning Area; and have a attended a meeting in the last year. Balloting will take place in the Point Loma/Hervey library lobby from 4-8 p.m. on March 19.

Candidate Forum – March 5th

A candidate forum March 5 at 6:30 p.m. in the library serves a dual purpose. Not only does it give voters a chance to scrutinize the candidates — hopefuls who make their stump speech automatically satisfy the attendance requirement to become a candidate. More information is available at

Board Considers Code Compliance Sub-committee

If you’re concerned about things like improper signs, people who run car repair businesses in their driveways and unpermitted removal of street trees, there’s a way to get involved.

The Peninsula Community Planning Board could form a volunteer committee to be on the lookout for low-level code enforcement issues, said William Dauphin, senior land development investigator for the city’s Code Enforcement Division. With just seven investigators on staff, the division channels its resources toward more serious violations such as nonpermitted demolition and dangerous buildings.

Planning boards in the College Area and City Heights have had success organizing volunteers to address illegal minidorms and parking issues, Daughin said. He addressed the board in response to a letter the board sent expressing concern about apartment managers who lease out off-street parking to nonresidents.

Loma Riviera Gas Station Wants Ok for Alcohol Sales

For those who followed the recent controversy surrounding the Ocean Beach CVS’s pursuit of a liquor license, this will sound familiar. The Loma Riviera 76 Station, 4049 W. Point Loma Blvd., wants to sell beer and wine but the census tract in which it resides has already reached its state-limited number of licenses.

Applying for a license under such a condition requires permission from the San Diego Police Department’s Vice Division, which may make a determination known as a finding of “public convenience or necessity,” or PCN.

The gas station will ask for the Planning Board’s support at its monthly March meeting, said Mark Krencik, who chairs the board’s Project Review Committee. Making the pitch will be Steve Laub of Land Solutions, Inc. — the same person who succeeded in getting the Ocean Beach Planning Board to support a PCN finding for CVS.

The Peninsula Community Planning Board (PCPB) meets every third Thursday of the month and represents these neighborhoods: Ocean Beach Highlands, Point Loma Highlands, Loma Alta, Loma Palisades, Loma Portal, Fleetridge, Roseville, Sunset Cliffs, Wooded Area, La Playa and Liberty Station.

The PCPB will host a candidate forum at 6:30 p.m. on March 5 at the Hervey/Point Loma Branch Library, 3701 Voltaire St.

The next regular PCPB meeting will be a 6:30 p.m. on March 19 at the library.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie March 2, 2015 at 12:47 pm

I misspelled “kibosh” and wrote “cabash” – a phonetic stab at it.


Geoff Page March 2, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Having spent a good deal of time on the PCPB, I’ve had many experiences with Tony Kempton. The best way I can illustrate my opinion of the man is to relate that I tried to get him fired from being the PCPB’s Planning Department liaison. The man has a track record of being pro-development. You would get as much from listening to the homeless guy on the pier who likes to engage folks in meaningless conversation. My advice is to not listen to him and continue doing what you want to do. I’ve looked at the height decision on the Ave. de Portugal project and it was completely flawed but you will never hear that from Kempton.


Frank Gormlie March 2, 2015 at 12:49 pm

The city doesn’t want anybody taking over vacant (public?) land. It smacks too much like Chicano Park where 100’s of residents in Barrio Logan took over land underneath a freeway and built it into an iconic, historic park with murals that is known world-wide.

And while this is no comparison to Chicano Park, the city just doesn’t look kindly at residents taking things into their own hands. Too much like OB, also, as this is conservative, strait-laced Point Loma – how dare they!


Debbie March 2, 2015 at 3:25 pm

How dare people clean up a vacant lot! You Point Loma people are out of control. Soon this are will be guarded by police in cruisers should you dare pick up trash or vegetation debris. Fencing is coming….the city will do whatever they can to make this area look as trashy as possible and to remain this way.

Don’t make Tony tell you one more time. So where is Ms Zapf….probably trying to work a deal to give away Belmont Park :-)


Sammy March 2, 2015 at 4:03 pm

There was Grading done as we gave pictures before and after.
Anyone who was there would know Grading was done.
The proper paper work was not ever authorized.
The vocal minority is fast becoming the Majority!
Parks and Rec now knows All the facts of who did what and why.
Leave we enough alone. Not every single small price of open space needs to be cleaned up, improved & made into a “pocket park”. Some people that live really close by the open area got what they want from that land and now jumped on the bandwagon to pressure others to put up with something that most people along 4 streets close by, do not want. Others only want it because some people don’t. It’s such a small area, it simply needs to be left wild. That’s it.
At least Parks and Rec has informed the outspoken, angry people who jumped on the band wagon, exactly what they thought of their clean up.
Woo hoo!
Good bye stoopid park. Hello wild land !


Geoff Page March 2, 2015 at 4:39 pm

The word “grading” is being tossed around too cavalierly. The kind of grading that requires permitting involves what are referred to as cuts and fills, and specifically fills. If earth is placed in an area where the grade is being raised, the fill process has to be monitored and compaction testing has to be performed so that the fill is structurally sound. There would have had to be appreciable fills of several feet before this would be needed. Cosmetically smoothing the ground surface, as the work has been described, does not require a grading permit.

Once again, this information came from the mouth of a man who has been wrong so often in the past as to render anything he says as worthless. Let’s hear from Park and Rec.


Frank Gormlie March 5, 2015 at 9:52 am

Tony Kempton wrote the OB Rag and stated:

“Your article incorrectly implies that the City is discouraging development of the Canon St. pocket park. The article does relate what I said about park planning saying that further attempts to grade the site would result in Park & Rec. fencing off the property but leaves out the information I stated about the community needing to raise the funds to hire an architect to draw up a development plan for the park that the City would review.

Tony Kempton “


Geoff Page March 5, 2015 at 10:08 am

Thank you Mr. Kempton for illustrating my point. Tony De Garate is a professional journalist and his reporting is accurate. Now, because Kempton got some negative press, he is once again trying to change history. He said what he said. A question I have that is not yet answered is, why did Parks and Rec even make contact with Kempton about Canon St. anyway?

Truth is probably that Kempton went to them in response to being contacted by the vocal opponents and didn’t bother to check with the other side or the PCPB. Instead of being useful in helping mediate the situation, all he did was come back and tell the PCPB what he did. His question, that Tony quoted, asking if someone had gone in there and moved some gravel around clearly illustrates the shallowness of his effort to understand the issue.

I will repeat my advice, do not listen to this person, unless you just don’t have anything else to do.


Don Sevrens March 9, 2015 at 5:03 pm

Tony Kempton rarely attends a planning board meeting despite repeated pleas to do so and really does not know what is happening. Jon Linney and Don Sevrens are spearheading the effort to create a park and will lead a fundraising effort at the appropriate time.

As for Kempton’s remark that we need to raise funds to hire an architect: Retired landscape architect Bruce Cook, active in several community causes, has graciously offered his services pro bono. A second landscape architect also has volunteered his time.

Kempton has never spoken to Linney, Sevrens or the neighborhood volunteers about the park effort, knows nothing its progress, and is not qualified to speak on the subject.


Tony Kempton March 11, 2015 at 3:47 pm

One might wonder how Geoff’s recounting of events at a planning group meeting he didn’t attend could be supportable. But that’s exactly the sentiment expressed by Planning Commissioner Ontai in his dismissal of Geoff’s testimony as “unsupportable” at his unsuccessful appeal of neighbor Nancy Mullins’ small remodel. – (See Planning Commission archived videos for February 23, 2006 – Item 12A. Go to the City website at, City Hall, Boards and Commissions, Planning Commission, meetings, video archives, 02-23-06, Item 12A.)

Planning staff normally attends cpg meetings quarterly though I attended many more during 2014. I was invlolved with Canon St. pocket park proposal since its inception years ago and am glad that the community is finally getting the park but also aware that the community needs to work collaboratively with the City regarding development of the park.

Tony Kempton


Geoff Page March 12, 2015 at 11:14 am

Wow Tony. I guess you think a good offense is a good defense but your offense really isn’t any good. To show that the Planning Commission didn’t agree with me is supposed to convince everyone I was wrong? What a joke. How out of touch you really are. Do you remember a recent Planning Commission hearing where they passed Pt Loma Summit over the objection of the community and the PCPB and that decision was reversed by City Council. Or the Planning Commission passing One Paseo over the objections of four community planning groups? Or the Planning Commission deciding arbitrarily to add language to OB’s community plan that was also overturned by City Council? I could go on and on.

The case you brought up was one that I was involved in personally, I wasn’t on the PCPB but it lead to my eventual participation in that group. I wonder what your supervisors will think when I forward your personal attack on a member of this community to them? Probably nothing, but let’s see anyway, shall we?


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