OB Planners: Passed Del Mar Project, Okayed Apple Tree and Juggled Concerns of Community Plan Delay

by on June 4, 2015 · 4 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Environment, History, Ocean Beach, San Diego


Once Chair John Ambert guided the OB planners to their action agenda items, the Planning Board got down to business, at last night’s monthly meeting at the OB Rec Center. And eventually, they had almost a full Board.

Here’s what they accomplished:

They overwhelmingly approved the 4900 block Del Mar project, they okayed Apple Tree Market’s permits – including their alcohol permit – ; they juggled real concerns about a delay in the Coastal Commission’s approval of the Community Plan with assurances from the city; they approved the Climate Action Plan, and tossed about the notion of changing the historic logo of the Board.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAConcerns of Delay of Community Plan

Real concerns had arisen lately with a possible delay of up to a year for the approval of the OB Community Plan by the California Coastal Commission – the last stop for the Plan. It was approved by the City Council last July. At this point, the Plan is scheduled to be formally reviewed by the Commission when it meets next in San Diego, in August.

The concerns materialized after a series of emails between city staff suggested that staff would authorize a delay of a year of the Commission’s approval of the OB Plan and they would do this at the June Coastal Commission meeting.


Sr Planner Karen Bucey

To respond to these concerns, Karen Bucey, a senior planner with the City’s Development Services, got up before the meeting and assured the Board and residents that no delay would occur. City staff had just submitted “boxes of stuff” to Coastal staff. Their – her – goal, she said, was to get the Plan approved at the August 14 Commission hearing without further revisions with the Plan. The best case scenario, she iterated, was for all the  issues to be resolved during June so the Commission can approve it in August.

They’ll working on  a couple of items, Bucey explained, that should go into the Municipal Code, and not a community plan, as the staff feel that certain items should apply to all community plans, not just OB’s.

Ambert urged Bucey to help facilitate the process that has been going on for a very long time. Bucey responded that she hears the concerns.

Pete Ruscitti asked Bucey whether the code changes would hang up the approval of the plan. Again, she said reassuring things, but one comment Bucey made was somewhat sobering. She stated: “Haven’t had anyone talk to me about the FAR (floor-area-ratio).”

OB’s FAR is one of – if not the key one of – the elements in the OB Community Plan, as its restrictive FAR of 0.7 has been one of the major tools local OBceans have utilized over the years to prevent over-development in the community. For Bucey, on one hand to reassure residents that everything is being taken care of, and then on the other hand, to comment that she hadn’t been keyed into the importance of OB’s FAR was not reassuring.

At this point, Chair Ambert invited the two co-chairs of OB’s plan update committee to get up and present their own comments and questions. Mindy Pellissier and Gio Ingolia expressed their deep concerns about any delay on the plan’s approval.  Pellissier had a solution:

“Take out the issues [in contention], approve the Plan, then use amendments.”

“We deserve this plan,” Mindy said adamantly. “The Board is stuck,” she added quickly. “It can’t use the our new community plan,” implying that OB planners are forced to rely on the old Plan, whose language around key issues, is not as strong as the new Plan.

“Only 2 to 3 issues are involved,” Pellissier said, “and my concern is that they’ll be unresolved for 2 to 3 years, which will hold up the approval of the plan.”

“It’s unacceptable!”

There’s 40 community groups that want their community plans updated, and if each one takes 15 years …”

 Karen quickly came back: “We’re confident it will be seen in August.” She promised that city staff would get with Coastal staff after both had returned from the June Commission meeting. “A couple of weeks,” she said. These assurances appeared to satisfy OB planners – but their frustration at the delays experienced so far is well deserved. Originally, when the City Council passed OB’s Plan last summer, it was supposed to go before the Coastal Commission that Fall. Here we are – nearly a year later.


Saad Hirmez, the owner of Apple Tree Market

Apple Tree Market Is Liked

Saad Hirmez, the owner of Apple Tree, was on hand to personally request approval of his two permits.  He also explained the parking situation. Both the two “back” parking lots – the lots that front on Santa Monica – are owned by him, so combined with the side parking lot next to the building, the new market will offer plenty of parking to customers – one of the chief concerns relating to the much-anticipated opening of a real store with fresh food on Newport.

In terms of his alcohol permit, Hirmez described that he cannot sell fortified wines, miniatures, half pints and single beers under 22 oz.  (Go here for more details of the new market.)

Board members were nearly gushing when they voted 11 to zip in favor of the Apple Tree’s conditional use permit.

OB Del Mar 4939-4941 2ndStreetDel Mar Demolition and Construction Project

The project before the Board last night was an application for a permit to demolish 3 units and replace them with three new units and a subterranean garage at 4939-4941 Del Mar Avenue. The site is a 6,800 square foot lot, very near the beautiful Sunset Cliffs.

Ambert announced that “the Project Review Committee was amenable to the project,” and the owner and rep made their presentation.

Apparently, most of the Board discussion on this project occurred at the sub-committee review, as they didn’t have hardly any questions for the owner and developer last night. A few regarding solar roof installations and the run-off of storm water were raised by Board members.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe did learn that the building was built in 1911, and the current “underground” garage was built for a horse carriage, and it now is large enough for one car. The plan is to carve out a much larger space, a subterranean garage to hold between 4 to 6 vehicles. The space will go from approximately 550 square feet to 1200 square feet, and 365 cubic yards of dirt will be removed.

We also learned that from the base of the new garage door to the top of the 2-story condos will be 38 feet 2 inches, but the measurement of the 30 feet limitation is not from that point. (The Board exhibited some real confusion about how to measure for the 30 feet – particularly on a slope – as did this reporter also.) One Board member commented that there’s “a weird city formula”.

The project was approved, 11 to 0. No one in the audience had voiced any concerns about the new condos, the demolition of an over-hundred year house, or the subterranean garage.

Logo Change?

After the meeting had ended, there was some informal discussion that the current Planning Board logo would be changed. Julie Klein raised the question why after 30 or 35 years would the logo be changed. Some confusion ensued and the meeting was over without a real clarification.



Certainly with the addition of newly-appointed Board members Nanci Kelly and Georgia Sparkman, there is a much better gender balance to the Board; 4 women out of 11 members.

John Ambert’s control of the agenda is encouraging also. Ambert ensures that he, as chair, controls who is speaking, the direction and focus of the meeting, etc. In the past, during presentations, often developers or city planners would take over the goings-on, the questions, and so forth, and steer the discussion or meeting to their own interests.

We do, however, think there is an over-reliance on what happened at the Project Review Committee meeting. Last night, hardly any of the Board members engaged with the developer, as if, as noted above, Board issues, questions and concerns had been dealt with at the earlier meeting. Yet, it’s the full Board that is supposed to review the project – and it’s often the first time for some of them to see the drawings and presentation, and it’s also the first time the community sees the plans and has their issues raised.

Our suggestions: have the Project Review Committee Chair give the results of that committee’s findings. In fact, in the old days – back in the 2000s during the 2 years I served on the Board, one as chair, it was the Board member whose district included the project in question who would give the initial introduction of the project to the Board and help shepard it through the various committees.

Have the Board chair – as Pete Ruscitti used to do – give a summary of the pros and cons of any project at the end of the Board discussion, before the vote.

Also, how about getting cardboard name plates for the Board members.  See ya next time.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Pat June 4, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Kind of bummed about the 1911 Del Mar property. I always loved that place. The new owners covered up some of the historical architecture that was part of the charm.
Oh well another nail in the coffin of historic OB. Sorry I wasn’t able to be there express my viewpoint.


point of clarification June 4, 2015 at 5:07 pm

I agree, the chair did do a good job moving things along.

The only weird thing for me was when he told the developer to please face the board, and notes that the presentation was really for the board, and that they shouldn’t be worried about the audience seeing. Luckily, the developer kind of ignored that and still presented so the audience could see but I’d remind the chair that these are public meetings so that the public can see the projects and the developers should be presenting to the public as well as the board.


OB Dude June 5, 2015 at 3:08 pm

Fire Karen Bucey if this plan does not get to Coastal and implemented.

Enough is Enough! Talk is cheap. Get the job done or you no longer have a job.


Mary Tolena June 5, 2015 at 5:13 pm

My interpretation of Karen Bucey’s comment about the 0.7 Floor-Area-Ratio was that no one had raised any issues or objections with it, not that she didn’t know about it. Obviously the Community Plan needs to be actively shepherded through the final approval process, as John Ambert emphasized. It seemed to me that Bucey was committed to that, and (without wanting to promise things she can’t control) was reasonably optimistic that would happen at the Coastal Commission’s August meeting in SD.


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