“Wall of Gentrification” in Ocean Beach Halted on West Pt Loma?

by on June 3, 2015 · 24 comments

in California, Culture, Economy, Environment, History, Ocean Beach


With the near completion of the fourth house in OB’s “Wall of Gentrification” on the 5100 block of West Point Loma Boulevard, we can readily get a sense of what that area of the community would look like if more such 3-story McMansions were allowed to be built along that street.


Try to imagine duplicating these four across the face of the parking lot at Dog Beach – so that the entire length becomes a 30-foot wall of stucco, concrete and wood, blocking off views, the breeze and the atmosphere at the beach just over the wall.

It is very possible that this wall has been halted by the implementation of the new OB community plan. Time will tell.


The owners of these four were able to receive improper variances from a City planning department that had a strong tendency to yield to developers’ wishes. Since then, a revolt against the loose use of these variances by OB planners and other residents resulted in language in the most current Ocean Beach Community Plan, recently updated and heading for the Coastal Commission for final approval in August, that re-enforces the legal limits on variances.

But the fact of gentrification here is real. The owner of one of these houses, after promising to live in it, was found to be advertising a weekly rental rate of $2500 to $3600.

From Merriam-Webster, we get a rather mild definition of GENTRIFICATION :

the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer resident.

We get more from the Urban Dictionary:


When “urban renewal” of lower class neighborhoods with condos attracts yuppie tenants, driving up rents and driving out long time, lower income residents. It often begins with influxes of local artists looking for a cheap place to live, giving the neighborhood a bohemian flair. This hip reputation attracts yuppies who want to live in such an atmosphere, driving out the lower income artists and lower income residents, often ethnic/racial minorities, changing the social character of the neighborhood.

It also involves the “yuppification” of local businesses; shops catering to yuppie tastes like sushi restaurants, Starbucks, etc… come to replace local businesses displaced by higher rents.

The term was coined by sociologist Ruth Glass, who is quoted below.

“One by one, many of the working class quarters of London have been invaded by the middle-classes—upper and lower. Shabby, modest mews and cottages—two rooms up and two down—have been taken over, when their leases have expired, and have become elegant, expensive residences …. Once this process of ‘gentrification’ starts in a district it goes on rapidly until all or most of the original working-class occupiers are displaced and the whole social character of the district is changed.”
-Ruth Glass (1964)

This sounds a lot like what the future of OB could be. It’s what Mission Beach is today, and what places like Venice up in LA have become. OB has historically been a working class community – one of the last next to the ocean in Southern California.

Here is what we wrote on this nearly a year ago (Cox, Stebbins and Burk are the owners’ names of the first three built):

This kind of development is EXACTLY what the OB Planning Board feared when they opposed the variances for Cox, that Cox, as well as the other property owners in that immediate area who were granted improper variances, would simply turn their McMansions over a la Mission Beach into expensive, vacation rentals, out of reach of ordinary OBceans or working people. Who can afford that kind of vacation?

This is exactly why the improper granting of variances by city planners – variances upheld by the Planning Commission – has led Ocean Beach to this moment, where the planning tool that OB has used for the past 38 years – the low floor-area-ratio (FAR) for coastal residential areas of the village – is being fought for by OBceans and their planners.

It was the variances granted to Cox, to Stebbins, to Burk that has forced the OB Planning Board to fight so hard to keep the 0.70 FAR for most of OB, and to force a showdown against the Planning Commission’s recommendations to be brought up at the City Council hearing on July 29 on the OB Community Plan.

And this is exactly the type of development that will lead OB – or parts of OB – to be like the Boardwalk in Mission Beach where you find wall to wall, 3 story mansions that are either time shares, very expensive vacation rentals going for $2,000 to $4,000 a week, or empty buildings that no one can afford – but the very wealthy.


{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenna June 3, 2015 at 2:55 pm

This Wall (of gentrification) will surely not gain any more houses, if the good people of OB stay on Red Alert.


Andra Loo June 3, 2015 at 3:14 pm

I was on the Planning Board at the time when the Stebbins project first came before the Board. At that time, I was in the minority in opposing the project and stating that a 30 foot wall blocking beach views would be the ultimate result. Subsequent board members have changed the Board’s view on these projects, but unfortunately, the “wall” is well on it’s way.


Steve Neighborly June 3, 2015 at 8:31 pm

OB may not be a working class neighborhood as you classified. I imagine it has one of the larger number of beggars on the streets of any county community. Plus, I would bet it has a high level of people soaking up government funds vs. working. What percent are not full time working? What percent are on some kind of welfare, assistance, unemployment or other government program? No longer the working class neighborhood….just go check out the seawall on Newport Ave., it’s scary. I’d rather have condos.


Aaron Robinson June 4, 2015 at 8:29 am

Hi Steve,

I’m pretty tired of hearing this from non residents (forgive me if I’m mistaken, you do not live in OB, correct?). If you spend more time in OB it will become clear pretty quickly that the seawall is not representative of our community in OB. Go to the park, playground and the rec center, go to peoples food, go to the actual beach north of the seawall. We are a community of families who are proud to be here. We fish on the pier, we surf in the ocean, we run on the cliffs, send our kids to local schools and share a feeling of community that died long ago most other places in southern California. I recognize the problem of homeless and panhandling. We want to keep OB affordable for people who will actually live here full time. I am not anti development. I am pro thoughtful development that upholds existing planning guidelines that make this a reality for the future.


Adam Ewing June 4, 2015 at 11:43 am

Here, here Aaron Robinson ! Keep OB community minded ! Thank you


Steve Neighborly June 5, 2015 at 5:39 am

Actually, I moved here in 1976, almost 40 years ago. And have lived here over 30 of those years as an adult. Now that you’ve told me where to go in OB, and assumed I am not from here, you now have more honest perspective from a local. How about you?


Aaron Robinson June 5, 2015 at 11:34 pm

Hi Steve, I’m a 40 year local too, we have that in commons, apologies for assuming incorrectly.
My concern with your original comment is that 1. it implied support for vacation homes going in OB and that 2. this would somehow ilevitate our problem with hobos and vagabonds. Build all you want, it’s not going to rid OB of these types because they’re either homeless or just passing through. As you know we’re on the vagabond circuit here.
Again, I’m all for smart development, just vehemently opposed to turning OB into a vacation home ghost town.


Cindy June 6, 2015 at 8:33 am

I think most are against homes turning into vacation homes. But of these homes being built only one has done that out of the 4. And those condo/homes they have built by the main life guard station, those too are not vacation homes. One place doesn’t dictate a trend.


Aaron Robinson June 12, 2015 at 2:57 pm

You’re joking right?
“…those condo/homes they have built by the main life guard station…” yeah they go for $359-$680 per night.


OBBrian June 4, 2015 at 11:39 am

I have to agree with Steve.


Christo June 4, 2015 at 2:58 pm

There is a difference between perception and knowledge.

Larger number of beggars- probably.

The rest- you are wrong about.



Christo June 3, 2015 at 8:46 pm

You should show a picture of the rundown shacks next to these places and run a poll of which people would rather live next to.


Bb June 3, 2015 at 10:44 pm

One man’s gentrification is another man’s progress.


rick callejon June 4, 2015 at 8:46 am

Some people appreciate modesty of scale.


gristmiller June 4, 2015 at 10:41 am

Like button!


Adam Ewing June 4, 2015 at 11:44 am

Like also, haha


Niki June 4, 2015 at 4:30 pm

I couldn’t agree more – nothing wrong with clean continuous updated progress on a modest scale.


Tom G June 4, 2015 at 10:45 am

If you look it up in the Native American Dictionary, it says, “replacing Tepees with Houses.”


RB June 4, 2015 at 10:46 am

We have agreed to a 30 ft. height limit. Some think it should be lower and some feel it should be higher. Both sides spend plenty of time whining and complaining. Please, buy a property and put a cottage on it, if that makes you happy.


Daniel Bonin June 4, 2015 at 12:25 pm

These monstrosities are hideous ! And to Steve Neighborly, the punks on the seawall, the homeless and less fortunate possibly add up to 1% of OB. You have no clue how hard the majority of us work to be able to live here in our town. I have worked in this town for decades, support local business`s here and for you to generalize what you think Obecians are all about is outrageous.


Steve Neighborly June 5, 2015 at 5:45 am

Been here 40 years as an adult Daniel. Now, do I still have no idea?


Cindy June 4, 2015 at 6:42 pm

I agree with Cristo’s comment. These duplexes were built in the 50’s and for many they need to be replaced. You can only stitch up an old doll so much before you finally have to replace it.

As for blocking views, what views are they blocking, you can actually see down the sides of these homes to the parking lot, this is not the same for all the old units remaining. Many have 6ft fences. Are you referring to views from across the street from the 30 foot high condos? And looking at the pictures from the parking lot I don’t see any view being blocked. Just wondering.

And Daniel I don’t think they are hideous, maybe some aren’t completely my taste, but hideous?


Steve Neighborly June 5, 2015 at 5:46 am



Debra June 5, 2015 at 8:28 am

I personally think these condo’s look MUCH nicer than the stacked rock crap, that is now ubiquitous in San Diego and throughout the county. Too bad the same architect wasn’t used for the Catalina/Voltaire monstrosity.


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