One Coastal Commission Problem With Ocean Beach Community Plan Linked to Mandate for Affordable Coastal Visitor Accommodations

by on August 12, 2015 · 12 comments

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

One of the major issues that the California Coastal Commission has with the Ocean Beach Community Plan Update – on their agenda this Thursday, August 13th – is that language in the Plan in support of low-cost visitor accommodations is not strong enough.

On the face of it, this may seem weird.  Why would the Commission reject the OB Update after over a dozen years in the making on an issue that has nothing to do with OB residents?

Coastal Commission staff have recommended that the Commission reject the OB Plan unless there are modifications to the language regarding affordable-housing for visitors at the coast, among other things.

Yet this insistence on this issue it can all be traced to what the Coastal Commission sees as part of their mandate – to ensure that the coast is not only accessible to the public but to also ensure that there are public accommodations at the coast for all levels of economic strata. That means there has to be hotels, hostels, motels at the coast for working class people and middle class vacationers.

This was explained in a San Diego Union Tribune piece last Sunday by veteran reporter Lori Weisberg, entitled, “Fees Designed to Keep Our Coast Open to All”, with a sub-head, “Coastal Commission charges hotel developers, but few lower-cost accommodations have been built”.

Weisberg described how the Commission’s little-known mandate “that everyone, regardless of income, is entitled to affordable lodging along the coast,” will be on the front burner at their Chula Vista meeting when they take up – not OB’s case – but the case of a 175-room development on Harbor Island.

“The sticking point,” Weisberg reports, is that the proposal “fails to offer strong enough guarantees that there will be lower-cost accommodations ….” and Coastal staff is recommending denial of the project, slated for public tidelands.

The problem is that despite this “long-standing policy” – to preserve affordability – developers have been allowed to opt out of actually building affordable visitor lodging by paying into a fund that is supposed to be earmarked for low-cost facilities at the coast. So, the fund has grown – with much of it distributed to other levels of government.

But this is not the problem overall. As Weisberg recounts:

“Hundreds of hostel beds have been built in Santa Monica, campsites developed, aging beachfront cottages restored in Laguna Beach’s Crystal Cove, and more than $19 million in affordable lodging fees have been collected.

…While not a single discounted room has been included within a new hotel development.

In San Diego County, no affordable lodging has come about, although fees have been levied in recent years as part of new hotel developments.” (Our emphasis.)

 So, the Coastal Commission’s goal is admirable, certainly. It wants to ensure that there is sufficiently strong language within the community plans of the coastal communities and zones. So, it wants the OB Plan Update to strengthen it’s language on the issue.

The city of San Diego doesn’t necessarily disagree. But the City staff believe that the over-all issue of affordable visitor coastal lodging ought to be addressed in more broad terms and places, and not done piece-meal in each plan that is updated, and not hold up the approval process of a community plan of a community with less than 15,000 residents and only a handful of over-night facilities that serve the visitors.

This is not a case of NIMBYism. Ocean Beach wants affordable everything. It also wants a community plan that is legal and usable – and many are tired of waiting for its approval. It was a year ago that the City Council approved the OB Plan. And the time is now for the Coastal Commission to approve it – and take up this issue with larger players.



{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen Blavatt August 12, 2015 at 4:03 pm

I find it ironic that the Calif. Coastal Commission is concerned about it’s low cost lodging when we actually have some. When NTC/Liberty was past the city reps used OB’s Youth Hostel as a low income site for Liberty Station visitors, including Navy families! Have you ever seen a “Navy Family” at the OB Hostel? The O.B. Hostel mainly serves visitors for out of the state or other countries… and not families. The other stated low income sight for NTC was the Point Loma Hostel. Also NOT on Liberty Station property and is not set up for families! The city destroyed the NTC barracks with around 8,800 bed. Any one of them would have made great hostel (several people I know of wanted to run these and made proposals to do so). Not and eye was batted to turn them down. Instead the cheapest Liberty Station hotel is Homewood Suites San Diego Airport-Liberty Station, 3-star hotel, $167 per night! How about forcing Liberty Station to get some low cost accommodations of there own! It is time to APPROVE OB’s Community PLAN!!!


Kathleen Blavatt August 13, 2015 at 6:12 am

Today is day! Help put through the OB Community Plan that so many Obceans have worked on for years. OB is a special place, with an amazing history, and passionate people who are filled with love for this community. We need the Coastal Commission to help make history today by approving our plan!


tennyson August 13, 2015 at 1:41 pm

What is the definition of “low cost”???


Gregg Sullivan August 13, 2015 at 2:11 pm

We should have permanent affordable housing. That should be in the OB plan. The only way to do that is RELAX the restriction on height and density at least in the commercial/mixed use zone, RELAX the parking requirements and have rent subsidy for low and middle income people..

This is the only way it will work. You will still have some gentrification but you will have a good mix of people of various social economic means not all rich people; the way it’s going to be the road we’re going down now!


P-dog August 13, 2015 at 3:09 pm

With a properly designed ordinance and good sense regulation, don’t all the beautiful little Ocean Beach cottages available on AirBnB offer lots of great affordable housing for visitors?


Debra August 14, 2015 at 11:30 am

I think so.


Kathleen Blavatt August 14, 2015 at 4:01 pm

The comment “Relax the restriction height” seems to be made by an uniformed person that doesn’t understand that the 30 ft. height limit is a LAW that was voted in 42 years ago by the voters of San Diego and upheld by the court. As far as density because of the many smaller lots in OB we have a good amount of density. The city hasn’t done such a hot job with low income housing E. of 5, odds are they wouldn’t to do it here. Maybe vouchers are a better way to go?
Since every OB group supported the community revised plan, I think we may have a chance at keeping our OB character, and our wonderful historic cottages. Let’s stay the last little beach town! Thank you to those that went to Coastal.


Gregg Sullivan August 15, 2015 at 7:26 am

I’m not an uninformed person. I know the 30′ height is law but I think it’s outdated and should be rescinded. You can’t have affordable housing in OB with these restrictions and OB is not dense. It’s only about nine units per acre, if I’m correct, and that’s not dense. The commercial mixed use zone in OB is CC4-2 which allows a height up to 60′ in areas where the 30′ height is not applicable. Why not do that here in the commercial zone?

I think you are uniformed. You don’t understand how to make affordable housing viable. Do some research. I guess you’d rather see quicker gentrification, the increase in cost of for sale and rental housing, the loss of open space, and a lack of a diverse socio-economic class. This is all about being sustainable. I’m looking at the long term future of OB and all cities everywhere. How and where are we going to house our ever increasing population? If you want to keep OB as it is now I guess that’s ok with me ,as a property owner, the value of it will go up even quicker.


Frank Gormlie August 15, 2015 at 9:04 am

Fact: Ocean Beach is one of the most dense neighborhoods in all of San Diego.


Gregg August 16, 2015 at 8:16 pm

I would say downtown is more dense. None the less it may be the densist neighborhood in SD but I would argue it’s not that dense and what do you consider dense Frank and how would you solve the affordability situation in OB.


Christo August 27, 2015 at 11:14 am

The idea that beach housing is affordable is a fantasy.

Demand will always exceed supply.

All you can do is minimize the destruction of OB’s character.


Lori Hegerle August 26, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Addressing the 30 foot height limit would not fix affordable housing in the long term. If you have x amount of coastal rooms/houses and lets say you double or even triple that amount by building up then yes in the short term you might sustain rents ( I have lived here my whole life and I have never known rents to decrease), but in the longterm you will be right back where you started (everybody loves SD and the beach), but now you will have massive buildings that take away from the character of OB.


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