The Twists and Turns of Getting the Ocean Beach Community Plan Update Approved

by on August 4, 2015 · 5 comments

in California, Culture, Environment, History, Ocean Beach, Organizing, Politics, San Diego

twist n turn roadThere is a new twist and turn in the road for the Ocean Beach Community Plan Update’s journey to the California Coastal Commission for approval.

And probably only the most stalwart, knowledgeable and insightful of OB’s local volunteer neighborhood planners are able to see over this twist and turn and figure out exactly what is going on.

The new twist is caused by the recent release of the California Coastal Commission staff’s recommendations toward the OB Community Plan Update – scheduled for review by the Commission on August 13th when they hold their monthly meeting – this time in Chula Vista City Council chambers.

If you, dear reader, haven’t been closely following this journey, let’s have a very brief recap. After a dozen years in meetings, hearings and reviews, the update process of the OB Community Plan was finalized last Spring 2014. After a challenge by the San Diego Planning Commission to derail one of the most important elements of the OB Plan was met by OB community people who gathered 3,000 signatures, the San Diego City Council voted unanimously on July 29, 2014 to approve the Plan Update.

It always had to be reviewed by the California Coastal Commission and initially it was to be taken up by the Commission last year. But it was finally scheduled for when the Commission was to meet in the San Diego area. Nobody a year ago could imagine that the Plan would not be approved by now. But here we are now waiting for approval still.

San Diego city staff from the planning department – called Development Services Department – have been meeting with the staff of the Coastal Commission over the last few months in order to work out and resolve any details or smaller issues.

And now the CCC staff report and recommendations are out. And they are as confusing as any government staff recommendation this writer has ever seen.

They’re confusing because the staff recommends that the Commission reject the OB Community Plan Update (called the OB CPU or just CPU) as it is, and instead vote in some modifications the staff recommends and then vote to approve the Plan Update with the new additions.

Now, it’s not like these Coastal staff recommendations are bad. In fact, some OB planners support the principles behind the recommendations as they believe it strengthens the Plan and helps to protect OB and its coastal environment, such as strengthening required shoreline protections.

Importantly, the staff gave props to the most important element of the OB Plan – the floor-area-ratio – that OB has utilized for nearly 4 decades to prohibit over-development.

Language in the new Plan Update had been inserted strengthening the ability of the Board to not allow variances to being used to get around OB’s restrictive FARs. Staff had this to say:

“As proposed, the Commission finds that the City’s language regarding variances is adequate and necessary to address potential visual resource and community character impacts in the LUP.” (pg. 5)

In the meantime, City staff has not been able to work out many of the issues and modifications that the Coastal staff want, as they view some of them at least to be better addressed by adding them to the City’s general policies and not hang them on the OB Plan Update. They ought to be addressed by adding them via an amendment to the city’s Land Development Code, in order for them to be required of other coastal communities.

Hopefully, much of this will be worked out at this Wednesday’s OB Planning Board meeting, for time now certainly is of the essence (with the Commission meeting only 9 days away). And hopefully the Board has adequate time to give to this – as their agenda is very full.

The procedure over what occurs next is difficult to discern. Here are some possible scenarios:

1.  Coastal Commission follows their staff’s recommendations and votes to deny the OB Community Plan as it was submitted. Then the Commission approves the modifications they and their staff want, and then approves the OB Plan as amended.

Then it must return to the San Diego City Council for their review of the modified OB Plan.

2. City Council accepts the modified OB Plan and in doing so concedes the issue of whether the changes ought to be addressed by a city-wide amendment.

One key observer of what’s going on reminds us that the OB Community Plan Update is San Diego’s first community plan update in the Coastal Zone in a very long time. They believe it could be used “as a pawn” in the larger power politics between the City and the Coastal Commission – with the Commission, being a state-wide organization – having most of the power.

3. City Council does not accept the Commission’s modified version, with a planning staff that bulks at having to circumvent the issue of the amendment.

The City then maneuvers to pass the LDC amendment that addresses the issues the Coastal Commission wants addressed – but in the process the Coastal Commission’s approval of the modified version of the OB Plan withers away, forcing the City to resubmit its new version of the Plan once the amendment(s) are adopted and applied to other community plan updates.

This would definitely cause a delay in the approval of the OB Plan. And the Plan could remain in limbo for many moons while the City first gets its amendment passed.

However, there are other more hopeful scenarios.

4. The City and Coastal staff work out compromises or other resolutions of the outstanding issues, and the OB Plan is approved on August 13th.

5.) Or finally, the Coastal Commission could simply not follow their staff’s recommendations and vote to approve OB’s Update as it.

Exactly what is in the winds for OB’s Community Plan and how the twists and turns of this journey are overcome won’t be known, of course, until the actual Coastal Commission hearing on August 13th. You ought to be there.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie August 4, 2015 at 3:24 pm

We can’t allow OB to be the battlefield between the city and the Coastal Commission, a political football, a testing ground, the victim of a power struggle. It’s time for all those OBceans who signed last summer’s petition in support of the Community Plan to plan on coming down to the Coastal Commission on Thursday, Aug. 13 at the Chula Vista City Council.


Lori Hegerle August 4, 2015 at 9:52 pm

I have received a notice in the mail yesterday from the CCC… wants to change the land use designations for Voltaire street and Point Loma Avenue areas…..if you read WAY in between the lines and research a bit and google California Coastal Commission and Short Term Vacation Rentals you might find that this is what they are trying to push through??? Why is the CCC so concerned with visitor accommodations and not residents?? I might be skeptical, but living here for 20 years (which is short I know by some standards) breeds in me a frightfulness of change. Why fix what is not broken…..though I do see some good in what they are proposing. Does anyone have any insights into this?


Debra August 5, 2015 at 9:49 am

If the only way to “preserve the character of OB” is to approve of short-term vacation rentals–as in allowing owners of cottages to do as they please, I would prefer that to demolishing all of them and constructing hideous, sky-high, modern condo’s all over the place.


Lori Hegerle August 5, 2015 at 1:42 pm

The things that I see as good have nothing to due with wanting vacation rentals. I am against allowing unlimited amount of vacation rentals regardless if you have a permit. Like bars are regulated by how many can be in a given area so should vacation rentals or limit the days you can use your home as a vacation rental…..part of what they propose is not allowing high end hotels and preserving the bluffs among other things that are good
….just clarifying.


jams August 6, 2015 at 10:15 am

They get one thing wrong by saying that Ebb Tide Motel is low cost overnight accommodations for beach visitors that should be preserved.

Actually, last time I checked they do not rent overnight, only weekly, and the people there are not visitors, but largely addicts who lack the credit or discipline to get a normal rental, so pool their cash together to share a single hotel room split 2-5 ways for $350 a week.

I understand both sides of wanting to keep it in OB or not, but the CCC wanting to enshrine its existence by putting extra conditions on any redevelopment beyond the community proposal in the community plan is absurd and based on a false description of what goes on there: tweakers renting long term by the week. It is not at all like Ocean Villa Inn a block away which does provide relatively cheap overnight hotel stays.


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