OB Planning Board Adopts Policy on Acceptable Deviations to OB’s FAR for Green Buildings

by on October 26, 2015 · 8 comments

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

floor area ratio graphic

The FAR of a typical OB Lot explained.

From the OB Planning Board:

At its meeting on October 21, 2015, the Ocean Beach Planning Board adopted a policy on acceptable deviations to floor area ratio (FAR) under City-mandated incentive programs for sustainable development.

Policy for Deviations to Floor Area Ratio (FAR) Under Sustainability Incentive Programs

The Ocean Beach Planning Board recognizes the value of sustainable development in the urban environment. We support the City of San Diego Climate Action Plan goal of achieving 100% renewable energy by 2035. In addition, the Ocean Beach Planning Board recognizes California’s Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan to make all new residential construction Zero Net Energy by 2020, and all new commercial construction Zero Net Energy by 2030. This element is also noted in Section CE-A.5 of the City of San Diego General Plan.

The community of Ocean Beach is committed to assisting San Diego and California in achieving their energy and sustainability goals. The 2015 update of the Ocean Beach Community Plan and Local Coastal Program emphasizes sustainability and green building strategies for new construction and major renovation projects:

“Encourage new development to meet the requirements of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, or equivalent CALGreen standards.” (UD 6–4.1.14)

In concert with green building and sustainability, the Community Plan also emphasizes the importance of avoiding variances or deviations to the floor area ratio (FAR) maximum limits of 0.7, 0.75, 1.80, and 2.0 for the RM-2-4, RM-1-1, RM-5-12, and CC-4-2 zones, respectively:

“Goal: encourage development that builds on Ocean Beach’s established character as a mixed – used small scale neighborhood.” (Intro 03–Plan Goals)

“Maintain the community’s small-scale character and avoid exceptions to established floor area ratios (FAR) to the greatest extent possible under the law.” (UD 8–4.2.9) Sustainable Building Criteria

Sustainable Building Criteria

Therefore, in order to encourage sustainable development while minimizing exceptions to the FAR, the Ocean Beach Planning Board mandates that all new developments and major renovation projects in Ocean Beach seeking deviations to FAR via the Sustainable Building Expedite Program, City Council Policy 600 -27, or other incentive programs must implement the following procedures (their emphasis):

  • Discretionary projects must provide 100% of their projected total energy use utilizing renewable energy resources to demonstrate Zero Net Energy.
  • Residential projects must demonstrate how they will achieve the highest level of performance available using any of the following rating systems:
    – CALGreen: Tier 2
    – LEED Homes: Platinum
    – Green Point Rated New Home Single Family (NHSF) and New Home Multifamily (NHMF): Platinum
  • Commercial projects must demonstrate how they will achieve the highest level of performance available using any of the following rating systems:
    – CALGreen: Tier 2
    – LEED New Construction or Core and Shell: Platinum

As a condition of approval by the Ocean Beach Planning Board, projects must demonstrate all of the following prior to the issuance of a building permit:

  • The selected green building design solutions have been fully documented in the construction documents and any supporting design documentation, and approved by the applicable reviewing organization as follows:
    – CAL Green: Project requirements approved by the City project manager
    – LEED: Design credits earned prior to the commencement of construction
    – Green Point Rated NHSF and NHMF: Initial applications completed review
  • Provide a building energy model and signed calculations from a licensed engineer demonstrating the project will be Zero Net Energy via on-site renewable energy generation.

Deviations to Floor Area Ratio (FAR)

Sustainability is a critical part of the mission to preserve the health and vitality of Ocean Beach, and the community is willing to compromise the most sacred tenet of our land use policy—the FAR— for projects that demonstrate the highest performance criteria for green building.

A deviation of up to a maximum of 10% of the allowable FAR would be granted if the Ocean Beach Planning Board finds that the project aligns with these Green Building criteria, provided that the project does not encroach into allowable setbacks or is otherwise inconsistent with the Community Plan.

City Council Policy 900-14 is a dated document established in 2003. The Ocean Beach Planning Board recognizes that updates are needed as building codes become more stringent in order to align policy with implementation procedures in developing a more sustainable future.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Craig Klein October 26, 2015 at 1:31 pm

Thanks Frank: Nice summation of the OBPB policy,


Frank Gormlie October 26, 2015 at 6:07 pm

This was an official statement from the OB Planning Board.


Molly October 26, 2015 at 7:01 pm

OB’s FAR is what we have used for nearly 4 decades to manage over-development. I’m glad the OB Planning committee has set the bar very, very high for anyone who wants to go for a modification or deviation to the 0.70 floor area ratio.


editordude October 26, 2015 at 7:06 pm

John Ambert, head of the Ocean Beach planning board, was just given an award by the OB Town Council. Congrats Ambert- you hit the ground running. (Who is Ken Moss?)


Old Hippie October 26, 2015 at 7:07 pm

The OB Community Plan goes before the San Diego City Council on Nov. 9th at 2pm; can you editordude, help get the word out?


editordude October 26, 2015 at 7:09 pm

Old Hippie – we’re on it. See tomorrow (Tuesday) posts.


Rufus October 27, 2015 at 4:13 am

My concern about FAR variences for LEED Platinum building practices is the future gentrification of OB. LEED Platinum has outrageously expensive requirements.

So what we’re telling people is that it’s ok to build a new house (with the teardown of a quaint cottage coming first) or do a major rebuild AND you can build bigger than all of your neighbors if you spend more money on your house to appease the environmetal regulatory gods?

So over time, OB will become more 1% elitist because the cottages will slowly be converted to larger, more expensive, out of place, yet “environmentally friendly” houses that few can afford.

Beware of the false value of LEED standards!. An energy efficient and sustainable home can be built without all of the government approved, high tech, high cost “LEED you around by the nose” requirements. And they can be built without the FAR give aways that will change OB forever.

The planning board just sold out our neighborhood to environmental elitists!

Nice going.


Geoff Page October 27, 2015 at 11:29 am

Well said, Rufus.


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