OB Planning Area – District 1 : the Frontline vs. Gentrification

by on February 24, 2016 · 1 comment

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

OB District 1 Map off'l

Editor: This is an updated version of what we published on District 1 in January 17, 2014.

The annual election to the Ocean Beach Planning Board is coming up on Wednesday, March 2nd.  This 14-member board reviews, approves and monitors development in OB as it adheres to the newly updated and approved OB Community Plan as the blueprint for the community.

OB Plan Area Map goodIn looking to heighten interest within the Village of OB for the election and the Planning Board itself, the OB Rag will be reposting updates to our examination of each of the seven planning districts that we published 2 years ago, over the course of the next 5 business days.

OB District 1 Bechprklot Jan2014District 1 – Northwest OB

OB Dist 1 DogBeach signWe begin with District 1 – the northwest sector of OB – a very important section of the community.

It’s bordered on the north by Dog Beach, the San Diego River and Robb Field – which makes the district the gateway to two of OB’s parks.

It’s the site of the most famous dog-friendly beach park in the city and due to the district’s proximity to the beach, it has a heavy impact from tourists and visitors.

OB District 1 Volt 01 Jan2014

Looking west down Voltaire – the second busiest commercial area in OB.

District 1 includes most of the Voltaire Street commercial zone, which is the second busiest business area in OB.

OB Dist 1 OBNoodlIt has numerous bars and definitely some of the more high-end restaurants in the village.

For the thirsty, it’s got Lucy’s, Mother’s, the Tilted Stick, and now the new Hess Brewery that just opened in late 2015 at the corner of Voltaire and Cable.

For restaurants, District 1 has some of the most high-end eateries in the village. It has one of OB’s most famous and popular ones – The OB Noodle House – on Cable. But there’s also Bo-Beau’s, Third Corner, and O’Bistro’s, and just across Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, there’s Kaiserhof. There’s Hungry Lu’s and one of the only bakeries in town.


Sunset Plaza

Since the opening of Sunset Plaza at the corner of Voltaire and Sunset Clliffs, District 1 now has the only “fast-food” vegan restaurant around. (Although People’s Food Co-op has plans to develop a sit-down vegetarian restaurant in the near future – at the site of former Tiny’s Tavern.)

OB District 1 Lucy+ Jan2014

There is a night life in District 1.

Of interest to local historians is the story of the most contentious corner in Ocean Beach, the northwest corner of Voltaire and Sunset Cliffs Boulevard – where the new Plaza sites. Here is what we reported:

No other corner in all of Ocean Beach has had as much attention and been the point of so much contention and conflict within the community as has the corner of Voltaire Street and Sunset Cliffs Boulevard.  The northwest corner to be exact.

Beginning of Voltaire Park, Spring 2000

For more than ten years, this corner of contention has experienced divergent forces of the community pulling it in different directions: from a gas station to a popular recycling center, from plans for a community center, to plans for another gas station, then to an illegal but community-supported garden, and then more gas station plans – and for the last six years, an empty ugly lot.

Residential Element of District 1

Of course, most of the district is residential. It’s one of the most dense neighborhoods in Ocean Beach and within the City, with its real mixture of small beach cottages, single-family homes, condos, two to three story houses and apartments.  Muir is its longest street.

OB Dist 1 Muir

Looking west down Muir.

Lotus is one of OB’s more peculiar streets as it seems to wander through north OB.

OB Dist 1 Hotel

Hotel sits along the western edge of the district.

Those with any memory know the district as OB’s “War Zone” – a reputation gained over the decades by this area of northwest OB District 1 shares with some of the other districts. It was for years one of OB’s low-rent areas, and its roughness was hewed by the hippie explosion in the late Sixties, the bikers, the black market drug trade. And it has always kept alive the counter-culture trademarks of “sex, drugs and rock n roll”.

OB Dist 1 Abbott

For years, its rentals enabled young people, students, seniors and other low-income folks to reside at the beach. But gentrification is a constant pressure and the low-rent housing is vanishing.


City is considering a “roundabout” at West Pt Loma and Bacon.

An idea that has been floated about in the very recent past, has been the idea of putting in traffic circles – or “round abouts” at the busy intersections that West Point Loma Blvd  has – such as with Bacon, with Cable, and at Abbott.

OB Dist 1 Wonderld

Part of OB’ s history; the remnants of the famous OB Wonderland Park is right here at Lotus and Abbott.

Part of the pressure on this district is that from the process of gentrification. District 1 is definitely on the frontline of OB’s fight with gentrification. And the 5100 block of West Point Loma Avenue is where that battle is occurring.


“The Wall”

For a number of years recently, the City’s planning department granted variances to property owners who have torn down their old duplexes and in their place, built three story behemoths – large structures that are out of character in terms of bulk and size with the rest of the immediate neighborhood.

OB Dist 1 WPtLoma 2

West Pt Loma Blvd.

The OB Planning Board resisted these variances – despite what city planners tried to do. It took a while, but finally, this issue has supposedly been resolved with stronger language in the newly approved OB Community Plan around maintaining OB’s unique low floor-area-ratio. Now OB’s low floor-area-ratio can continue to help prevent over-development.

OB airbnb map

Red dots represent Airbnb rentals – look at how packed northwest OB is.

Another challenge to District 1 – and other districts and neighborhoods right along the coast – is the potential “loss of community” to short term vacation rental companies like Airbnb. Here’s part of our analysis:

… [T]he even more drastic consequence of loss of community occurs when there are so many residential units within a neighborhood that have been turned into short-term units, that a goodly-sized chunk of the area has morphed into a resort candyland of beach, surf and sand. There are no longer any actual residents in the immediate neighborhood, and every unit is utilized as a vacation rental – every condo, every McMansion, every apartment, every little cottage – no longer are the houses of residents – the human make-up of a community – but of visitors.

Without actual residents then, that portion of the neighborhood as “a community” collapses into a mishmash of rental and property managers, online rentals, private trash and private security details.

All this makes District 1 extremely important and hence, its representation on the Planning Board is very important.

Planning Board Representation

Currently, the district is represented by Dan Dennison – a relative new-comer, whose seat is termed out this March 2016. He is not running for re-election, and we won’t know for certain who is until the actual final ballot is approved by the Board. The other seat for District 1 is vacant.

(It is our understanding that the Board currently appoints applicants to “vacant” seats instead of having them filled by the annual election. So, instead of having both seats for District 1 being open for the election, only Dennison’s will be filled by the voting.)

With its adjoining parks and beaches, its commercial district, its numerous high-end eateries and bars, District 1 is one of the most vibrant districts within OB’s planning area. It’s one of the first neighborhoods visitors and tourists see when they set foot in the village – and those very visitors have a huge impact on the district’s residents and businesses, both positive and negative. The positive impact includes the jobs that locals have in the various eateries and the negative side is illustrated by the traffic jams that now occur regularly every weekend in District 1.

OB Dist 1 Volt biz

Voltaire Street appears to be on the verge of blossoming out.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Daniel B Good February 25, 2016 at 2:23 pm


Can you highlight again the relationship between the planning board and the owner of “The Wall” and for readers? The planning board was elected, but the owner (successfully) asserted his rights and superseded the recommendations for the ratio for the 5100 block of West Point Loma Avenue. How can the planning board succeed in the future?


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