Somebody Is Politely Upset Over Abbott and Voltaire Condo Project

by on March 16, 2016 · 25 comments

in Culture, Environment, History, Media, Ocean Beach

OB Graffit const fence 3-14-16 01a

Polite Graffiti Sprayed on Construction Fence

The OB Rag was informed by the company that is building the condo project at Voltaire and Abbott that their construction fence was tagged with what they called “some pretty polite graffiti”.

OB Graffit const fence 3-14-16 02aSometime late Monday night perhaps, March 14th, somebody or somebodies sprayed messages expressing discontent over the planned project, being developed by the group, Three on Abbott. The project includes 3 two-story condos. And unfortunately for the neighbors who have been parking on the dirt lot that is now fenced-in for literally decades, that convenience is now gone forever.

OB Graffit const fence 3-14-16 02bOne of the statements said: “ask the people’s permission“.  Another expressed: “Let us vote – We have a say“.

Three on Abbott notified us by email of the tagging, sent us photos, and asked us to remind the community that –

this project was approved by the Ocean Beach Planning Board in a monumental vote of 11-3 and that the board is elected and run by residents of Ocean Beach.

The company also stated in their email to us:

They can feel free to get involved. The board meets the first Wednesday of every month in the OB recreation center on Santa Monica at 6PM and district 1 currently has a vacancy.  We’d also prefer to be contacted either on or at

It is true that the OB Planning Board approved this project, back on September 3rd, 2014. Here is my report on the vote and the project:


Voltaire and Abbott Project

After the applicants’ presentation, the Board had a lively discussion of the three planned residences at the southeast corner of Abbott and Voltaire Streets. The Project Review Committee had been split on approving, recommending approval by a 4 to 3 vote.

Several issues were in play. The main one was parking. As is, the application has 5 parking spaces, and includes a “lift” for the vehicles – called vertical tandem parking. Another issue was allowing the applicant to have a curb cut which would give more space for two more parking spaces – but remove up to 2 public parking spaces on Voltaire. A large third issue is whether the units – all of whom have a downstairs “office” space with a full bathroom – are classified as “one-bedroom” or “two-bedroom” residences. Another issue was whether the proposed design fit into the community’s character.

Artist’s rendition of proposed project.

The Board had a great discussion on all these issues. In discussing the different options, it came to be known that part of the problem was that the City’s Traffic department described the units as 2-bedrooms due to the downstairs “office”. But the City’s Planning department said, no, these are one-bedroom units. It matters because required on-site parking is tied to the number of bedrooms. If one-bedroom, then there would only have to be 5 on-site parking spaces, but if 2-bedroom, it rises to 7 spaces.

The applicant also wanted to have a curb-cut on Voltaire to allow better access to the lot (there’s a rough illegal one there now). But a curb-cut would remove one and possibly two parking spaces on the street – public parking spaces. City code allows curb-cuts if a property has a minimum of 150 feet of frontage but the Community Plan requires parking access via the alley. Yet, some of the Board members noted, the public would lose 2 spaces, but if the curb cut wasn’t allowed, there would be additional demands on spaces by residents of the proposed project. But the public would “benefit” because with the curb-cut, the developer would add two more parking spaces – for vehicles that would normally have to be parked on the street.

The issue of the number of bedrooms is important. Board members mused that even if the residences are called “one-bedroom” the downstairs office with full bath could easily be turned into a bedroom – and that knowing OBceans, it probably would. Two bedroom residences require more parking. On the other side of this issue, is that the “office” is the room where the front door is located, so upon entering the building, you’re in the office and it would be inconvenient to have that room as a bedroom.

Upon questioning, the applicant admitted upfront that he plans to “condoize” the units at some point. Board members also responded that the units would probably end up as rentals – despite one of the applicants saying he planned to live in one of the units. The expected rent would be $3,000 for each unit.

In terms of design, a couple of the Board members thought it was “not harmonious” with the surrounding character of the neighborhood, whereas others felt the design was a nice transition between the bulking apartments of lower Voltaire and the single-story cottages to the east.

A motion was made by Jane Gawronski to approve the application as current made – with 5 parking spaces – and with a “strong recommendation” from the Board asking for the curb-cut / driveway.

The vote came down: 11 for the project, 3 opposed, and no abstentions (even though there were 2 newbies on the Board). The “no” votes were by Scott Therkalsen, Tom Gawronski and Rae Hartigan.

This author felt that the Board’s discussion on this project was one of the best that I’ve experienced at a Planning Board meeting. Everyone was engaged, civil, and all the different options were explored. Ruscitti sat back, and allowed for the discussion without the formal – and at times – restraining confines of rigid rules of order, and he would then attempt to summarize what the other Board members were saying. The free flow of the give-and-take was able to be fluid enough to raise every angle.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Pete R March 16, 2016 at 1:08 pm

Please don’t encourage people who vandalize our community. Don’t publicize their work.


Frank Gormlie March 16, 2016 at 4:09 pm

Not all graffiti is equal; some graffiti is more equal than others. If these were gang symbols or signs, or the ubiquitous signatures of the wanting, we wouldn’t publicize them. But these are – whether you agree with them or not – political statements of differences with the project and reflecting perhaps a perception that somehow they weren’t included in the decision-making, or “writings on the subway walls” by local philosophers, if you were. The statements also reflect a basic ignorance of the existence and role of the OB Planning Board – which I know you’ve been part of – , and by displaying this ignorance – righteous or not – helps to bring attention to how development is approved – or not – in OB.

Or perhaps they’re just expressions from some of those kicked out of the parking lot.

We were sent the photos by the developer and requested to publicize what happened and a request that people use their more preferred methods of phone calls, emails or snailmail .


Muir Avenue Ale March 16, 2016 at 1:34 pm

Pete, is your objection to reporting this at all, or is it limited to the inclusion of the photos? I do read in this article that Frank didn’t initiate this — the applicant reached out to him and asked him to point out the project was approved in a public process.


Muir Avenue Ale March 16, 2016 at 1:37 pm

Although protesting with graffiti hardly seems “polite” . . .


Frank Gormlie March 16, 2016 at 4:00 pm

Their words, which of course, we used in the headline.


Jon March 16, 2016 at 1:48 pm

I am really looking forward to these being completed. That area was an eyesore that collected litter and was often left unkempt for too long. My wife wouldn’t even walk that direction because the de-facto parking lot was super sketchy at night. I don’t like every new development in town, but I think this is unique enough to fit in eclectic OB. What does the protestor expect? That we go to the ballot box every time someone wants to build on their own property? That’s what the OBPB is for, and seems like they did their job well in this case. Sorry to those that lost a parking spot. It’s a bummer.


Devon March 20, 2016 at 6:49 pm

I have lived directly across the street on the 2nd floor with a wide open window every night it didn’t rain for over 9 years. I heard everything that happened at night. That lot wasn’t sketchy. Ever. The sketchiest it ever got was mark using it as his horseshoe pit. Trash collected on that corner only when the sidewalk had a lot of green growing out of it and the trash would get caught. I should have picked it up. We all should of. I had assumed I would only move out of my apartment when the building came down, which is soon.

Sadly I will probably move because the new building will now have a clear view into my bedroom. And sadly I will no longer have that breathtaking view of tiny houses rising onto a hillside. My window is one of the most therapeutically gratifying sensations of my life. I never completely understood why it meant so much to me. And now I get it. I saw so much. And for a long distance. It was so freeing.

It’s interesting that the building represents a solution to something you view as an eyesore, as that solution is my only eyesore. It’s not that I don’t like the building, it’s that the building will now clutter my mind and those who remember the lot. I won’t be able to see as much.

I don’t understand why an empty dirt lot is ugly. This is a desert. And now it’s being filled with too much causing mental suffocation. I always heard ‘ob only exists because we believe it does’ The local population has drastically shifted over the last 11 years that I have lived here.

Somebody please find tinker bell. Hooks taking over and the pans have moved out. No one believes anymore. All I ever read on this webpage is people complaining. It’s so sad. Here I am defending. So sad.

Something happened when that ‘thank you for not feeding the homeless’ sticker came out. The whole town got weird. Even though it was a generic sticker made for every city in America. People started hating on ob. I swear 6 years ago nobody complained about anything. We all just smiled. We smiled and smiled and smiled. And now people just complain. Complain about street people. complain about new buildings.

I remember the days when everyone was happy. EVERYONE. When people still believed. I never understood why wealth didn’t want to live here. It wasn’t because of my street homies. It wasn’t because of the scruffy housed who lived moderately. It was that, people with wealth didn’t want to live in our houses. Our houses are coming down. And theirs are going up.

There is no way I can afford that new spot. And I cannot mentally afford to live were I currently live once I loose my window. Ob isn’t eclectic anymore. It’s being severed from the inside out. Somebody find tinker bell. And get the pans to believe again. Hooks taking over. And took out a whole entire parking lot. Where in the world are all those cars parking? I am fine with change. But when that change means you can no longer live in your town because of drastic landscape suffocation and rent increases that are far beyond their means…………I think of the Indians I think of the bisons, and I say sorry.


Objamie March 20, 2016 at 9:45 pm

Best post ever. They paid paradise put up a parking lot.


michael-leonard March 22, 2016 at 4:35 pm

I love the image of a “Paid Paradise”.


Debbie March 16, 2016 at 2:01 pm

No No to the Graffiti

Shame on whoever is defacing our community!


Autumn March 16, 2016 at 3:52 pm

Remember, this is graffiti on a TEMPORARY fence. Someone clearly felt they wanted to communicate with their community and did not see a better way to do it. I personally did not know there was a vote either or that is was even happening, and the same is true for a lot of the people. Many of those who oppose this project are so unaware and busy working to pay $1500 for a one bedroom apartment that they are not able to be active participants in the so-called democratic process. Honestly, this building sorely does not fit in this community, or at least the community many of us envision Ocean Beach to be. It is perpetuating building habits that create cramped, jail-like housing with higher rental rates, keeping the modern slaves who live in them working even faster on their hamster wheels. If you want to build in OB, at least make a building that is creative, interesting or unique. Where are the architects making something else besides white square designs?


Pedro March 16, 2016 at 7:25 pm

In the future, Autumn, please utilize any of the following resources before spray painting a fence, no matter its permanence:

The Ocean Beach Planning Board publishes its agenda before its meetings here:

The OB Rag will generally also post the OB Planning Board’s agenda.

The Planning Board meets the first Wednesday every month at 6PM. Its Project Review Committee meets the third Wednesday of every month at 6PM. Both meetings are open to the public and there’s a time for non-agenda public comments. Comments can also be made after project presentations.

Comments can further be made by mail or email in lieu of attending a meeting. They will be read out loud at the meeting and the board will take them into consideration when deciding on voting to approve a project or not. Its mailing address and contact form are located at this link:

Additionally, letters to the editor are a time-honored classic tradition of airing concerns or opinions on local topics. Should you feel strongly about a local issue, I would highly recommend writing to any of the following:

Your hometown OB Rag at
San Diego Reader:
San Diego Tribune:
Voice of San Diego:

Any of the above should help you participate in the so-called democratic process.


kh March 16, 2016 at 11:20 pm

These construction fences don’t just get thrown away after construction begins. Well they might have to now. It’s destruction of property, pure and simple. Shameful reporting to glamorize it.


Debbie March 16, 2016 at 7:10 pm

IMO, defacing property that is temporary or permanent is not COOL.

If people want to know what is going on and be a part of this community attend the OBTC, OBPB, OB Historical Society, OB Womans Club, OBCDC, read the Beacon, read the RAG. People make time for what interests them. Keep working hard, save your money you too have have a place to design and call your own. Nothing comes easy and nothing is cheap…rent, cell phones, concert, beer etc

Rather than graffiti, those disapproving of whatever can make a sign stand on the street corner and make their statement write a letter to the Beacon or Rag ….keep the spray paint on the shelf. Respect the neighborhood.


Dave March 17, 2016 at 12:54 am

IMHO the graffiti is much less offensive-looking than the artist renderings of the finished product. The tone of the comments on this site lately seem to be a harbinger of the fact that the “last real beach community” is on the verge of being lost to the rich delta bravos that will do with it what they’ve done to PB and MB. Glad to say I was a part of OB when it was still what it was, sad to say it was on the watch of slackers like me that it was destroyed.


Rufus March 17, 2016 at 5:09 am

Let’s look at the bright side. At least the grafitti was legible and the words were spelled correctly! Bravo!


Frank Gormlie March 17, 2016 at 7:24 am

My first good laugh of the day.


Colin March 17, 2016 at 7:30 am

The condos stylistically look like miniature ultra mod office buildings, a poor choice for OB, a poor vote by OBPB. (Indeed, a poor choice for lots of small towns U.S.A.) But as I understand it, these OBPB votes are toothless before the ultimate authority of City Planning? It’s unfortunate, is it really true, that OB has no bottomline architectural authority over itself? If OBPB had voted no, could this project still have gone forward under aegis of City Planning?


triggerfinger March 17, 2016 at 9:06 am

Pretty much. It’s sorta like when your kids tell you what they want for dinner.


Jon March 17, 2016 at 9:01 am

Just curious, Can anyone find an artists rendering of a new project that people on this blog have actually liked in the last 10 years?


Colin March 17, 2016 at 4:04 pm

Lol. I guess more traditional designs would be the preferred flavors, stuff that shows continuity with past/existing residences and architecture (I know I may be opening myself up to some jokes, there). And I’m sympathetic there. Otherwise, haphazard confections/rows of fortress boxes/giant glass panes for walls that appear to show no one enjoying the space inside (that one’s a ‘favorite’ of mine, how many ocean front places you go by around here that have glass, glass, glass, everywhere presumably for all that view, except it never looks like anyone is in there (I doubt even goldfish find glass bowls cozy). A good positive example that keeps coming to mind is Charleston, SC, not necessarily for specific style (though it’s great) but for the continuity/coherence of new building with what’s already there. Dunno know what they’re building authorities/restrictions are. Just the sense that I saw lots of old and new that all hangs together beautifully, the year that I lived there.


Frank Gormlie March 17, 2016 at 7:42 pm

Jon, another laugh. You are one who certainly knows graffiti, having gone out every morning for a while and painted it out in the cliffs area.

I wish I was a highly-paid architectural artist – I have some great ideas for renderings that readers might actually like. The first one, has cottages on the top floor of a 2 1/2 story project, with a variety of styles, craftsman and Spanish colonial, with rooftops with Jacuzzis, the middle floor is breezy and light and airy, with the bottom being mixed use – say a brewery, a medical MJ dispensary, and a BBQ place.


Rufus March 18, 2016 at 5:09 am

With a subterranean garage that converts to a storm water storage area!!


Jon March 18, 2016 at 1:54 pm

Well Frank, you know I have mad love for the rag and the readers/commenters. I like to poke fun sometimes, but try not to be nasty. Thanks for getting my sense of humor. I do think it’s funny (sad/funny) that most any new project rendering gets blasted. Renderings don’t always look the same in actuality. I think as long as these places incorporate some unique landscaping, they will look great. But that’s my opinion, and I’ll admit I was wrong if they get built and eat the neighborhood. But I’m optimistic. The proposal for Bacon between Narragansett & Del Monte(?) on the other hand looks like a dreadful box tower. Hope that one gets re-worked. Bleh!


Happyinob March 18, 2016 at 12:54 pm

Either way OB looses on this one
No one who lives here now will be able to afford
living there anyways !
Good Bye to what’s left of our neighborhood


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