1983: Proposal to Increase Density in OB Met by Community Meeting of 400 – Most Opposed

by on May 5, 2016 · 2 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Environment, Ocean Beach, Organizing, Politics

OB CPG Broc Graf2Editor: We continue our week-long celebration of the historic vote that took place 40 years ago that established the Ocean Beach Planning Board and the first popular OB community plan. Today, we showcase a personal account of a density battle in 1983 by Steve Wimmers, who was on the Board during the Eighties, was its Chair in 1983 and still lives in the area:

By Steve Wimmers

There was another historic vote that affected, and still affects, the future development of Ocean Beach. It was a vote by the Ocean Beach Planning Board that occurred in 1983.

The composition of the Planning Board at that time consisted of seven environmentalists and seven realtors and pro developers. The realtors and pro developers supported a proposal that would change the density in the OB Precise Plan area. If passed and implemented, the proposal would allow the number of dwelling units to be double the number that existed in Ocean Beach .

Alarmed by the prospect of this potentially devastating change, the environmental members of the Planning Board decided that the residents of Ocean Beach needed to be informed of this proposal. Since this was before we had the internet and social media, we printed flyers and distributed them throughout the community. The flyers told residents of Ocean Beach about the density proposal and the Planning Board meeting that would take place to discuss this proposal.

Our City Council person at this time was Bill Cleator, a Republican who was nicknamed by some “Bulldozer Bill”. As a pro growth advocate, he supported this proposal. I happened to run into him in an elevator at City Hall shortly before the meeting, and invited him to attend.

The response to the fliers took all of us by surprise. 400 people, including Bill Cleator, showed up at the meeting, which was held at the gym in the OB Rec Center!

I chaired the OB Planning Board from 1983 – 1984, and was accustomed to having around 10 people attend our meetings. We used every folding chair we could find and we had microphones in the audience, so that anybody who wanted could share their opinions on the proposal. 96% of the people who spoke were against the proposal. It was a very memorable evening. At its next meeting, the Planning Board voted against the proposal.

About a week later, Bill Cleator put a full page letter to the community in the O’Beacon, the predecessor of The Beacon. In it, he told the readers that the infrastructure of Ocean Beach was not sufficiently developed to support this increase in growth, and he withdrew his support for the proposal.

I remain convinced that, without the public opposition to this proposal at the Planning Board meeting, the quality of life in Ocean Beach would have changed dramatically. It was my first civic experience which proved that a small group of individuals cold make a difference.

An important takeaway from this story is that current and future members of the Planning Board need to remain vigilant against efforts to change the community in ways that are not supported by the people who live in and love Ocean Beach.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Posey May 6, 2016 at 11:03 am

Hey, I was there. It was a great evening. But most speakers were lambasting landlords. It makes sense because most OBceans are renters, and landlords would benefit from higher density. I was and am a renter. I was sitting next to my landlord. He would have benefited from the density increase. He could have doubled his rental units. But he was totally against the density increase. Why? OB was his home. He was born and raised in OB, and lived in OB until he died. There were and are landlords that love OB. The community has done a great job, most recently fighting to preserve density in the new community plan. But there will always be too many land owners, builders, investors who only to take advantage of OB.

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Avatar Doug Card May 7, 2016 at 10:20 am

Back in 1787, Ben Franklin was asked, as he was leaving the Constitutional Convention. “What have we got, a monarchy or a republic?”
He responded, A republic if you can keep it.”
Steve,
Wonderful reading your comment– good for you folks for stopping yet another attempt to destroy the character of OB in 1983, just 7 years after OBPB’s establishment.
Yes, we created a democratic Planning Board in 1976, but as Franklin stressed, it’s only good if you can keep it. Thanks for remaining vigilant, as the threat will always be out there. And I agree with Posey, all folks of good faith need to work together regardless of Titles.

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