Celebrating 40 Years of the Ocean Beach Planning Board and OB Community Plan

by on May 3, 2016 · 4 comments

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

party hats balloonAll this week we will be celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the popular vote that established the Ocean Beach Planning Board and the first OB community plan.

It was on May 4, 1976 that thousands of OB residents, renters, property owners and business-owners voted in the very first panel to sit on the very first Planning Board for the community. It was truly an historic occasion because nothing like that had ever occurred in San Diego before.

But to paraphrase Henry Wadworths Longfellow’s epic poem ( … On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five; Hardly a man is now alive, Who remembers that famous day and year…), we can say:

On the fourth of May,
in Seventy-six;
Hardly a man or woman still kicks,
Who remembers that famous day and year.

Forgive my poetic license. But it is true, that the collective memory of the historic vote four decades of the Ocean Beach village is very thin and frail, indeed. Of the original 14 member Board, it’s quite possible that only dtwo still reside or has a business in OB. Most have scattered to their fates.

So, to highlight this history, all week we will be publishing comments, notes, stories and accounts of the May ’76 vote and memories of those who served on the Board back then as well as over its 40 year history.

Also, to celebrate the vote, an announcement will be made at this week’s OB Planning Board meeting, which ironically, falls on the exact date of that vote, May 4. And after that meeting, we will continue the celebration at the Culture Brewing Co. tasting room (at 4845 Newport Ave by 8:30pm).

We at the OB Rag knew the history-making date was coming up and began posting articles about that history and calling upon the community to take note of it.  A former member of the original Board, Doug Card, a retired college professor living in Oregon, urged us to make more effort to celebrate the urban planning victory. So, we continue our series with his post to be published later this week.

While encouraging the old veterans of OB’s planning battles to make comments or write stories up, we ended up contacting a handful in our search.

There is Doug Card – who was a candidate and member of the OB Community Planning Group’s (CPG) election slate – and who was elected to the first Board and helped make up its majority. We have to thank him for pushing this celebration and sharing some of his old artifacts from the day.

Then there is also Maryann Zounes – the very first Chair of the very first Planning Board.  Maryann was a heavy-weight among OB activists back in those days, as she gave grounding – and credibility – to the more radical and idealistic types. The fact that she was elected as the first chair says a lot. Maryann also was a member of the CPG slate. She has since moved to San Marcos, where, she told me by phone, she is still causing trouble. Her latest exploit was to get the city to turn off its fountain in the middle of the drought. Maryann sends her greetings and appreciation for those still carrying on the Planning Board tradition that she had a huge role in creating.  One of her sons still lives in her former residence on Cable and works for the City’s planning department, and having to, ironically, deal with the OB Community Plan that his mom was responsible for.

There’s Mike Akey, who at the ripe age of 22, was elected to the first Board those many moons ago. Mike is one of the few still around in OB who does remember that famous day and year. He has been very active in the OB Mainstreet Association over the decades, and was chair of that organization for years. He was recently seen at the Membership gig hosted at Newport Pizza by the OB Town Council.

And then there is Rich Cornish, also a member of the CPG slate, who ran as a socialist and was elected to the first Board from the “war-zone” northwest neighborhood of OB.  Rich ended up leaving OB to go to nursing school and to get married. He and his wife, Sonia, currently reside in Eastlake, they have 2 grown daughters with their own families, and he is still working hard as a nurse. In fact, he told me, by phone, that he couldn’t make the gig at the beer tasting room because he had a shift that night.

OB CPG Broc CandFoto

The OB Community Planning Group slate for the May 4, 1976 election. Maryann Zounes is on the far left, Rich Cornish is 4th from right, and Doug Card is 2nd from right.

For months – it seemed like years – leading up the vote in May of 1976, a City planner by the name of Gary Weber was assigned to working with the various Ocean Beach groups that were involved in writing the first popular community plan (called the “Precise Plan” back the).  Weber was able to successfully navigate the competing factions, and his experience in OB assisted in propelling his career forward.

Here he gives us some of his memories and expresses his appreciation of those times:

Gary Weber:

I was assigned in April, 1974 by the City Planning Department to ‘go out there and find out what those people want’. My first meeting was with the ‘Committee of 16’ a group of four disparate groups who had nothing in common with any of the other three. Well, we produced a plan that gave OB assurances that every parcel was no longer going to be available for out of scale construction. 40 years later it has worked, and still is. It would have never happened without the vigilance of all those involved.

The election was a spectacle that only OB could produce, the only election to date run by the Registrar of Voters, and covered as the lead news story on all three news programs that night (yes, there were only 3). Keep it up OB, and take the torch, most of us aren’t going to be around to cover the next 40 years. If you want to keep it you will need to fight for it…and being OB you can have a little fun doing it.

Watch this space over the week for more comments, stories, old photos and graphics of the Historic Vote forty years ago.

If you have any memories or anything else that you would like to share about those times, please send them to us obragblog@gmail.com .

See these for more:

The Story of the First Election of the Ocean Beach Planning Board – May 4th, 1976

The Story of How Working-Class Ocean Beach Spoiled the Establishment’s Plans and in the Process Created a Revolution in Urban Planning

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

KIP OF VOLTAIRE May 4, 2016 at 1:57 am

nostalgia is fun…but on the same day the front page of the #UT# touted mayorfaulconers initiative to commence SD climate action plan funding,,, a perfectly vibrant street tree on the 4800 block of VOLTAIRE ST. was KILLED, DESTROYED, & chopped to pieces for no good reason. Another sad day for the environment and a telling legacy for how much the mayor gives a shit about his constituents here in OCEAN BEACH!!!!!!!!

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Marc Snelling Marc of Larose May 4, 2016 at 8:26 am

Serving on the OB Planning board taught me a great deal. Since that time I have gone on to serve on other community boards where we used the OB Action Plan of the late 90s as a model. This is not the official Precise Plan, but the one that was created before the Precise Plan Update with the input of Kip of Voltaire, Mindy, and others.

Speaking of climate action and headlines… up here in Canada, Fort McMurray the the tar-sands town, is on fire, 80,000 evacuated.

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Steve Wimmers May 4, 2016 at 8:47 am

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.

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South OB Girl May 5, 2016 at 10:45 am

Happy 40th Birthday OB Planning Board :-)

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