Controversial Abbott and Muir 2-Story Condo Project Before OB Planning Board – Wed., May 4th

by on May 3, 2016 · 2 comments

in Culture, Environment, History, Ocean Beach


Condo project proposed for Abbott and Muir

The Ocean Beach Planning Committee meets this coming Wednesday, May 4th, inside the OB Recreation Center, at 4726 Santa Monica Avenue. The meeting begins at 6pm. (SEE BELOW FOR OFFICIAL AGENDA)

Of note on the Board’s agenda is the appointment of new Board members, the presentation of the final, final version of the OB Community Plan, and the project permit application for a controversial 2 duplex at 2150 Abbott Street.

40th Anniversary of Vote Establishing OB Planning Board and First Plan

OB Rag staff hope to have 2 minutes on the Agenda for an announcement of the “40th Anniversary of the May 4, 1976 Vote” that established the OB Planning Board and first popular community plan.

Board Appointments

The appointment of Board members is a common enough occurrence, but right now there are up to 4 or 5 vacancies on the 14-member panel, so there is a certain urgency to having a fuller functioning Board.  Potential appointees still have to meet all the requirements for a Board member (signatures, etc.).

Final, Final Version of OB Community Plan

The final version of the OB Community Plan will be “presented” to the Board, as it was formally finalized at a recent California Coastal Commission meeting. Veteran city planner Brian Schoenfisch is on the agenda to make the presentation. Schoenfisch shepherded the Community Plan through the Coastal Commission hearing when it met the Commission’s initial unanimous approval back in 2015.

OB Abbott n Muir streetControversial Abbott and Muir Condo Project

High on the agenda is the application to construct a large condo duplex at 2150 1/3 Abbott. This has been somewhat of a controversial project as this will be the 3rd time the project has appeared before the Board.

Last time the project was before the full Board on September 2, 2015, the Board finally voted to postpone their vote on the project. Here is how we reported it then:

So, in the end, a motion to deny the project was defeated, and a motion to table their recommendation until they had made their policy determination on the issue [of FAR deviations] was approved. The developer will then return to the Board – for a third time – and see if he can get his permit for a higher FAR okayed.

Since then, the Board held their policy-oriented session, and are now apparently ready to vote on the condo project.

The developer, Philip Covington, had planned a two-story condo complex for the large, corner lot, but it had a proposed FAR of .80, it was claimed, whereas the vast majority of Ocean Beach has a FAR of 0.70. (FAR stands for Floor-Area-Ratio – the proportion a developer is allowed to build on a lot.)

The relatively low FAR for OB has historically allowed the community to avoid over-development. However, in this case, Covington was claiming a deviation from the FAR under the “Green Building Program” of the city’s. In brief, is a City program designed to encourage the building of affordable housing, and if the developer meets certain standards, the developer is entitled to a certain “deviation” from City codes.

Here is more of our report from last September:

Last mid-June [2015], the Project Review Committee, a sub-committee of the full Board which does an initial review and recommendation of all the projects heading to the OB planners, unanimously rejected a proposed 2-story condo project slated for the large empty lot at the southwest corner at Abbott and Muir. The project included 4 condos, decks on top, and first floor parking.

By a vote of 8 to 0, the sub-committee voted to recommend denial of the project, with the primary reason being that the developer’s plans were way out of conformance with OB’s FAR (floor-area-ratio). The developer was requesting a deviation to the FAR as it was asserting the project complied with the City’s Green Building Program.

The developer, Philip Covington, never brought the project back to the full Board. Instead, he and his consultant apparently met with Councilwoman Zapf staff. Exactly why they did this – an unusual effort for any developer – we don’t know. But the move irritated key members of the OB Board, and Covington & Co were accused of trying to circumvent the local planners, the Board that had promised to work with them.

Last night they were back. With the same basic proposal. Claiming that the project met standards of the Green Building Program (which we don’t understand yet), Covington’s consultant claimed that they were entitled to a “deviation” of the FAR. He cited a handful of green attributes, like solar power, zeroscape. Currently, the proposed condo project had an FAR of .80, it was claimed. (OB’s FAR is 0.70.)  …

And Covington and his Abbott Condos is the first project to come before the OB Board applying for a deviation under the green program. Yet it wasn’t just any deviation they were asking for. It was a request for a deviation from the most “sacred” part of the Ocean Beach Community Plan – the low and restrictive FAR – the tool OB community planners have used for nearly 40 years to prevent over-development in Ocean Beach. …

Now … City planning staff, ensconced in the Development Services Department, seem to be encouraging developers to now obtain “deviations” to the FAR. Deviations are not variances, we’re told. But aren’t the effects the same? … So a few years ago, city staff was encouraging variances to the FAR. Now they’re encouraging deviations to the FAR.  Under the so-called Green Building Program. And in the name of affordable housing.

The Abbott Condos, if built, would be far from affordable housing. They’ll probably be sold to four property owners, who could simply turn around and rent them out as short-term vacation rentals. …

So, it’s with some frustration that the OB planners had to face this same project once again. And nothing of substance had changed. Their ire was evident in the at-times spicy back-and-forth with the developer and his consultant.  One Board member said he did a re-configuring of the claimed FAR and it was higher than the consultant had said ( 0.80 vs 0.88).

The basic message from the Board: the applicant’s project was way insufficient in its efforts to comply with the Green standards – “the bare minimum” so commented one Board member – and the Board was unlikely to approve a deviation to the most highly-valued element of the Community Plan with the little that the presentation showed. Not to mention the lack of documentation showing any demonstrable green sustainability.

So, we’re see at Wednesday’s meeting if there have been any substantial changes to the project’s plans, and how the Board feels now.

Here’s their agenda:

OBPB agenda 5-4-16


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Tessa May 3, 2016 at 4:53 pm

Hold the line on the Abbott St. condo project!
And thanks for 40 years of holding the line – for the sake of O B.


OB Dude October 4, 2016 at 1:55 pm

Not sure what is happening on this project but I wonder if the adjacent property 2138 Abbott will also be “developed” since it sold for $1650000 on Aug 15, 2016.


Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: