City Proposes Height Limit Solution for Point Loma

by on September 2, 2016 · 18 comments

in Culture, Environment, History, Ocean Beach, Politics, San Diego

PL Emerson proj Barbita Souza

Controversial Emerson and Evergreen project.

Point Loma Leaders Meet with Mayor’s Staff

By Don Sevrens

The City has come up with a proposed solution to strengthen and protect the 30-foot height limit on the Point Loma side of the peninsula, community representatives said Thursday, September 1st,  after the second Mayor’s meeting on the issue.

PL Emerson proj meet 6-27-16Waves of community protest were ignited by the construction of four-story buildings at Emerson and Evergreen, capped by a town hall meeting attended by 250 persons.

Following the town hall, several community advocates attended the first Mayor’s meeting on the issue  at City Hall at the invitation of Mayor Faulconer.

PL emerson Faulconer screenThe mayor pledged that the issue would be resolved either by administrative changes or the legislative process if necessary. A stop-work order was issued on the controversial project.

Attending Thursday’s staff-level session were:

  • Jon Linney, chair of the Peninsula Community Planning Board,
  • Robert Goldyn, PCPB first vice chair,
  • Brad Herrin, PCPB second vice chair,
  • Roseville resident Babita Souza,
  • Point Loma Association Chair Clark Anthony, and
  • former PLA Chair Robert Tripp Jackson.
  • Jack Straw and Anthony George of the Mayor’s Office were present on the City side. The mayor was unable to attend because of previous commitments.

The community attendees said that major provisions of the City’s solution include:

  • The RM zoning in the Point Loma area will be amended to 30 feet through a keynote in the zoning ordinance. All construction will be required to comply with the zoning ordinance calculation of height, which designates existing or finished grade, whichever is LOWER.
  • Other areas such as Ocean Beach and La Jolla are not included, City staffers explained, because they have tighter provisions such as floor area ratios which limit the proportion of building size to lot size.

“Time is of the essence,” Goldyn said, “and this is the quickest and most effective way to move forward and protect the peninsula community from height violations.”

PL Emerson Project gp 02Following policy changes made by a little-known City body in 2013, buildings over 30 feet started popping up on the peninsula.

As more details of the City’s proposed solution become known, Linney said:

“Any of us who represented the community will be able to elaborate. I can be reached at”

The Peninsula Community Planning Board in July approved a letter to the City on the issue. That letter is posted on the board’s website, [as well as posted on the OB Rag].  It is quite likely the issue also will be on the board’s agenda for its next meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15 at the Point Loma branch library,  Linney said.

“This shows what the community can accomplish when it comes together,” said one Point Loma resident  who prefers to be nameless. “Thanks are due to everyone who stood up to out-of-control construction.”

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Christo September 2, 2016 at 11:48 am

What does this mean for current projects?


Geoff Page September 8, 2016 at 10:32 am

This solution that the article is trumpeting is a sham. There are two major problems with it. The first problem is that it will allow the currently, incorrectly and illegally approved projects to continue because they were not subject to this “new” rule, which is, in fact not new but is merely restating what the Municipal Code already requires. This is a maneuver by the city to avoid the lawsuits it will face if it requires the currently, incorrectly and illegally approved projects to be re-evaluated and re-designed.

The second major problem is that the city;s report contains language stating that Proposition D allows developers to measure height from the new designed finished grade not the existing grade. This is entirely wrong and if this stupidity is not corrected, the 30-foot height limit will be worthless as developers raise the grades on their properties as has happened in Roseville, and build structures beyond 30 feet. This proposed change in the Municipal Code needs to be defeated and the city needs to be required to abandon this interpretation and re-evaluate all currently approved projects.


Geeta September 2, 2016 at 2:17 pm

Wonder if we’ll get this sort of attention, and resolution, on the O B side of the hill.


stop whining September 2, 2016 at 10:30 pm

Meanwhile, construction started up again at the Ebers Street house


triggerfinger September 6, 2016 at 4:12 pm

Yup, everything west of Sunset Cliffs in OB is basically in the same category as this property. So that better be a big footnote. (OB east of that is RM1-1 and already subject to the stricter interpretation of the 30′ limit.)


Debbie September 2, 2016 at 2:26 pm

So what does this mean for the construction on Evergreen?


FAR limit on height? September 3, 2016 at 4:41 pm

City says: “Other areas such as Ocean Beach and La Jolla are not included, City staffers explained, because they have tighter provisions such as floor area ratios which limit the proportion of building size to lot size.”

My understanding is that FAR will limit the actual square footage of the building so maybe it would limit the number of stories but I don’t really see how it would limit the actual height if homes were built with correct FAR but high ceilings, etc. exceeding the 30 foot limit.


triggerfinger September 6, 2016 at 4:17 pm

You are correct. A 7000 sf lot allows a 4900 sf building. There’s nothing to prevent that from being 40′ tall with dirt piled against it, right here in OB. Even just a 3 story building with a partially submerged garage and high ceilings easily reaches 40 feet.


Tom Augustine September 4, 2016 at 1:32 am

“Following policy changes made by a little-known City body in 2013, buildings over 30 feet started popping up on the peninsula”…how is an obscure bureaucrat able to nullify a voter approved proposition?


RB September 4, 2016 at 6:09 am

There is something to be learned here. One side of the peninsula tries to solve its problems by attacking their elected representatives and with hostility towards businesses and landholders and the other side of the peninsula works with their elective representatives and landholders for a solution……


Seth September 7, 2016 at 3:38 pm

Nonsense. One area is more affluent with more political influence and more voters registered to the Mayor’s political party. Been reading your troll posts here for years and know you are perfectly aware that the same approach has been ignored countless times in OB.

What honestly needs to happen for a lot of these planning disputes in OB is a citizens lawsuit, or at least the valid threat of one. Half of these disputes happen because the City is terrified of being sued by developers, which is a primary motivating factor in why they tend to let them flaunt any part of the code that might even be remotely interpreted as a gray area. But they are just as liable, and sometimes moreso, if they don’t uphold codes as written.

I’d say that there is at least a 50% chance that someone on “that side of the peninsula” brought that fact to the City’s attention in what you are claiming was a congenial process, prompting the Mayor to let his people ride in on a white horse to get the easy political win and solidify support among his voting base.

After all, there is not even a concession here, just a tepid commitment to someday actually enforce a more literal and logical interpretation of a major part of their own building code that was passed overwhelmingly via proposition.


Micporte September 5, 2016 at 3:24 pm

The San Diego planning department wears some special funny rose colored glasses when reviewing almost any plan submitted to them…, they have some earphones on that filter noise from the outside too…


T September 6, 2016 at 6:06 am

Some one has begun to tag the Ebers/Greene house with “Out of OB” over the weekend or thereabouts.


Katheen Blavatt September 6, 2016 at 7:42 am

FAR has nothing to do with 30 ft. Height limit. City modifications in areas as approving over 30 ft. West of I 5, north of Laurel St. are illegal. YES the City has done it, because they break the laws, many times until they are sued or citizens unit against projects. Take these current politicians out of office and hold future ones accountable! As far as City staff only put through permits that follow the laws and don’t bend them.


Jeffeck September 6, 2016 at 9:31 am


AMEN, BRAVO. Agree completely.


Debbie September 6, 2016 at 9:30 pm
Frank Gormlie September 7, 2016 at 10:45 am

Indeed! Debbie thanks for the heads-up. Everyone in OB and PL need to read it. In fact …


OB Dude September 8, 2016 at 6:31 am

Posted on Planning Commission meeting for 9/8 cancelled

“A city Planning Commission meeting on the city’s proposed solution to alleged violations of the 30-foot height limit has been abruptly cancelled. The meeting was to have been at 9 a.m. tomorrow (Thursday Sept. 8) on the 12th floor of City Hall. If you know someone who was planning to attend, please spread the word. Sept. 22 is being considered as a new meeting date. If you would like to know the reasoning for the last-minute cancellation, please contact Conrad Wear of Council Member Lorie Zapf’s staff at
The Peninsula Community Planning Board will address the issue at its meeting Thursday Sept. 15. The advisory group’s meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Point Loma branch library on Voltaire. Six members of the community who participated in a second back-channel session with the mayor’s staff will be able to give their perspective.

*”The good news is that this change in date will not affect our timeline for Council approval and the resolution of this issue for the community. It is my understand that we have a date certain at Council. In fact, this change will allow the Peninsula Planning Board to take a vote before Planning Commission consideration.”


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