World Oil’s “Sunset Plaza” in Ocean Beach Gets an Onion Award

by on October 17, 2016 · 14 comments

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


The folks who do the annual Orchids and Onions awards in San Diego, have awarded an Ocean Beach building a stinky Onion Award.

One of our favorite buildings to knock, World Oil’s Sunset Plaza at the corner of Voltaire and Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, received the Onion. The nomination described the building as:

“… an ugly, ill-advised eyesore besmirching the otherwise beautiful entrance to Ocean Beach.”

The awards were just announced and showcased in Roger Showley’s recent article in the SD U-T. Here’s Roger’s opening:

Orchids & Onions celebrates its 40th anniversary this month after celebrating the good and skewering the bad in San Diego’s architecture, landscapes and other elements of the “built environment.”

Unlike so many awards programs run by and for professionals, this one collects nominations from the public not only to honor greatness but also to chide those projects that come up short.

And here is what Orchids & Onions said (they didn’t hold back) about Sunset Plaza in the Onion Nomination at the Orchids and Onions website:

Sunset Plaza Ocean Beach

This project is an ugly, ill-advised eyesore besmirching the otherwise beautiful entrance to Ocean Beach. What could have been a thoughtfully designed, 2-story retail building, sensitively planned to invite pedestrians, instead we get this brown piece of garbage.

OB is not PB and the sleepy beach town eschews chain restaurants and careless, anonymous structures, such as this one.

From the horrible stonework slapped on the side of the building to the fake balconies and hideous painted palm trees, this project gets it all wrong. This “miss” detracts from the newly renovated entrance to this unique and special beach town in San Diego.

It is clear the architect did not bother to understand Ocean Beach at all. Too bad the owner didn’t hire OB-based Hanna Gabriel Wells – architect for the award-winning People’s Organic Co-op, located kitty corner from this site – to see how commercial retail is done right. A big, fat, sticky onion for this atrocity.

Other Local Awards

There were other local winners.

Point Loma Nazarene Science Center, Arch, received an Orchid. The judges stated:

“A bold statement that takes advantage of the stunning views with a mixture of modernist and industrial themes.”

Plus the Liberty Public Market in Point Loma’s Liberty Station also won an Orchid in Historic Preservation. The judges said:

“Successfully activates the former Navy  building; always buzzing with people of all ages taking in the scents and sights.”

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

RB October 17, 2016 at 12:14 pm

“… an ugly, ill-advised eyesore besmirching the otherwise beautiful entrance to Ocean Beach.”

So the gas station, Jack in the Box, and liquor store are the otherwise beautiful entrance?
So the weeds, chain link fence and trash were replaced by an eyesore?
So we have been besmirched?


Marc Snelling October 17, 2016 at 3:00 pm

It would have been another gas station if the community hadn’t worked three times to stop it.

For a corner that had so much interest the design is uninspired.


Debbie October 17, 2016 at 4:08 pm

The entrance is at West Point Loma….and what did that fiasco cost us? Plus there is not a bench there to sit on and no bike lane/connection as promised. OB entryway is a flop.

Sunset Plaza is what the owner picked. The entryway was bought/built with our tax dollars!


Zen October 18, 2016 at 1:06 am

Debbie the land for the Gateway project was donated by the owners in their will. It had a small restaurant on it at one point. There are benches there now and the wall is butt-height for sitting as well.

As for the building, it may not be especially pretty, but I do like Plant Power and the building itself really is not that bad. I never noticed it had fake balconies on it until I read the article though.

As for the massing issue, new commercial buildings in that zone are supposed to build at least part of the building at or near the property line and have large windows.


Lois Lane October 18, 2016 at 1:14 pm

Records indicate that it was purchased by the OBCDC in 2001 and later donated to the city by the CDC, but perhaps you have information that goes beyond that.


PBreply October 18, 2016 at 10:24 am

Thanks to the nominator who opted to denigrate PB in their nomination! If you want to eschew some chain restaurants, perhaps you should have nominated the one across the street from the building you nominated ; a building that contains a local buisness (Plant Power).


Debbie October 18, 2016 at 4:53 pm

Gateway cost $1,830,660

I do not believe Anthony’s pizza parlor was donated. I believe it was purchased when Byron Wear was a City Council Rep. I will check out the presence of benches since none we installed when the Gateway was built as seen in the video in the link below. As for the wall….it’s higher than most people’s butts as seen in this video


Byron Wear October 19, 2016 at 8:05 am

Yes, when I served on the SD City Council (1995-2002), we were able to provide CDBG funding to buy the Anthony’s site (in partnership with OBCDC) and immediately remove the large billboard and later the building for the entryway project. Other components of the entryway were the medians, the OB Skateboard Park/expanded Soccer field funded by Mission Bay TOT funds, undergrounding utilities on West Pt Loma, Sunset Cliffs Blvd and Voltaire and partnerships with the Point Loma Association for the large triangle. The last link will be the improved pedestrian/bicycle connection to Robb Field which needs funding. Sometimes the best way to get projects funded and implemented are in phases and partnerships. It always takes longer that we expect.


Geoff Page October 19, 2016 at 11:37 am

How are the Skateboard Park, the expanded soccer field and undergrounding utilities on West Pt. Loma, Sunset Cliffs, and Voltaire components of the entryway project? Utility undergrounding is an entirely separate program and is funded by an entirely different source. The Skateboard Park was built years before the entryway. The soccer field? As for the link to Robb Field, why wasn’t that part of the original build, what good is a sidewalk that just ends feet from the park. It would have taken very little to just extend the sidewalk, the money spent on the retaining wall at the end of the sidewalk would have been sufficient to build the connecting sidewalk. Someone screwed up.


Byron Wear October 19, 2016 at 2:28 pm

Some history…
The Ocean Beach community came together in many meetings between 1997-2002 with an overall vision for the entryway projects which included all aspects – the acquisition of the Anthony’s site and removal of the billboard, expansion of Robb Field (soccer and skateboard park), beautification of medians, under grounding utilities and planting street trees. The vision involved many different funding sources including Community Development Block Grant allocation from District 2, gas tax (SANDAG) reprogrammed, general fund, TOT from Mission Bay and partnerships with OBCDC and the Point Loma Association. The actual implementation of funding the construction of the entryway plaza came after I left the City Council in 2003. The reason the community focused on North OB, is that the area needed attention as it lacked a business improvement district (i.e. OB Merchants area in Newport Ave Business District. OBCDC focused primarily in this area to affect change and mobilize the community. We also added diagonal parking on Voltaire and assisted in the expansion of the OB People’s food store. There are plenty of board minutes documenting the progress including OB Planning Board, OBCDC, OB Town Council and the Robb Field Rec Council. The $4 Million undergrounding of the major streets was a actually transfer from downtown’s East Village (CCDC) to OB at my recommendation. I frequently looked at every funding source possible to complete the vision.
Byron Wear


Geoff Page October 19, 2016 at 2:57 pm

I still don’t get what expanding Robb field’s soccer field and the skate park have to do with an entryway discussion. Gas tax? How was any gas tax money obtained and on what grounds? The gas tax is intended for transportation issues. What does the OB People’s food store have to do with this? How did “we” assist that private enterprise in its expansion? And finally, what do you have to substantiate your statement that $4 million was transferred from CCDC to do undergrounding? This is usually done with state funds and a charge on all of our electric bills. Why would anyone use CCDC funds, not intended for this purpose, on undergrounding in OB?


Byron Wear October 20, 2016 at 12:33 am

1. The Robb Field soccer field and skateboard park was designed by Estrada Planning who also designed the original entryway concepts for Sunset Cliffs Blvd and Voltaire. The soccer field and skateboard park also included the construction of sidewalks, fencing and coastal oaks consistent with the community vision.
2. Gas Tax or Trans net funding is allowed to fund all improvements within the public right of way of Sunset Cliffs Blvd including street lights, median improvements and street trees. The $170,000 +/- transnet funding was used for the medians.
3. OB Peoples food store vision included a sustainable design which included street trees and a new parking lot.
4. The $4 Million of funding for under grounding was SDG&E funds from ratepayers originally designated by the City of San Diego and CCDC for East Village. I recommended to the City Council and with their approval transferred $4 Million to North Ocean Beach to underground Voltaire Street, Sunset Cliffs and West Point Loma Blvd. Ultimately the under grounding for East Village was completed as part of the Ballpark Project. Additional explanation can be found by researching minutes from the various community organizations and City Council actions of 1996-2002. The “entryway” of OB was not just acquisition of the Anthony’s Pizaa parlor site but the vision for adjacent parks and related improvements.
The final piece of the entryway is an improved connection from the Plaza to Robb Field which funding is being sought.
The Point Loma Association has worked with Ocean Beach in the past on the large triangle and completed a workshop on a new vision for Nimitz Blvd.
Byron Wear


obJamie October 19, 2016 at 7:39 am

“OB is not PB and the sleepy beach town eschews chain restaurants and careless, anonymous structures, such as this one.”

OB USED to do those things.


JIM LANDERS October 20, 2016 at 6:16 pm

Jack -in the-box will be history soon. The ‘Voltaire Nuisance’ is about to die a sick death. The property owners have had it with Jack and his minions causing chaos, constantly bringing the Police for the nearby residents and refusing rent increases. Jack almost was out back in 2012. Now it’s happening. Just like Jack moved from 2 locations on Mission Blvd. after telling their landlord to ‘F Off’, Crap-in the-box is going to be gone from the OB landscape. Good riddance to all your antics. I am trying to get a Mcdonald’s or other restaurant on the site.


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