Concerns About Plans for Saratoga Park: Loss of Green Space and View Corridor

by on May 4, 2017 · 13 comments

in Ocean Beach

Artist rendering of proposed changes to Saratoga Park.

By Scott

Below is a letter that I sent to the OB Community Development Corporations because I have been unable to attend any of their public forums on the proposed children’s park and workout area at Saratoga Park.  I assume the OBCDC will take all public comments into consideration. That said, I thought it might be useful to widen the conversation to OB Rag readers that also were unable to attend the meeting (perhaps a board member could also provide an update).

Dear OB CDC:

My Name is Scott, I served 6 years on the planning board and live 100 yards from Saratoga Park. I left the planning board 2 years ago when I had a child and my guess is that we will be the #1 patrons of the planned play area (that’s me optimistically thinking it will be done before she’s too old to use it).

After seeing the latest proposed rendition of the changes to the park I’m more concerned than ever. The footprint of the space, i.e. loss of green space, has grown enormously since the initial conception and it does not seem to take into account the public view corridor. I’m in favor of a play area and some workout equipment but think it should be done within the smallest footprint possible and I think it’s important to have full community involvement as we develop the last few remaining open green spaces in Ocean Beach”

My concerns about the planned play area, workout equipment and benches are twofold: 1) the total footprint and 2) the location.

1) I’d suggest visiting the park on any given weekend now to see how it is used. While I think a play area is a good idea, I also know that most of the open space in the park is usually in use currently (soccer, sleeping, b-day parties, weird circus performers, etc.) every weekend. With the loss of green space that will occur with the great Veterans Plaza updates I think it’s important to make the Saratoga Park amenities as good as possible in the smallest possible way.

2) My other concern is the location. When I worked on the update to the OB Community Plan protecting view corridors was one of our primary concerns. Most of these view corridors have been lost or obstructed in some way but Saratoga Avenue remains one of the only places in town where it’s possible to stand at Sunset Cliffs and look all the way out to the ocean.

This protected “framed view” is specifically called out in the Precise Plan and I recall former renderings of the proposed playground in conflict with that. I ask that the plans for Sartoga Park respect this view corridor and place nothing within the sight-lines as viewed from the center of the Saratoga and Abbot intersection; I would suggest that plans put the playground either in the NE corner of the park or, probably best, would be the SE corner near where the handicap accessible area already is.

P.S. The public coastal view protections referenced above (from 4.6 in the precise plan) are quoted as applicable below:

” 4.6 Public Coastal Views The California Coastal Act requires both visual and physical access to the shoreline be protected and expanded. Accordingly, development should not be permitted to interfere with the public use of the coastline and should not obstruct the public views of the ocean. In addition to providing routes of travel for vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists, the east/west streets of Ocean Beach also provide the opportunity for coastal views. (See Conservation element for Physical Coastal Access).”

Specific Recommendations:
4.6.2 “Protect and improve visual access at street ends in conjunction with coastal physical access projects.”
4.6.3 “Enhance visual access by requiring development near the bluff top and within the area between the ocean and the first public right-of-way from the ocean to maintain setbacks free from structural or landscape elements greater than three feet (3’) in height, allowing taller plants outside setbacks. (See Figure 4.4)”

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page May 4, 2017 at 4:07 pm

I did attend the last workshop on this thing and I agree with Scott, in fact, I’ve been planning to do my own write up about this but work has gotten in the way, I’ll do it this weekend. For now, I agree wholeheartedly. I have a theory about why this looks the way it does and why it is where it is. I will say this, I was one of several people at the workshop who were not at all in favor of this idea.


Alex May 4, 2017 at 8:06 pm

I whole heartily agree with Scott’s comments and I hope the planning board adopts his recommendations regarding the park.


J. Stone May 5, 2017 at 8:45 am

Not to be to skeptical, but something tells me the multi-million apartment building overlooking the park, and its ownership company may have something to do with this “improvement”.


Frank Gormlie May 5, 2017 at 9:48 am

Ya think?


SaneVoice May 5, 2017 at 9:39 am

Why is a children’s play area needed ? There’s a play area already there. It’s called the beach.


Debbie May 5, 2017 at 4:39 pm

Bravo for that comment!

Keep is simple! Concrete tables with benches and trash cans including a maintained lawn or appropriate landscaping.


Now with Sand May 5, 2017 at 1:09 pm

Does this design really have a sandbox in it? Really, a sandbox? The can’t be serious.

I saw the first design years ago, it was a small area with some climbing things for kids, fine. At this rate by the time the thing gets built it will take up the entire park. Pave it all, people won’t know how to enjoy the area unless the grass is removed and there’s a bunch of stuff they have to use.


John O. May 11, 2017 at 3:28 pm

A sandbox without cigarette butts is always nice.


Lois Lane May 5, 2017 at 1:53 pm

I wrote some time ago about Ocean Beach Park, its status as a dedicated park under the city charter, and the various problems associated with renaming “Saratoga Park” (not on the list of parks where alcohol is prohibited).
The OB CDC gave us the OB Entryway Park, which sets the standard here and any ppposition to the Veterans Plaza and Saratoga Park seems to be a doomed endeavor.


Pat May 7, 2017 at 8:33 am

Scott, Thanks for your service on OB planning board and congratulations on becoming a father. I would also like to thank you for this post. Wow! This looks nothing like the initial conceptual plans I remember seeing and thinking I may be able to support. Early discussion (as I remember) entailed a circuit exercise course like you would see in some other parks like the one over at Mission Bay Park, low key, much less impact as now proposed. Also a small tot lot, again nothing like I’m seeing in this plan. Like you, I haven’t been unable to attend meetings as much. Most info I received previously was from Town Council or Planning Board meetings. The only OBCDC meeting I attended was to discuss the naming of the children’s tot lot to Ruth Varney Held to honor our beloved historian. This proposal has morphed into something I cannot get behind. I’m All for making improvements to Ocean Beach Park but this is not it. This park is my favorite place to play Frisbee, when it’s not too crowded (for 40 years now). I also have friends who play croquet there on a regular basis. These activities would certainly be hindered by these plans. I think It’s time for more public review and input. I have heard more concerns about this plan lately and believe community voices need to be heard.


Lois Lane May 7, 2017 at 8:41 am

“The OBCDC public meetings are held every second Thursday of the month at 7:00PM at the Ocean Beach Rec Center. Please join us to discuss the ongoing OBCDC projects, as well as, interact with City officials and local leaders, ” (from the OBCDC web site). If this is the case, This Thursday, May 11, is the time to get your questions answered.


kh May 9, 2017 at 12:28 pm

Let’s pave the whole thing and put some pretty patterned recycled tires in. And lots of sandboxes for the children. And signs, lots of signs. The beach is too dangerous for children, there’s sharks there.

OBCDC is living up to their name… but based on their projects so far I kinda wish they’d go develop someone else’s community and leave our public spaces alone.


kh May 9, 2017 at 12:34 pm

Something else to consider Scott, Parks and Recreation is possibly our most worthless city department… and they will not properly maintain it. So unless there is some change in that respect, asking for anything beyond emptying trash cans may be asking too much.


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