Why Can’t Ocean Beach Preserve Its ‘Open Space’ Instead of all the Planned ‘Enhancements’ for Our Waterfront?

by on May 9, 2017 · 16 comments

in Ocean Beach

Who is behind drive to develop “enhance” Saratoga Park? Is it the owners of the “millionaire -dollar” condos?

Are Owners of the Millionaire-Dollar Condos Driving Development of Saratoga Park?

By Geoff Page

There was a story in the OB Rag on Thursday May 4, “Concerns About Plans for Saratoga Park: Loss of Green Space and View Corridor” by a man named Scott.

He was expressing serious concerns about the children’s play area at what is called Saratoga Park.  Scott began his piece by admitting he had not been able to attend one of the workshops on the park.  Well, I did attend the last one about two weeks ago and I too definitely wanted to say something about it but was not able to until now. I am not in favor of this thing and there were a number of people at this workshop who were also against it.

You might say, ‘What kind of cold-hearted bastards could be against a children’s play area, what kind of people are we?’

We, referring to those of us who don’t like the idea, just have a different idea what it means to play.  We live at the biggest playground in the world, the Pacific Ocean.  People spend thousands of dollars and travel as many miles just to come here and swim in the ocean and play in the sand.  They don’t come here to play in a structured play area that can be found in any city park across the country that doesn’t have an ocean.

And what’s wrong with a nice expanse of grass where people can, oh, do what they do now, gymnastics, yoga, soccer, throw frisbees, eat, sleep, and kiss?

So I went to the workshop and my first surprise, and not a happy one, was to see the thing was being run by former Republican Councilman Byron Wear.  Scott’s story contained a graphic of this monstrosity that will take up a big portion of the grassy area.  My first question was ‘who was behind this project and why was it happening?’

Wear eventually said it was in the community plan and he provided a reference that he read a little of.  It didn’t sound very definitive, made me wonder if someone was stretching the language, so I decided to see for myself and I had a sad surprise.

The Ocean Beach Community Plan has a section that discusses parks.

There is a formula for population-based parks meaning that the amount of parkland a population should have is a determined by population.  The plan somehow came up with a population figure of 15,701 residents for Ocean Beach as the “projected population at full community development.”

That size population should have 42.20 acres of parkland.  OB is only 742 acres total and it clearly doesn’t have that much park acreage.  Oddly enough, all the parkland at Robb Field, Dusty Rhodes, or Bill Cleator Field don’t count because they are not within OB’s boundaries.  But, this is ridiculous of course because OBceans have the easiest access to all of that parkland than any other community.  And then there is the ocean.

So, if a community is deficient in actual park land, there is something called “park equivalencies.”  The community plan says:

“Park equivalencies are things that can be done in lieu of more land and might include: joint use facilities, trails, portions of resource-based parks, privately- owned publicly-used parks, and non-traditional parks, such as roof top recreation facilities or indoor basketball or tennis courts.”

In section “6.  Recreation Element” of the community plan is “Figure 6.2 Park Equivalencies.”  This is a color-coded map and it contains red areas that are marked as “Park Equivalencies.”  I was surprised to see two areas marked out at the beach, one titled “Saratoga Beach Park” and the other titled “Veteran’s Park.”  Why was I surprised?  Well, I was of the naïve opinion that these were proposed projects and not set-in-stone projects.  There was more.  Not only are they on the map, they are described in detail.

In the section titled “Recreation Opportunities and Park Equivalencies” the plan mentions three pocket parks and then states:

“The three pocket park sites within Ocean Beach Park are referred to by the community as: Brighton Avenue Park, Saratoga Beach Park and Veterans Park. 

Within Brighton Park additional park amenities include walkways, picnic areas, lighting and barbeques and hot coal receptacles.

Within Saratoga Beach Park additional park amenities include walkways, children’s play area, plaza area, fitness course, seating and lighting.

Within Veterans Park additional park amenities include a plaza area, walkways, seating, interpretive panels relating to Veterans, lighting, landscaping and a park sign.”

This was when I began to realize that the powers behind this park idea and the Veteran’s Park, that will take up even more of the little parkland we have at the beach, got this stuff into the OB community plan so that one day, when someone like me asked, who’s behind thus and why is it happening, someone like Byron Wear could hold up the community plan and say with all innocence, why, it’s in the community plan.

I know a lot of really good OB people worked on this community plan so I’m hoping some will chime in here and provide any background they have on how these two parks came to be in the plan.

I have a theory that sounds like a conspiracy theory, and I’m leery of such things but I have to wonder.  One of the commenters to Scott’s story said it too, mentioning the possibility that the ownership behind the very expensive condos and vacation rentals might have exerted had some influence for this.  I had the same thought and I wondered the same thing about the surveillance cameras.

If you look at the park design, there is green space between the condos and the proposed park and then more landscaping.  The footprint of the park will push other users further toward the sand and away from the building.  Whether it is this ownership or the general thrust of money now in OB, this kind of thing is what follows when real estate becomes expensive, a desire to neaten up and arrange and organize every space so that odd things are discouraged and uniformity is celebrated.

This is the opposite of what OB used to be. Sadly, it looks like it’s going away.

At the workshop, Wear mentioned that there were several organizations who were behind this and they were listed on the Ocean Beach Community Development Corporation or OB CDC’s website.  I checked the list after the meeting and it included the OB Town Council, The OB Mainstreet Association, the OB Planning Board, the OB Community Foundation, and the OB Lifeguards and Firefighters.

One OB resident at this meeting was very upset about this park idea and had done a good deal of research on it.  He claimed he spoke with the firefighters and lifeguards and they had not openly expressed support for the park. He accused the OB CDC of trying to piggyback on the generally good feelings people have for the firefighters and lifeguards.  He said that the firefighters and lifeguards planned to contact the OB CDC and have that supposed support removed.

The alleged support by the first responders is now gone from the OB CDC website.  But, they still kept the imagery as much as they could, keeping in their narrative:

“At an OB Town Council meeting, Ocean Beach lifeguards and firefighters suggested constructing an adult fitness area in Saratoga Park – a location these first responders often work out at without any equipment.” 

I agreed with the accusation offered, I mean really, who can be against children and the first responders?  That should be a slam dunk.

Finally and ironically, there is a section in the community plan titled “Recreation Goals,” which I found odd because the word “recreation” is a noun, not an adjective, and one of the goals seemed to conflict with this park idea.  It said:

“Parks, open space, and recreation programs in the Ocean Beach Community that are preserved, protected, and enhanced.”

So what happened to preserving our park, our open space, of which we have very little at our beachfront?  Why aren’t these particular spots being protected and preserved instead of being “enhanced” in the image of those who feel enhancement is better than just open space where people and children can use the space as they might want to, not just as those who are behind this park think they ought to use this space.

That is my personal beef.  I’m an ocean guy, I’ve lived almost all of my life near the Pacific and I do not see why that can’t be enough of a play area with some grassy area for some other imaginative pursuits.

There is nothing more egalitarian than the beach.  It doesn’t cost much, anyone can bring towels and sunscreen and sand toys for the kids and a cooler and some chairs and maybe an umbrella and enjoy themselves.

Maybe that’s the problem, anyone can come.  When money moves in. money tries to move others out, get rid of the common people, the riff raff. I think this project and the Veteran’s Park project use up entirely too much of what little beachfront park we have and I think we should all speak out and oppose both of them.

Let’s just enjoy the park the way each of us wants to, not how someone else wants us to.


{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

kh May 9, 2017 at 1:05 pm

Is this drawing the most current proposal? Because it looks much better than the ambitious idea I saw, which takes over the majority of the open park space.



scott May 10, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Wow, kh that is a crazy rendering. I’ve never seen that one, where did that proposal come out of? It looks as if that one was an attempt to extend the “boardwalk” – something the community has repeatedly shot down over the years.

From that proposal to the current the size is shrinking, I guess that’s an improvement. I’m going to be optimistic and put my faith in the OBDCD board. I know there are good people on there and my guess is that as they here community feedback they will listen and if not eliminate the idea to preserve the green space than they will at least dramatically shrink it down to the least possibly intrusive size.


kh May 9, 2017 at 1:15 pm

I’m also very curious for the reasoning why other OB parks are actually part of the mission bay park system. This makes little sense as they are completely integrated with OB and are geographically isolated from mission bay.

Was this some political maneuvering for alterior motives, or does this arrangement actually benefit OB somehow? And does it play any role in the development of park areas that are within OB proper?

The park areas that are surprisingly NOT within OB boundaries are:
Robb Field
Dusty Rhodes
Dog Beach

That is a whole lot of acreage.


Marc Snelling May 10, 2017 at 9:39 am

Those parks are included in the acreage for Mission Bay Park because of a City Charter rule that limits commercial development of the ‘park’ to 25%. Including the OB parks acreage allows more hotels, amusement park, and other development in Mission Bay Park.


Frank Gormlie May 10, 2017 at 10:52 am

Could not have said it better. One by one these OB parks were ripped off OB and handed over to Mission Bay. Look at any current map; where Robb Field used to be is now called Mission Bay Park.

And now there is a move to do the same thing to the small, so-called “OB Entryway Park”.


Lois Lane May 9, 2017 at 8:30 pm

I wondered that too. I think it was because dedicated parkland which is a part of Mission Bay Park has much more lenient use restrictions – think hotels, commercial use, etc. This means that Robb Field could someday look like Mission Bay Park just across the bridge without revising the City Charter. I’m sure people won’t believe that, but you can always read Section 55 of the city Charter.


Zig May 9, 2017 at 9:41 pm

I agree with this whole article. There is also playground equipment 1/4 mile away in the Rec Center/School area.

Open space is important and playgrounds are just not the same thing.

How many events like parades will be disrupted when this space cannot be used because of swing sets?

Other ideas to make the beach more child friendly are upgraded and cleaner bathrooms and showers. Or a small roped off area that is kept extra clean for sand playing. Or make the volleyball nets adjustable so they can be lowered for a kids game.

A better place for a playground if the city determines OB needs another one would be in Robb Field as close to the Bacon entrance as possible. There is now some sort of charter school there, as well as children already there playing sports.


sloanranger May 10, 2017 at 3:40 am

I dislike even speaking of such things as I become very angry. What is so difficult to understand about those two words – open – space? Beachfront or indeed, any waterfront belongs completely and to all the people – up to the high tide – water mark. Waterfronts, beaches, bays, rivers, etc. should not be developed, but kept in common for the general benefit of the population.
If developed at all, it should begin no closer than 1 or 2 blocks from the shore, and if more than one story, done by using those farthest away and descending stories as one gets closer the water. This increases, views, property values and more tax revenue for the city. It is not rocket science but common sense.
But the fact is, if we let them they will take it all;so lets not let them.


Rufus May 10, 2017 at 5:11 am

Block the view of the ocean with a playground?

Really dumb idea!


Tyler May 10, 2017 at 8:09 am

I agree. Why also are we attempting to build another needless war memorial that will take up openspace as well?


Zig May 13, 2017 at 8:06 pm

Yeah we have plenty of those already too, including on Cabrillo Point very close by and the tacky new one around Mt. Soledad 15 mins away.


Debbie May 10, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Mr. Wear with all his contacts and knowledge should have helped fight for the 30-foot height limit (in his community where he lives and used to represent) which has and continues to be violated. It’s not too late for Mr. Wear to rally people and help the fight and show the people that pay taxes which gives him a hefty pension a thank you.

Instead…this goofy park is be pushed. Maybe all those VRO can add this amenity to their rental ads???

Whatever…. it will just deteriorate like everything else the city builds-look at the weeds at the entryway!


scott May 10, 2017 at 3:47 pm

I can’t recall exactly right now and I can’t find the OB Rag write-up but there’s 10 feet of city land in front of the vacation rentals at Saratoga Park that was vacated to the developer for some reason (it’s currently separated from the park by a concrete strips and signs that say private property). That strip of land was public property – fire access I believe – maybe the community can get that back to help mitigate some of the loss of park space.


Marc Snelling May 11, 2017 at 9:25 am

There was some talk of that issue in this story… http://obrag.org/?p=83514


Frank Gormlie May 11, 2017 at 11:37 am

Marc, thanks. I just reposted it.


Geoff Page May 11, 2017 at 1:19 pm

The developers said that the space you mentioned would be open to public use because it doesn’t belong the project. Then, the signs appeared that I believe are illegal. The signs quote a legal code, Penal Code 602, but do not cite a specific part of that code and it has a lot of subsections, “a” to “y” and some of these have subsections. I read it and none of it appears to apply to this piece of land. I believe they put these up to scare people off when, in fact, that is public land.


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