Questions Remain Over Denial of Harbor View Drive Project at Peninsula Planners’ Meeting

by on September 27, 2017 · 2 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

There wasn’t a lot on the agenda for the Peninsula Community Planning Board’s regular monthly meeting at the Point Loma library Thursday, September 21, but there was one proposed project that encountered a lot of opposition apparently being led by former City Council member Byron Wear.

3328-40 Harbor View Drive

The contested project is at 3328-40 Harbor View Drive.  There are three existing lots on this parcel of land that the applicant wants to reconfigure.  There are two existing houses on two of the lots and the owner wants to build a third home after the reconfiguration.  This is a large land parcel at .97 acres; however, a good chunk of the land, .27 acres, is environmentally sensitive land.  The applicant explained that the project has “mitigated” the sensitive lands issue by paying into a fund to purchase environmentally sensitive lands somewhere else. Point Loma’s loss will be someone else’s gain if the money is ever used that way.

View of 3328 and 3340 Harbor View Dr (google maps)

The three lots will include one large lot at 27,000 square feet, one at 7,400 square feet, and the third at 7,500 square feet. About 11,000 square feet of sensitive lands remain after mitigation divided among all three lots.  The applicant explained that the project had received full approval from city’s engineering department but it needs a Coastal Development Permit that requires the owner to go through the planning process starting with the local planning board.

Another view. (there is a slight distortion in recreating Google map images)

In an attempt to preempt what the opposition was going to say about the site being geologically unstable, the applicant described a 30-inch diameter bore that was done on the site to a depth of 55 feet. A geotechnical engineer descended into the hole to log the earth strata and take samples.  This was very expensive geotechnical investigation for a residential site, testimony to how serious the issue is on this piece of land.

The site was judged to be stable, bedded on undisturbed sandstone.  The applicant also stated that the engineering for the project was reviewed and approved by the city’s engineers.  While this information was designed to reassure people, it did not reassure those familiar with the workings of the Development Services Department and who have learned not to trust its opinions or judgement.

Once the applicant finished, Wear started the opposition and was followed by lengthy comments from neighbors of the project.  The big worry apparently is landslides.  This area had experienced slides several times in the past.  There was a strong feeling in the room that another home on the site, with the attendant drainage issues a new home creates, would increase the risk of more slides.  A new home will have a large roof and new hardscape, like a driveway, covering the earth.  These structures not only block rain from getting to the ground, they accelerate runoff that has to channeled somewhere.

The opposition also had some geog-technical information that indicated there were problems on the site.  The problem with geotechnical information is that it is very inexact for anywhere other than exactly where a bore is done.  The bore the owners did was in one 30-inch diameter circle on a one acre lot.  The bore covered an area of 706 inches and there are 6,272,640 square inches in one acre. This just illustrates that the bore information might not be correct for other areas of the parcel.  The same could be said of information the opponents had.

Once the opponents finished their presentation, the discussion opened up for the public and the board.  Mostly, people related their memories of slides in the area. Board members expressed a concern for the public’s safety.  Board member Don Sevrens said the PCPB could be liable for approving a dangerous project but others more knowledgeable in how planning boards work quickly explained that would not be the case.  The project has a long history and the PCPB actually voted to deny a version of it in 2013.

The board eventually voted nine to one to deny the project.

The applicant was clearly agitated after the vote and the main point of contention was that the PCPB chair did not allow the applicant time to rebut the opponent’s presentation and opinions. The applicant related that the chair denied him time for a rebuttal that he specifically asked for. This was highly unusual.  Allowing the opponents to speak last, giving them a chance to rebut the applicant, and not allowing the applicant time for their rebuttal was grossly unfair to the applicant.

Is it possible the chair’s close apparent political association with Wear and others clearly doomed the applicant’s chances?  While it might not have made a difference in the final outcome, there was no reason to deny the applicant every chance to make their case.  The applicant may, and should, protest this outcome.

Map Waiver Request

After this project there was another map waiver request.  This is the situation where a developer gets approval to build apartments when the ultimate goal is build condominiums because the approval process is easier and avoids public review.  Once the building is under construction, the developer applies for a map waiver changing the project from apartments to condominiums.  Developers explain that this reduces development costs and cuts a year off the approval process.  Of course, that extra time would be used for public review, something that everyone on the planning board thinks should happen.  By the time the map waiver request is filed, it is too late to do anything about the building design.  The board voted to deny the waiver on principal as it has recently on other projects.


The representative from Zapf’s office said the City Council will be discussing the short term vacation rental ordinance on October 23.  The key component of the ordinance being proposed by Councilwoman Bry and Zapf requires owners who have rentals to live on the premises.  This supposedly will lead to better supervision of how the vacationers behave.

Homeless Tent in Midway

Officer Surwilo, the SDPD Community Relations Officer, talked a little about the homeless tent that will be set up in the Midway area dedicated to veterans.  He also explained that the officers in this area had all had a normal shift change that rotates during the year.  The officers will still be those familiar with the area, they will just be on different shifts.

3424 and 3434 Jennings Street

During the non-agenda public comment session, Janet Axtater, who lives in the Wooded Area, brought up the project that came before the PCPB in July that was handled so poorly by the board.  (See the story in the OB Rag about that meeting.) Ms. Axtater encouraged the board to hear the project again and to come to an actual decision about it this time.  The project is 3424 and 3434 Jennings Street.  The proposal is to place two narrow homes on the site and the neighborhood strongly objects to it.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Rese r October 4, 2017 at 6:41 am

How incredibly interesting.
Why was AJ’s comment erased!


Frank Gormlie October 4, 2017 at 10:36 am

AJ violated our comment policy.


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