Peninsula Planning Board Approves Project Off Famosa Slough

by on January 26, 2018 · 3 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

Two of the projects that came before the Peninsula Community Planning Board, or PCPB, at its regular monthly meeting January 18 at the Pt. Loma Library engendered opposite reactions.  One was very popular, although it had a major flaw, and the other was very unpopular.

Replacing the Dolphin Motel on Rosecrans

The popular project was an attractive new hotel that would replace the Dolphin Motel on Rosecrans, a collection of four old buildings on the corner of Rosecrans and Garrison that will be demolished.  The address are 1453-1463 Rosecrans Street and 2912 and 2930 Garrison Street. Everyone on the board believed this would be a big improvement over what is there now.

The 49,150 square foot hotel will be three stories tall with 92 rooms, about double the number of rooms in the old motel.  There will be underground parking that will be accessed by a lift as part of a valet service, and some surface parking.  The developer stressed how the design is intended to draw people into the hotel that will have a very large inner courtyard, a lounge area, and a nice bar with food.

The renderings of the new hotel pleased everyone but it was apparent that almost anything new would have been welcomed if it replaced what was there now, including a large billboard.

The flaw in the design is that the 30-foot height limit is being measured from the inside of planters the developer is building.  The developer readily admitted it was doing this.  The result will be a building well over 30 feet high.

Although the PCPB has been involved in the 30-foot height issue, not a word was said about measuring in a manner the PCPB has come out publicly against. It seemed the desire to have something new and attractive built at that location was so strong it caused any resolve about adhering to the 30-foot height limit to weaken.  Now an exception to the height limit seems to be available to anyone proposing an attractive improvement.

Letter Requesting City Attorney Opinion on 30 Foot Height Limit

There was an action item on the agenda asking support for a letter to the City Attorney requesting an opinion regarding the Development Services Department, or the DSD, interpretation of Proposition D, the 30-foot height limit.  The DSD has taken the position that a developer may raise the grade on a project and then measure the 30-fot height and has allowed measurement from inside of raised planters as happened on this hotel project.  The letter asks the City Attorney to review the DSD position and Proposition D and provide an independent opinion on the DSD interpretation.

This letter is being taken to all of the beach planning boards; the Pacific Beach Planning Board approved supporting the letter at its meeting on January 24.  The PCPB, however, did nothing.  The only serious objection was that the letter used the name of the DSD director and it seemed to some to be accusatory.  This change could have been done on the spot and a vote taken but no vote was taken to support the letter or even to table the item until next month. Nothing was done. There will be an attempt to get the letter back on the agenda in February setting the effort back another month.

4537 Newport Project

The unpopular project involved a property at 4537 Newport, between Froude and Guizot.  This is a big property that had one large old house on it.  Having crawled all through the old structure, this reporter was surprised it did not qualify as an historical building.  The property sits ten feet or more above the sidewalk on Newport and rises higher to the back of the lot.  It seems the large property is actually five 25-foot wide lots and the owner wants to build five narrow homes on those lots.  The main criticism of the project, that was it was out of character for this neighborhood, lead to its eventual denial by the board.

The Newport project owner provided renderings of the buildings and explained a number of features intended to make the homes attractive and show they were designed with consideration for the neighborhood. But, the owner was unsuccessful and the board voted to deny the project.  This does not mean the project goes away.  Planning boards only provide recommendations to the city on projects they review. A developer can still go forward with the process whether the vote is for or against his or her project, denial by a planning board is not a death knell at all for a development.

2727-2745 Camulos Drive

A third project on the agenda, 2727-2745 Camulos Drive on the edge of the Famosa Slough, was one that had come to a previous board meeting in November 2017 and was described in the OB Rag story.  The account of the November 2017 project presentation is in the OB Rag story.   At the November 2017 meeting,  the Friends of Famosa Slough had a list of concerns they wanted addressed and the developers agreed to look at those items and come back to the board with answers, which was what they did at the January meeting.

The developers ticked off each issue and provided an answer.  Bird strikes were a concern and the developer had hired a bird consultant who concluded bird strikes would not be a major issue. Habitat loss, lighting, noise, native vegetation, public trails, visual impact, and willows were all addressed.

The Friends of Famosa Slough still had objections stating that water filtration and water quality and afternoon shading were not addressed.  They objected because the city has not finished its biological study.  The Friends added that wetlands had not been evaluated and this was something the Coastal Commission wanted done.

Although the Friends of the Famosa Slough argued that it was premature to vote on the project with these things not finished yet, the board approved the project.  The board members appreciated the effort the developer had gone to in addressing questions about the project and felt they had done enough to warrant approval.

For more information about the hotel, the Newport project, or the project on the slough go to http://www.pcpb.net/board.html and find Mark Krencik’s contact information, he is the chair of the Project Review subcommittee.

3328/3340 Harbor View Drive Appeal

Another action item on the agenda was about filing an appeal on a project at 3328/3340 Harbor View Drive.  This had come before the PCPB last year and the board voted to deny the project.  The city approved the project.  The PCPB filed an appeal because the board’s motion to deny the project included an automatic appeal if the project was approved. The deadline for filing the appeal was before the board meeting, so the appeal was in place by the January meeting. It was not clear why it was an action item.  Board member Robert Goldyn wondered if they needed to vote on whether to keep the appeal or retract it.  After discussion, nothing was done on this action item.  The definition of an action item is inherent in the name, action is required. This was the second action item that received no decision from the PCPB.

Dangerous Intersections

There were two action items about dangerous intersections.  The PCPB’s Traffic and Transportation subcommittee submitted a letter describing the intersection of Froude and Voltaire as “one of the most dangerous intersections in the neighborhood and neighbors and residents have witnessed many accidents at this location.” The letter asks the city to put in a flashing crosswalk to cross Voltaire at Froude and “Continental Crosswalks” be placed, which is a new type of striping.

This reporter lives within blocks of the intersection and has used it regularly for 30 years.  The claim about this being a dangerous intersection was surprising.  It was pointed out that pedestrians could safely cross Voltaire at the Ebers Street traffic light and crosswalks one block to the west. While the letter was posted on the PCPB website, there were no attachments supporting it. The PCPB was asked for the documentation it had regarding the reported dangers of the intersection that presumably would be accompanying the letter to the city.  Apparently, there was none.  It was not clear why the PCPB thinks the city would spend money sending a traffic engineer to study an intersection with no substantiation of a problem.

The second action item about dangerous intersections was a letter about five locations that the Traffic and Transportation subcommittee had distilled from polling and a list of sixty unsafe intersections. The subcommittee described polling on the Nextdoor site and on Facebook and receiving hundreds of responses from which the list of 60 intersections was assembled.  They did not explain how the final list of five was derived.  The letter asks the city to analyze these five intersections for improvement.

The letter was on the PCPB website but there were no attachments.  The PCPB was asked for the documentation it was assumed would accompany this letter.  A poll on Nextdoor could not be located.  The Facebook posting by board member Margaret Virissimo, who was also credited with the Nextdoor poll, was not accessible to this reporter.  When asked for documentation of the polls the response was “Both Lori and Conrad did indeed see the polls and read the posts thats [sic] all that matters. I will not be providing further information.” It was also said that the public could see the information on social media but nothing was provided to direct people to that social media. The response did not comport with what would be expected of a community organization, the request for the information was to provide the information to the public.

Once again, it was not clear why the PCPB thinks the city would spend money sending traffic engineers to study these five intersections with nothing more than a letter. It would seem the poll results and the list of 60 intersections would at least be provided.  It also did not appear that the PCPB did research into the accident histories of any of the intersections it described as dangerous.  At this point, it appears the letters are not much more than gestures with little substance.

Draft impact fees

There was a presentation by Facilities Financing on draft impact fee studies.  Facilities Financing first explained what it did and this boiled down to collecting various fees like Development Impact Fees, or DIF, and preparing plans for using the money collected.  The money is used based on the City’s General Plan and then on the Peninsula Community Plan.  Community plans include future wants and desires like parks for example.  The city explained that there are four categories of “qualifying projects,” mobility, parks and recreation, libraries, and fire and rescue, but the money cannot be used for operations and maintenance.

The purpose of the City’s presentation was to explain the schedule for the proposed Impact Fee Study or IFS.  The IFS will contain projects in the Community Plan “or other City policy document” that will be eligible for some of the money. Facilities Planning wants to meet with the PCPB over the next several weeks to decide what projects the Peninsula wants considered. The City’s schedule seemed aggressive with the City Council will voting on the IFS by June.

The IFS could be of interest to the community as this will be how money collected in the Peninsula will be used.  To understand Facilities Financing go to https://www.sandiego.gov/facilitiesfinancing. Another link will take you to the Citizen’s Guide to Infrastructure that the presenter stressed as very helpful at: https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/iba-citizens-guide-to-infrastructure.pdf

Items of interest during the Government Reports part of the meeting were:

  • the 25% to 30% increase in police salaries,
  • progress on the Catalina fire station,
  • work beginning on Sunset Cliffs Park, and
  • a new Airport Part 150 study having to do with airport noise.
  • The Ocean Beach Planning Board Liaison related that OB has sent a letter to the city over the 50% rule.  That rule allows a huge home to be built around the framing of two preserved walls from an existing house and avoid having public review or having to get a Coastal Development permit.  The 50% has been a sore point for years and OB took some action.

 

 

 

Geoff Page
glpage00@gmail.com

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Geoff Page January 26, 2018 at 3:40 pm

For a more in-depth story about the new hotel see Julie Stalmer’s story in the San Diego Reader here: https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2018/jan/26/stringers-wrecking-ball-swing-toward-dolphin-motel/#

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Avatar Geoff Page January 27, 2018 at 12:13 pm

The head of the PCPB’s Traffic and Transportation contacted me to today to say that the official version of the PCPB letter, about how dangerous Froude and Voltaire is, does not contain the word “accidents.” As of today, the version on the PCPB website still has that word in it. In the interest of fairness, I planned to copy the new letter below but it was sent to me as a .pdf and I don’t have the conversion software on this computer.

I think after reading the official version, a person might notice that without the word “accidents,” and with no other back up documentation, the letter is just expressing an opinion and nothing more.

The letter says people crossing Voltaire can’t see cars coming down Voltaire “due to a blind corner.” There is no description which corner and no drawings went with the letter. They are probably referring to someone trying to cross from the northwest corner of Froude and Voltaire to the southwest corner of Froude and Voltaire. Why anyone would try to cross there is beyond me. From the north side of Voltaire, you can’t see up Voltaire to the east.

There are two easy common sense solutions. A block to the west is a traffic light at Ebers with a crosswalk. Or, if you cross Froude west to east on the north side of Voltaire and walk a few feet, you can then see four long blocks up the hill. From the crest of the hill to the east, Voltaire is a straight to the east side of Froude Street, cars are very visible.

The letter on the PCPB website asks the city to install crosswalks but the letter I was sent changed that as well. The city does not install crosswalks mid-block or at uncontrolled intersections.

At some point, I assume the PCPB will post the revised version of the letter on its website at pcpb.net and anyone interested can see the text there.

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Avatar Doug Blackwood January 30, 2018 at 11:37 am

All over OB people speeding, & rolling through STOP signs is the real safety issue in our community!

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