A Pictorial of Project Progress in Ocean Beach

by on April 19, 2018 · 18 comments

in Ocean Beach

There’s a host of construction projects going on all around Ocean Beach these days. Here’s a pictorial tour of recent “progress” on these construction projects in OB.

Froude Street – Just Outside OB

Here are shots of the 2-unit, 2-story project on Froude Street, a half-width of a street outside Ocean Beach. The project involves the construction of two new 1, 814 square-foot homes each over a 1,073 square-foot basement/two car garage on two legal lots.There was a bit of controversy with this project at 2257 Froude Street, starting with this, from a post of October 2017:

The east side of Froude in that area is not within the jurisdiction of the Ocean Beach Planning Board and Community Plan, but within the jurisdiction of the Peninsula Community Planning Board and plan. The Peninsula plan has less stringent requirements – especially in terms of the floor-area-ratio (FAR) – than the OB Plan.

There is a line down the middle of the street – one side is “OB” and the other side is “Point Loma”. This is a technicality as it is where city planners and Ocean Beach planning activists drew the border between the two community planning areas back in the mid-1970s.

In reality, this area is definitely Ocean Beach. It was part of the very first street division drawn up for the OB area in 1885, part of the “DePuy Sub-Division” which covered what is now north-east Ocean Beach. If one looks at the area’s precinct maps, you’ll see the titles of “Ocean Beach” on them.

The style, height and bulk and scale probably would not fit into the OB Community Plan. So, fortunately for the owners and developers, it’s on the Peninsula side. Yet the Peninsula Community Planning Board voted 9 to 1 against the project in January. In February, the DSD staff approved it despite the local board’s opposition. …

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There are plenty of other complaints and problems with the project. Locals Tom and Judy Parry wrote an excellent critique.

Upper Voltaire in Full Swing

The so-called Upper Voltaire has made significant progress. This project also has its own controversies.

Designed to bring in “quality townhome residences”, the units will include 2 or 3 bedrooms with an average of 1,450 square feet. 17 of them will be 3-stories and eleven are 2-stories that will rest over retail storefronts. All the planned units will have a deck, and some will have two, plus garage spaces.

The project will include 6 buildings, with 3 of them having street-level retail spaces along Voltaire Street. Parking for commercial customers is a separate, at-grade parking lot behind the stores. The mixed use project has been delayed for numerous reasons, and was originally scheduled for grading, shoring and off-site improvement work during the summer of 2012.

Here’s how we described it in an earlier post:

Upper Voltaire Project Will Add to Traffic Congestion

It looks like local residents – some of whom remain very critical of this project  – will need to anticipate increased traffic in that entire area, due in part to this new project. The project is within the purvey of the Peninsula Community Planning Board.

Former Board member Geoff Page had this to say about the Upper Voltaire project (in comments to our April 2015 post):

The project web site actually said that the project was “In full conformance with zoning and all goals of the Peninsula Community Plan. I will say that the Peninsula Community Planning Board did not agree.

This project was appealed at each level and none of the appeals were successful. This overly dense project will dump most of the traffic onto dead end Whittier St. with the only exit being Famosa Blvd between Voltaire and Nimitz. We showed the city that the Level of Service (LOS) for Famosa was the lowest possible grade; the street was way beyond capacity. This fell on deaf ears. Traffic will also come in and out of Voltaire just east of Catalina, another street with a very low LOS rating. Also fell on deaf ears.

I spent several days taking pictures of backed up traffic on Voltaire, Catalina, and Famosa and presented this in a Power Point presentation to the city to no avail. … We pointed out that there were several developments planned for these same blocks, another only slightly smaller one was approved across the street from this one. We asked the city to do a comprehensive traffic study to take in all the proposed projects. Nothing.

But, the developer, Mike Stevens, said he was putting in bike racks and everyone thought that was just swell. Brace yourselves everyone who uses this intersection, it’s going to get a lot worse.

Another commenter back in April 2015 had this to say about the traffic:

This is going to be a disaster for the neighborhood. The only street access will be through two of the most congested streets in the neighborhood: Famosa at Whittier and Voltaire at San Clemente. I cannot imagine any changes to these streets to ease access to these units that would not make the congestion even worse.

Whittier has a stop sign at Famosa/Catalina. That stretch of Famosa and Catalina between Nimitz and Voltaire is a main access road in and out of Point Loma for residents and commuters. Traffic already backs up from the light at Voltaire and down the exit ramp from Nimitz. Drivers turning left from Whittier Street have the lowest right-of-way at that intersection.

There is currently a center island on Voltaire at the proposed driveway location, so the driveway could only be entered from or exited to westbound Voltaire. If that island were to be removed, good luck turning left at rush hour. During the afternoon rush hour, traffic on westbound Voltaire backs up through the light at Wabaska and across the bridge over Nimitz. The light at Wabaska turns green and there is no place to go. That is partly because Voltaire narrows down from two lanes to one approaching Catalina. It is also because there are just too many cars and not enough road to handle them. …

It seems like developers are hell bent on turning Voltaire Street into a narrow canyon with 30 foot vertical walls on both sides, and traffic at a standstill. In keeping with tradition, our city government gives its rubber stamp to the whims of developers, regardless of the effects on the community.

Electricity Station “Pretty-fied”

Construction of walls and a landscape at the Point Loma power station right off Wabaska has also made progress. It’s the Point Loma Substation Rebuild Project. Estimated completion date: June 2018.

View from the alley – not part of the beautification program?

 5109-11 Brighton Ave. Project
 

Two 2-story single family units are being built at 5109 – 5109 Brighton Avenue project. The buildings’ elevations are supposed to be several feet below the 30-foot height limit.

The original plans as presented to the OB Planning Board call for a subterranean garage to be built only several feet below the street level (the lots have a slight elevation from the street). And the 2 stories would be above them.On September 7, 2016 the project was presented to the OBPB and after some discussion was approved by a Board vote of 7 to 3 in favor.

Two cottages were demolished for the new houses. Here’s our report from Sept 9, 2016 post on that OBPB meeting of Sept 7, 2016:

Front cottage at 5109-11 Brighton Ave.

By building the garage underground – or in this case, slightly underground, the builder is able to calculate that stubborn FAR (floor area ratio) without having to use the square footage of the garage – which allows a smaller FAR. So, in this case, with the garages underground, the FAR is below 0.70 – OB’s main number – and with the garages included, the FAR is over 0.8.

[OBPB Chair] Ambert took up the issue and asked Carmichael why was the garage so low if the roofline was below 30 feet high. Her answer was that that made a better “interaction” with the street and pedestrians, etc. Ambert didn’t accept this and made his own point about builders getting around the FAR by installing subterranean garages.

Rear cottage

Chris F., the owner, was present in the audience, and he added that the project “has support from neighbors”, and in fact, he’d gotten a couple there to support his project. One of the issues was whether the garages would flood – as the owner had only possessed the units for a one and half years – and [Board member] Craig Klein kept reiterating the flooding history of coastal OB. But the couple brought to the meeting by the owner insisted that they’ve lived on that block for 30 years and that block never floods – as it is on a slight rise.

There was some discussion whether the old units would qualify for OB’s Historic Cottage Program. They’re quite run down, everyone claimed. Tom Gawronski, veteran Board member, who always speaks his mind, said:

“Somebody made the property bad,” and later added, “I think these cottages are recoverable.”

Chris, the owner, pledged to the Board the new units “won’t be vacation rentals”, that he plans to sell them when completed. He had built 4 units across the street years ago, and claimed to have “built dozens” of units.

Ambert added: “In my personal opinion, the units don’t align with that block, and are out of scale based on that block.”

Most of the rest of the Board liked the design, with Jane Gawronski calling them “the cottages of the 21st century.” A couple Board members complained that the units would be out of reach for them, and they’re watching OB change into a community that they can not afford, even though they were born and raised in the community.  There was more discussion, but by the end, the Board voted 7 to 3 in favor of the project. Ambert, Tom G, and Marissa Spata voted against.

5040 Santa Monica Ave.

This project at 5040 Santa Monica Saratoga Ave. includes the construction of a 2-story commercial unit in front and 4 residential units behind and above the front unit. It was approved by the Ocean Beach Planning Board over 2 and a half years ago, by a vote of 7 to 2 on July 1, 2015. And according to local OB historian, Kathy Blavatt, the site was the last sand dune in Ocean Beach.

The OBPB Project Review subcommittee approved it on June 17, 2015. Here’s the OB Rag’s description of the project and our report from June 17,:

Commercial and Residential for Santa Monica – the “Last Sand Dune in OB”

The project proposed for 5040 Santa Monica was a scaled-down version of a development that had been approved back in 2006 but never constructed. … The site has been dormant for around 10 years. The lot supposedly contains “the last sand dune in OB”.

The new design includes one 2-story commercial unit in front and 4 residential units behind and above it. As that block of Santa Monica is zoned as a mix of commercial and residential, it was incumbent on the developer to install some commercial. The commercial parking – as is all the parking – is in the back and off the alley. Twelve parking spaces are planned. The residential units will be eventually turned into condos, the owner said.

There were some questions whether an upstairs deck hung over the required set-back, and it was noted that from the street level to the very top of the development was close to 40 feet, but the 30 foot height limit is not measured from the very bottom of the project. Also, Board members bemoaned the “industrial” look, the very linear and heavy on the glass appearance of the units, and lack of fitting into the community’s character. “This is transforming,” one member said, and complained that “the character of the community is starting to deteriorate.”

Another said “the facade has very vertical lines, no sloped lines, all flat roofs, and doesn’t necessarily jive with the Community Plan ….”

One of the architects stated that this building is the very first “purposely-designed” building to take energy storage into its design. “It will be highly visible nationally”, he said. Another stated that every one of the units has a view of the pier and ocean.

After all discussion, the Project Review Committee voted 6 to 2 to recommend approval to the full Board. And on full Board approved the project on July 1, 2015, 7 to 2 at their July 1, 2015 meeting :

Ebers and Del Mar

There’s a new project at the northwest corner of Del Mar and Ebers Street. Initially there was some concern by neighbors the contractor was hauling in new dirt in order to raise the grade. Victor Lund, the general contractor, assured the OB Rag that he was not;  he’ll “re-establish the grade”. He’s building 2 houses, 2 garages and the project will have 2 driveways – one off the alley and another with a curb cut off Ebers a little north of the current one. There will be a small slope to the driveway, he said.

I did press him on the issue, and told him of people’s concerns. He said, “it will be the same grade as the sidewalks,” and there will “no change in the grade” from the one existing previously.

Well, that’s it for now. Stay tuned; attend an OB Planning Board meeting.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

triggerfinger April 19, 2018 at 3:39 pm

The floor joists of the original home where about equal to the eave height of the downhill neighbor. And the ground level was about 3 ft below that.

It appears to me the contractor raised both the grade and the retaining wall height on the southwest corner of the property. But if the home ends up less than 27′ tall there so be it.

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Paul Webb April 20, 2018 at 9:11 am

With regard to the Upper Voltaire project, my recollection is that the city required the removal of the raised median as a traffic mitigation measure. How this counts as mitigation I will never understand. Geoff Page’s assessment of the traffic and the apparent City desire to turn Voltaire into something resembling a street in New York are spot on!

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Paul Webb April 20, 2018 at 9:15 am

Also, with regard to the Ebers Street project, this project is, sadly, consistent with the Peninsula Community Plan. The Peninsula Planning Board has been begging the City to update the community plan for years, to no avail. It is difficult to review a project that is as out of character with its surroundings as this project is, knowing that it meets the requirements of the plan. The Peninsula community needs a reduced FAR that the OB plan has.

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OBKid April 20, 2018 at 1:34 pm

UNBELIEVABLE – would the planning boards let people live for jeebus sake?? We need housing, period. whatever shape or form, we need it. Family, multi-use, single story, multi-level – whatever it is, it is needed. This is why the city overrules OB and Peninsula Planning – y’all have lost your minds. Families and people need places to live.

Now, my one bone is with the Brighton Townhomes (look to be beautiful, cool $1.4 million) but they are advertised as a perfect STVR location. This drives me through the roof – wish the planning board would tackle that issue – STVRs are going to ruin OB faster than any FAR limits.

Every block is filled with STVRs, not many residential rentals, yet every new project is attempted to be blocked by the OB planning board. This Kid is sick of it.

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Geoff Page April 20, 2018 at 2:52 pm

OBKid, Yes housing is needed but why does it have to be here in the beach community? This area is the most desirous to live in compared to almost anywhere in the country so why do we have to agree to ruin it with density? Just because we need housing in San Diego and California in general doesn’t mean it can and should be everywhere. San Diego is a very large city geographically, there are plenty of places to do this other than here at the beach. The planning boards are trying to preserve the quality of life here, that is their job. They face off with developers who just want to make money and could care less about the quality of life for those of us who live here. The idea of affordable housing in this area is laughable without huge subsidies from somewhere, the land is worth a fortune, any piece of land, and that will always work against that idea here. The Peninsula is easily accessible from many parts of the city in very little time and it is a desirable place to visit. But, it won’t be if turn it into a teeming anthill. Some things are worth protecting and is not something the young often can appreciate. But, someday. some of you may feel very grateful that others worked hard to preserve this jewel in San Diego. Your immediate needs do not trump all of the future.

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OBKID April 20, 2018 at 4:02 pm

Housing is an issue across all of the city of San Diego. Agreed.

Density? There are literally 20-50 empty/unused housing in OB. 100s of STVRs that are essentially hotels/motels. what would adding these townhomes do to that? make life better perhaps? STVRs are the problem, not new housing.

Quality of Life? OB used to be a place where a young family could afford a nice life, now its being ruined by protectionst planners who’s only concern is keeping the property values up (your own property values I might add) by excluding anyone else.

“Teeming Anthill” – where is that anywhere in San Diego? Let alone OB?

Affordable housing? Just ten years ago you could buy a small OB bungalow for 300-400k…now 900k+. 20 years ago 100-200k…remember when people thought OB was scary? haha but let’s be honest, many of the homes and residences in OB could use a facelift, or new development.

Young? don’t give me that old man lecture shite – I’m in my late 30s – OB native and absolutely disgusted by the current housing situation (on all sides) and sick of the protectionist attitude of the planners – what housing would you all like to see here? or should we just sit back and watch OB turn into STVRs and rich people?

Last question, how many Air bnb’s do you run??

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Geoff Page April 20, 2018 at 4:30 pm

Well first, if you are in your late 30s, maybe you should not be calling yourself the OBKid.

No argument about the STVRs, I agree.

Believe it or not, many of us are not trying to keep property values up, we are just trying to maintain a quality of life we have come to enjoy. That doesn’t translate as excluding anyone. I’ve lived in the Peninsula for 38 years. I own a very small Craftsman cottage and nothing else, no Airbnb’s.

Yes, OB used to be a cheap place, but I realized long ago it would not last because of its beautiful views and proximity to downtown. The planes were the one thing that held it back and that has improved drastically since I first arrived. If I had more sense, I would have tried to buy more property but I never wanted to be a landlord.

What has happened here was inevitable. The land is just too valuable now.
What would I like to see here? What’s here now and some sensible development where it works. I would like to see STVRs gone, they are against the law anyway.
Homes for rich people? You’d be surprised how many people who live here are not rich, I’m certainly not. I could not afford my house today but I could in 1987, that was 31 years ago, things have changed. The solution to the housing crisis is not in the Peninsula.

Teeming anthill. It is happening. The city has made it much easier to build companion units and guest quarters and to rent them out. This is their one solution to affordable housing and it is transforming all the single family neighborhoods into multi-family without re-zoning. And, the rents on those places are hardly affordable.

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OBKid April 20, 2018 at 4:38 pm

Well said, thanks for the conversation.

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retired botanist April 20, 2018 at 4:17 pm

In addition to which, OBKid, these new projects- in which the developer says “No, I only plan to build and sell” all look and feel so very much like the ideal STVR purchase! Since the City’s Development Services is so incredibly inadequate in reviewing projects that conform to the OB community’s Plan and interests, and so seemingly ignorant of the rampart coastal development precisely for future STVRs, the Planning Board is the only conduit at the moment for stemming the incoming tide of STVRs that you so vehemently oppose. So, housing yes! STVRs no! But in the absence of a Planning Board, which I might add IMO needs a few more teeth, you might as well roll over on the STVR issue.
EVERYONE is sick to death of having to try and nail down every inch of property going to vacation rentals, and fed up with the City’s lack of action…have you got a good alternative idea to Planning Board review?

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OBKid April 20, 2018 at 4:42 pm

The planning board should work on solutions to eliminate non-owner occupied Airbnb homes/developments without just blocking everything. The city’s inaction has been horrendous .

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Geoff Page April 24, 2018 at 9:49 am

The OB and the Peninsula planning boards are actively working on this problem. But, it is also important that people everywhere affected by the STVRs keep bombarding the city with complaints. The planning boards need that support.

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kh April 21, 2018 at 1:33 pm

Bulldozing old cottages to replace them with monstrosities with roof decks does not create more housing and does not reduce anyone’s cost of living.

It displaces long term renters and drives up prices.

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RB April 21, 2018 at 4:35 pm

Many if not most lots in OB/PL are worth $800,000.
One renter in a cottages (or in a tent) cannot afford to service the loan on the property.
Between the loan at 5% or $40,000 per year and the property taxes, the cost of the property along is about $4,000 per month. One cottage on a lot in OB makes no economic sense. While renting a cottage for $800- $1,000 per month might seem fair to the renter, the rents paid must cover not just the cottage but the ever increasing land value and taxes.

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Geoff Page April 24, 2018 at 9:51 am

Very true, RB. But, my problem is with long term owners who do not have a large mortgage or who inherited paid off homes. These owners could still make a good income at reasonable rental rates but they are not doing that, they are going for the market rate and making a ton of money. Yes, that is their right, I agree, it’s the morality of it that I can’t stand.

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kh April 24, 2018 at 10:05 am

If the property is sold, yes I get that reassessment and appreciation is unavoidable. My property taxes increased to 10x what the original owner was paying. That added $800/mo in costs alone.

Appreciation though is in part driven by income potential. Creating more income potential by loose restrictions and loopholes on height limits and FAR and companion units and not enforcing vacation rentals drives up prices and cancels out any benefit the additional housing supply might add otherwise.

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Scott April 21, 2018 at 4:18 pm

While Chris F. the owner of the Brighton Ave. project apparently “pledged” to the board that his new project won’t be STVR but his website selling the projects certainly tells a different story. Check out the link from their advertising site practically begging someone to pay him a bunch of money to turn them into STVR:
http://www.brightonob.com/anticipated-rental-income/

He says he’s built dozens of projects, now the board knows he’s a liar who doesn’t care for the community, hopefully this history will be useful next time he tries to scam through another project.

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retired botanist April 21, 2018 at 4:36 pm

yep, thanks Scott, I rest my case. :(

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ZZ April 26, 2018 at 12:38 am

The 5109 Brighton Ave project involves two double-garage curb cuts, where right now on Google Street View I see only one single-wide cut. The number of parking spaces on the street in front of the two houses will go down from 2 or 3 to 0, as the space between the two curb cuts looks too small to fit even a car except maybe a SmartCar with no back seat.

My understanding is the city has a rule that it would not add new curb cuts. I think the city should in limited circumstances waive this rule, but it should get something major in return. Otherwise, it is privatization and giveaway of publicly owned property. Is the developer paying the city money to offset the removal of 2 or 3 street parking spaces? All six of the small lot cottages to the west of the project also have no curb cuts, like one of the two that were demolished. If the city is going to give double-size curb cuts to every house on the street that doesn’t have, there will be zero parking spaces left on the street in that area the lots are so narrow.

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