Point Lomans Oppose Plans to Build 78 Units on Bike Track – Part of Original Collier Park

by on April 20, 2018 · 19 comments

in Ocean Beach

Locals Appeal to Peninsula Planners for Help – But Board Had Sent Letter of Support of SDHC in June 2017

Mayor Abandons Effort to Oppose Housing Commission Development on Part of Original Collier Park

The Point Loma parents who are trying to save the bike track next to Cleator Park are being frustrated at every turn, it seems.

Thursday night, April 19th, they took their case for saving the open space and dirt tracks to the Peninsula Community Planning Board – only to find out that then-chair Jon Linney had written a letter of support for the San Diego Housing Commission on behalf of the Board back last June 2017.

The parents also have found out the Mayor’s Office has abandoned their efforts to save the track – with Faulconer opting instead for locating the track to some other (nebulous) site.

Katie Bendixen. Screen capture from CBS8.

On behalf of her own kid and the many other parents and kids who use the pump track, Katie Bendixen appeared before the Peninsula planners and made her appeal for help in saving it. She did this via the public non-agenda comment period, as the issue was not on the agenda.

At some point, Katie was drawn outside for an interview by Channel 8, and during that interview she was shown a letter signed by Linney dated June 15, 2017, in support ostensibly of the SDHC plans. A closer look at the letter – addressed to Councilwoman Lorie Zapf – however, indicates it states many lofty ideas, how the entire board supports affordable housing in the Peninsula, and how the Peninsula fails in attracting affordable rentals.

Peninsula planners meet. Screen capture from CBS8.

And the letter, says, ‘oh, by the way, there’s this real nifty spot for more housing at Famosa Boulevard and Nimitz, and it’s owned by the SD Housing Commission, and wouldn’t it be just a great spot …’

So, whether the letter was requested by the SDHC or not is not known – probably was – the letter makes it seem it’s the planning board that is suggesting the site. (See below for the 2 page letter)

Linney writes:

“… we would like to … reference the specific site bounded by Famosa Boulevard and Nimitz Boulevard …This particular site is currently owned by the SDHC, is currently zoned for multi-family housing development, and would serve as a reasonable location for development of workforce housing. The PCPB encourages this site for this development ….”

At any rate, and understandably, Kate and other parents were frustrated in finding this all out. Plus, in a statement to News 8, the Housing Commission said:

“SDHC is pleased to have the support of the Peninsula Community Planning Board for the creation of affordable housing at this location, as stated in a June 15, 2017, letter from Board Chair Jon Linney.”

On top of that, Anthony George of Mayor Faulconer’s office notified the parents involved the Mayor agreed with the Housing Commission but wants to assist in finding another location for the bike track. No alternative sites were mentioned in the communications.

The fight to save this piece of land has been going on quite some time and is not a recent development. Parents and kids have built the tracks, had them torn up and have re-built them again and again. People have been using the area as open space for decades.

This current row surfaced back in mid-March when parents persuaded a work crew ordered by SDHC to plow the track under to halt. Locals then began delving into issues of land ownership, utility easements, watershed issues, in efforts to demonstrate reasons to save this parcel of open space.

There are a number of issues involved with this bit of land.

And to be clear, the parents and kids are not being NIMBYs and this is not about opposing affordable housing.

As more and more of Point Loma and OB are carved up into housing developments, the issue of open space – or keeping it – is a genuine concern. As more and more of what there is of open space is made into “developed” parks with courts, asphalt, concrete walkways, the less and less open space is available.

What about all that beach and Robb Field and Dusty Rhodes you might say. No where in any of those locations are there sites for bike pump tracks, a particular form of kid exercise, healthy, out-of-the-house physical activity.

The issue is about saving this particular piece of land – that goes back literally over 50 years as an open space available to the neighboring communities.

And it’s not about opposing affordable housing. The parents want more affordable housing for the area – just not at this location.

There are a myriad of problems – the land includes a gully that fills up when it rains; so there are watershed issues and drainage issues.

Plus, significantly, the impact of nearly 80 residential units and their accompanying couple hundred residents would have serious negative consequences on the local community. Issues from creating traffic jams, to blocking evacuation routes, to creating more and more demands of an out-of-date infrastructure abound.

Go look at the site yourself. Get out and purvey the area. Can you imagine 80 units of anything there?

Okay, here’s another point.

The land in question was once part of DC Collier’s land grant to the city of San Diego, expressly “for the children”. (See map.) There’s a long saga of how over the decades, this large block of land was divided up. And in 1981, the City deeded a portion to the San Diego Housing Commission.

But was that legal? Did the City really have the authority to do that? These have to be resolved.

It’s an uphill battle (no pun indented) for the locals who want to preserve this space. Is it worth it? Sure we fight over what’s left of open space? Should we jettison quality of life issues simply for more congestion, even though some of the units of that congestion are affordable? Or could we convince the SDHC to look elsewhere. There’s housing developments a stone’s throw away that were built in the 1970s and need wholesale rehab. Work on that.

Peninsula Community Planning Board letter:

 

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

kh April 20, 2018 at 5:17 pm

SDHC has yet to produce a deed showing ownership of the pump track location, nor can anyone find one recorded with the county.

The current parcel maps on file still show a city right-of-way for Famosa and other streets and alleys that were removed during the rerouting of Famosa Blvd, along with some residential lots.

City council dockets from the 1979-1982 include an action item to deed the remaining lots in this area to SDHC. This was not approved. It was punted for a few years and eventually sent back to the city manager with unknown outcome. The council then voted against vacating the adjacent streets and alleys.

Then in 1987-89, the street and alley vacations came before council again. This time it included a provision to “delete any requirement for low-income housing on the
site.” This was not approved, but punted back to the city manager.

So it’s still unknown who owns the land, and who owns those former streets and alleys where most of the track is, and if there is any requirement for affordable housing that PCPB is pining for.

Lastly, I was unable to locate a development permit or grading permit at all for these parcels. So I have to ask, even if SDHC does own the land, what’s the rush on bulldozing this playground? Can’t it wait?

“When do I need a grading permit?
Per the City’s Land Development Code, a permit is needed:
for homeowners who live on a canyon, and wish to modify the slope.
if grading is being performed as a condition of a development permit.
for any activity that disturbs soil or vegetation in environmentally sensitive land.
for excavation of a hillside with a 25 percent or greater slope, or involves excavation or fill that results in a slope grade of 25 percent or more (4 feet horizontal, 1 foot vertical), and more than 5 feet in depth or height.
for activity that impacts sensitive resources in the coastal zone (see map C-720).
if the grading is within privately owned open space easements or City-owned open space.
for restoring damage caused by illegal grading.
for grading of any non-environmentally sensitive land of 1 acre or more.
for grading that changes the existing drainage pattern.
for fill with more than 5 percent broken concrete, asphalt, masonry or construction debris.
for fill material with any single piece larger than 12 inches in any direction.
for grading on a property with a historical resource.
for geotechnical investigations, well drilling, or agricultural activity on environmentally sensitive lands or on properties with historical resources.
for grading within a 100-year flood plain.”

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kh April 20, 2018 at 5:38 pm

Further, the deed presented by SDHC claiming ownership of this land was for other parcels entirely, and it predates the city council decision on the land where the bike track is located.

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dajohn April 21, 2018 at 8:24 pm

Affordable housing > bike track

This small time junk is part of the reason housing is so crazy expensive in this state

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Christo April 22, 2018 at 8:30 am

Quality of life for current residents > additional housing.

The Point is short on places for kids to play. We need outdoor space to accommodate healthy activities for our kids more than we need additional housing.

Going the the beach is free. Living here is not.

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Tyler April 23, 2018 at 5:39 am

Oh look a selfish NIMBY

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StevenPL April 23, 2018 at 9:53 pm

This is private property. You are all trespassing and are a liability to the city and taxpayers. This is not “Open space.” It is private property. If you owned a plot of land and intended to build on it in 10 years and some neighborhood kids decided to build a clubhouse on it, would you allow them to stay when you were ready to build? Or would you kick them off of YOUR land that they are trespassing on? This is a ridiculous debate. There are plenty of places to play in Point Loma. You have just become comfortable with this. AND, we all know the real reason Ms. Benedixen is fighting so hard – she simply doesn’t want an affordable housing complex next door. Let’s call this what it is … NIMBYism.

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dajohn April 24, 2018 at 6:30 am

there is a public community park with a playground directly across the street from the site in question.

I don’t know what you are implying by saying living here is not free but it sounds rotten and a lot like you need to take a look in the mirror boss

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David L. Dick April 22, 2018 at 12:13 am

At the Peninsula Community Planning Board meeting on Thursday, April 19, I offered to assist Ms. Bendixen with her efforts to investigate ownership and title to the property. I asked her to e-mail me at my personal e-mail address that appears on the PCPB website (www.pcpb.net) and I would work with her. I am a former member of the San Diego Housing Commission and and very familiar with the property and its history. Further, I believe I could help her cut through the “red tape” at the Housing Commission to resolve questions about title. But, so far, I have not heard from her.

But I have since done some of my own investigation since Thursday.

I believe the state of title is clear. The property where the “BMX pump track” is located is owned by the San Diego Housing Authority (not the Housing Commission), which is basically the City of San Diego, acting in its state-mandated role as the provider of affordable housing in the City of San Diego. The San Diego Housing Commission is the governmental agency that implements San Diego Housing Authority policy. The Commission is merely advisory. The Housing Authority (which is comprised of the members of the City Council siting in their capacity as members of the Authority) has all the legal authority.

In 1981, the City of San Diego conveyed all of the property it owned generally south/southeast of Famosa Blvd to the San Diego Housing Authority pursuant to Resolution #R-254954. I’ve seen the Deed. It is posted elsewhere on the OBRag website.

At that time, the site was crisscrossed with “paper streets” (Banning, Yonge, Xenophon, San Clemente Streets and Famosa Boulevard (in a different configuration from today’s version of Famosa Blvd)). It appears that those streets, and a related sewer easement, were vacated in a Tentative Parcel Map dated in 1982 prepared by the engineering firm of Sholders & Sanford. The property abutting those “paper streets” was owned by the Housing Authority. If those public streets were properly vacated as suggested by the map, the land lying beneath those “streets” automatically became part of the adjacent properties. As a result, it appears that the entire site, including the vacated “paper street” is now owned by the San Diego Housing Authority.

I am told the Housing Commission (as the representative of the Housing Authority) has title insurance confirming that the Authority has clear title to the entire property in question.

That site has been slated for the development of affordable housing for many years. I served as a Housing Commissioner for 8 years from 1996 – 2004. That site had been identified as a site for affordable housing even before then. But the site has numerous development challenges, including topography, geology, drainage, street access and proximity to existing neighborhoods who might oppose a project for any number of reasons.

The Housing Commission has on several occasions considered selling the site for private development and use the sales proceeds to acquire or build affordable housing elsewhere. But even private development is considered challenging, ironically in part because affordable housing advocates would oppose the development of market-rate housing on a site available for affordable housing in a community desperately in need of it.

So, inertia being what it is, the site has sat there unimproved and unsecured for years, as it had for many years before that. (I mean, I myself used to ride my own Stingray bike there with my friends when I was a kid. And that was a LONG time ago!)

So there you have it: what I believe to be an accurate history of title to that property up to this day. In short, the property is owned by the City of San Diego and is held in its stock of undeveloped property slated to address the need for affordable housing.

Regarding the “BMX pump track,” as an attorney and taxpayer I can appreciate the City’s concern about the potential legal and financial liability stemming from an unauthorized, unmonitored and unprofessionally designed track that lacks compliance with all sorts of state and federal laws and regulations. As much as I think its great and necessary that kids should have places to play outdoors and away from their electronic devices and other distractions, we (and the City and Housing Commission) also have to be realistic about the litigious world we live in. With the City paying out millions of dollars each year for mildly dangerous sidewalks where people trip and are injured, allowing this sort of “attractive nuisance” on public property is simply asking for trouble and a seven-figure payout of taxpayer money the City can ill-afford.

As a resident of our community, until the future of that site is settled, I would rather see it remain in its current relatively undisturbed condition. I fear, however, that the likely result of continued agitation on this matter without pursuit of credible alternatives to the ad hoc status quo will leave the City with no choice but to fence the entire site.

Let’s all see if we can work together to find an alternative that checks all the boxes of safety, legal compliance and community needs. As a member of the PCPB, I’m willing to help in that effort in any way I can.

David Dick

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kh April 23, 2018 at 11:36 am

David,

How does a “tentative” map from 1982 on the street and alley vacations carry any legal standing, when the city council as late as 1989 still had it on the agenda but did not approve it?http://docs.sandiego.gov/councilminutes/1989/min19890117rg.pdf

And, if the tentative map was ever approved, why the county parcel maps were never updated to reflect it? There’s no evidence that the former parcels of “block 9” immediately southeast of that intersection were ever parceled out after the rerouting of Famosa. Nor does the deed presented include that piece of land where the track is located. It does however cover adjacent parcels in the area.

Also I’m curious how resolution 254954 is relevant, as it addresses landslides in the San Carlos area: http://docs.sandiego.gov/council_reso_ordinance/rao1981/R-254954.pdf

Assuming this is SDHC land was fine and dandy right up until legitimate questions were raised to the contrary. Perhaps its all kosher and the paperwork was just sloppy. Maybe PCPB could help get to to the bottom of this rather than regurgitate assumptions by other parties with a vested interest in the land.

I appreciate your willingness to find an alternative site for the kids. In the meantime, why does the city suddenly care about liability for open park use on this particular parcel amongst all the open park space throughout the city? It’s been in use for years, maybe decades without issue. I see no reason it can’t stay that way until the facts are researched and until there is an actual permit in place for developing it. Or else maybe we should get to work shutting down all the dangerous bike trails in Balboa park while we’re at it. We can let them all become illegal homeless camps instead, since unlike children, they are immune to the rules.

Speaking of which, does anyone have a grading permit to run a bulldozer through there? That sort of unpermitted development is probably within your purview.

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kh April 23, 2018 at 12:21 pm

Here’s the correct resolution, you transposed 2 digits.

http://docs.sandiego.gov/council_reso_ordinance/rao1981/R-254594.pdf

This helps, but the question still remains about the right of way and the corner lot.

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David L. Dick April 23, 2018 at 6:00 pm

Yes, that does help. Thank you. It was hard to read and late at night when I wrote that reply.

The resolution seems to be pretty clear about the City’s intent. Whether all the procedures were followed remains to be seen. At first blush, however, it does appear that some things may have fallen through the cracks. In the final analysis, however, I think its pretty clear that, one way or another, the City controls the entire site. There certainly isn’t any claim of which I’m aware of private ownership.

There are important legal distinctions between dedicated public park land and undeveloped property owned by the City or City agencies, like the Housing Authority. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect those distinctions may extend to the nature of liability for injuries that occur if non-park property is altered by third parties, the City is aware and does nothing and then someone is injured.

Regarding grading permits, I’m not an expert on this, but I’m not sure the City is required to get a permit to grade on its own property if it simply to remove land form modifications made by third parties – particularly if they feel they’re unsafe or create potential legal liability. If there was grading as part of a development activity, they would have to go through an administrative process similar to what a private property owner would to secure a grading permit.

I believe an Information Item will be on next month’s agenda for the Peninsula Community Planning Board (May 17 6:30 PM PL Hervey Library) regarding the property, with representatives of the Housing Commission invited to appear, make a presentation and take questions. I encourage anyone interested in this subject to attend. The meeting agenda will be posted at the library and on the PCPB website (www.pcpb.net) at least 72 hours prior to the meeting.

Finally, I’m not sure what you mean when you say “regurgitate assumptions by other parties with a vested interest in the land.” I don’t know if you were referring to my reply to the article, but I wasn’t “regurgitating” anything. What I was trying to do was to add facts and as much clarity as possible to a situation where facts and clarity seem to be in short supply.

See you in May.

David Dick

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kh April 23, 2018 at 8:19 pm

Thanks for your insight. My criticism was that you didn’t initially respond to the inconsistencies in the deed.

Regardless of whether the paperwork is in order, it’s a shame the city won’t continue to look the other way until development begins. I don’t know why the Housing Authority got a bug up their butt that it needed grading suddenly. It will be awhile before anything could be developed.

So far it appears that neighbors would’ve been better off sneaking back in there or elsewhere to build a track rather than try to bring it to the city’s attention.

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Debbie April 22, 2018 at 8:48 am

Articles such as this one, comments and information provided by the users of the site show what an important role the OBRAG plays in the community. Thank you to Frank and Patty and to all to participate in community issues.

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korla eaquinta April 22, 2018 at 12:25 pm

Thank you David for your report on this property. I would like to clarify one aspect of the PCPB letter. Please note “workforce” housing. The term “affordable” housing strikes fear into residents. As I understand it, “workforce” housing is a term used to describe families who work and make a living. Their children attend local schools and participate in local sports, etc. These families tend to be better neighbors as they take an interest in the community and quality of life therein.
It was discussed in the LRPC that affordable/”workforce” housing should be the term that fulfills our obligations as outlined in the Peninsula Community Plan.

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ZZ April 23, 2018 at 1:18 pm

“And to be clear, the parents and kids are not being NIMBYs and this is not about opposing affordable housing.”

Yes we all support affordable housing, just not on the vacant lot so close to my back yard. It isn’t about property values, it’s about the children!

Here’s a hypo. We build the 78 units in small footprint 20-floor building, leaving room for a bike track. All of Point Loma would support that, right?

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie April 23, 2018 at 2:01 pm

Don’t know if you’re being sarcastic or not. FYI, there’s hundreds of affordable housing units less than a half mile away – but there’s no open space in that distance outside the Famosa Slough, Dusty Rhodes Park and Robb Field. Show me where a bike track can go.

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kh April 23, 2018 at 8:26 pm

I don’t doubt there are some nimbys in the mix. If they try and pretend they have anterior motives as it will likely discredit the cause for the bike track.

There is existing park land and open land in and around dusty Rhodes and Robb field that would be better served for this type of use than what it is now.

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kh April 23, 2018 at 8:26 pm

Please forgive the phone typos.

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retired botanist April 23, 2018 at 1:45 pm

People complain about “administrative paperwork” all the time, but here’s a perfect example of why its so important. It is the record. And kh is correct, a tentative map is exactly that, just tentative. Hundreds are drawn up that never get “realized” or approved. Parcel maps, with assessor parcel #s and the boundary line coordinates, as well as the owner names, are the record….sloppy paperwork can indeed make a big difference.
Moreover, there are lots of “Is and Ts” to be administratively dotted, crossed, and checked before a grading map can be issued, not the least of which is environmental review…that paperwork should definitely be checked before anyone puts a shovel in….which is also to say that the historic (previous), local re-shaping of the area for bike use was also probably unpermitted.
No matter who you are, or which side you’re on, at the end of the day its the paperwork and the record that tell the real story, and who has rights to what and where. :-)

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