Interview With Gio Ingolia Over Ocean Beach Plan, Mission Bay Park Committee, Land Grabs and Future of the Bay

by on May 21, 2018 · 5 comments

in Ocean Beach

Gio Ingolia at City Council

Editordude Note: The following is an interview with our friend, OBcean Gio Ingolia, who sits on the powerful Mission Bay Park Committee, via email.

Question: Gio –I know you’ve been involved in Ocean Beach for many years as a community volunteer, on the OB Planning Board and the OB Town Council. Can you give a brief history of some of the roles you’ve taken on, things you’ve done, positions you’ve occupied?

Answer: I served on the Ocean Beach Planning board for 8 years. This included 4 years as vice chair, and the chair for 2 years.  I chaired the sub-committee for the Brighton Ave Comfort Station and co-chaired (2 yrs.) the Ocean Beach Community Plan Sub-Committee, along with Mindy Pelissier.

Currently I sit on the Ocean Beach Town Council.  OBTC is 50 yrs. old this year and I am going on my 8th year as one of the Board of Directors. I have served as Vice President for 2 of those years.  As for my work on the town council I’ve been involved with co-chairing our auction and craft fair and had some involvement in other events the Town Council holds ever year.

Weren’t you involved in getting the OB Community Plan updated? What was that like? What memory of that experience stands out to you?

I was on the OB Community Plan update Sub-Committee for 10 years, serving the last 2 years as its co-chair.  This will go down as one of my greatest experiences in civic engagement.

We were having issues with the San Diego Development Services Dept. They were allowing developers to come into our community and build homes that were larger in bulk and scale, than what was allowed under our current zoning code(s) and community plan.

We worked with the city to develop language in the update to put an end to this practice.  We had been battling this issue for years with the San Diego Planning Commission. Once the update went to the Planning Commission they voted to remove this language.

I remember feeling frustrated, thinking why do we have these codes in the first place if the Commission is going to ignore the law.  I was also doubting myself, and asking the question, is this what the community really wanted?  After all, only 5 on our side would show up to the hearings and 5 individuals on their side.

What the Planning Commission did was wake up a sleeping giant.

We went on offense going to community events like the farmers market, community groups and explained what had happened.  We asked the community for their thoughts and if they would sign our petition.  It turned into a full campaign.  We were all over the news, and social media.

Our language in the plan stated the community wanted smaller homes.  We got over five thousand signatures on the petition, and the support of all the community groups.

Victory day for the OB Community Plan at City Council; here at the post celebration, L to R, then Town Council President Gretchen Newsom, Gio, and Mindy Pellesier. Photo by Frank Gormlie

The day it went to the City Council was incredible. The community really came together and rallied.  The council chambers were filled with everyone wearing blues shirts (Keep the O’Bcean Attitude).

I was very proud of the community I had chosen as my home and seeing them mobilize in support of what we all had worked on.  The City Council was unanimous and put the important language back into the community plan to ensure we will keep our small home community character in place.  It was an incredible day.

How long have you lived in OB? Where did you grow up? You were raised back east in Detroit?

I’ve lived in Ocean Beach since December of 2002.  I grew up in a rural area outside of Peoria, Illinois, halfway between Chicago and St Louis.  I have a younger sister name Mia who now lives in the Bay Area and my parents (Pietro & Joan) are moving to San Diego this fall.  I graduated from Pekin High (Pekin IL) and have a degree in Geography/Urban Planning form Illinois State.

You’re a small businessman, right? What is your business? How long have you been at it? Do you have a business partner? What’s your forte?

I currently am the co-owner of All American Carpet Cleaning along with Marin Green (OBTC Board of Director).  I also sell Health and Life insurance and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) freelancing.  I’ve always had a fascination with mapping and the art, science, and technology that goes into the process.

Now, I know you’re also on the Mission Bay Park Committee, right? When did you get on it? How did that happen? How long have you been on it? What’s your position or role, if any?

I was first appointed February 11, 2014 and am now going on my 3rd 2-year term.  John Ly from then Council Member Kevin Faulconer office attended one of the OB Planning Board Meetings.  He mentioned that there was an opening on the Mission Bay Park Board and asked if anyone was interested in being appointed to the board.  I’ve always loved parks and open space especially when it comes to biking and hiking, so I stepped forward to be nominated.  It was a long application process including a background check.  I passed all the hurdles and was appointed.

Could you explain what the Committee does?

There are essentially 2 committees, the Mission Bay Park Committee and the Mission Bay Park Improvement Fund Oversite Committee.  These two committees oversee a myriad of items from events such as a 5K run, to infrastructure projects, and any construction projects/developments that happen in the park.

Does it have a budget, or does it have oversight over the Mission Bay budget?

The Mission Bay Park Improvement Fund Oversite Committee oversees the budget, which is over $20 million dollars a year.  These funds are used to make improvements to the park.  The projects are prioritized with the dredging of the bay and eel grass being the number one priority.

Recently, the Park Committee has been involved in a couple of controversies, right? There’s the whole deal with the decision to move ahead with development of Mission Bay’s northeast corner? Could you describe that and where you stand on the San Diego Audubon Society’s proposals for more wetlands? What about some of the proposed commercial development? Do you have a position on the golf course?

At the December 2017 meeting the city came to the Mission Bay Park Committee with a request to move forward with the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the plan that De Anza Subcommittee had come up with for re-development.  This sub-committee involves a myriad of stakeholders from the community, including members of Re-wild Mission Bay, members of Mission Bay Park Committee, and residents of the community.

At the meeting Re-Wild Mission Bay had asked that before the city proceeds with the EIR that they be allowed to finish their environmental study.  The board was deadlocked 4 members voting to move along with the EIR and 4 members including me wanting to wait for the study.  The city said since we were deadlocked, they would move forward with the EIR based on the recommendation of the sub-committee.

I was concerned that the city was moving along at a rate that wouldn’t let these studies be considered while working on their EIR.  Unlike the city, Re-wild is doing a study that includes both De Anza and the area west of it (Campland On The Bay).

As a side note the current location of Campland is planned to be an expansion of Kendall Frost Reserve under the current Mission Bay Master Plan.  This study I feel would be more comprehensive since it includes that site.  So, I went with a compromise on a new motion that stated the following:

“A motion was made by Walter and seconded by Ingolia to move forward with alternative two (2) as the basis of the EIR analysis and incorporating ReWild and all current studies in process to ensure a comprehensive review is conducted for feasibility. The motion carried. (5-3-0)”

The reason I went with the new motion was to ensure that the Re-Wild environmental report would be taken into consideration. I want all the information out there as it relates to the environmental/financial impact of this project.

The commercial uses on the site would include an area set aside for Camping/RV’s, a golf course and a restaurant.  As it relates to the golf course I would like to read all the final studies before I take a position.

What’s going to happen do you think?

What I am hoping for is that we get a good mix that ensures expanded wetlands that protect the area from sea level rise, a camping/RV site that ensures affordable lodging for visitors/families to San Diego, expanded access and use of this area for all residents and visitors. I hope the final plan is one that excites people.  I personally feel like the current proposed plan falls a little short of this goal.

And the other controversy is over the Evans Resort effort to take over land in Mission Bay right next to the resort’s present site. It will double the number of rooms at the resort and remove public parking.  Could you describe what happened on the committee over the decision to approve this?

That night the room was filled to watch Bill Evans give the presentation on his project.  He highlighted every part of the Mission Bay Master Plan that the project complied with.  The audience had a very different view from Bill Evans and the City.  The one part that Mr. Evans did not highlight in the master plan stated the following:

Access needs for small water craft users and the use of traditional picnic areas along the eastern shoreline shall be preserved as part of the specific redevelopment plan. (pg. 46)

His plan calls for the elimination of Gleason Road which would absolutely remove “access needs for small water craft.”  He failed to meet all the requirements of the Masterplan and that’s why I voted against his plan.  As it stands now his plan has received the approval from the Mission Bay Park committee and San Diego Park Committee and I am the only member from either board who has voted against it.  The San Diego City Council does have the final say.

Is this a land grab by Bill Evans of public land? More private encroachment of public land?

I absolutely believe it is a land grab.  He says he is giving more access to the area by putting in a “bike path” all the way around Bahia Point and additional parking spaces.  The additional “Public” parking is being moved the front of the hotel lobby farther away from access areas for kayakers, paddle boarders and other small water craft.  The plan should include both the expansion of the bike path around Bahia Point and keeping Gleason Rd along the eastern shore.

What’s the deal with Evans’ claim the expansion of his Resort is authorized by the Mission Bay General Plan (or whatever it’s called)?

The Mission Bay Master Plan does authorize him to expand, that is true, but he still needs to follow all the guidelines for the expansion as stated in the plan.  One doesn’t just get to pick and choose which one’s they should follow.

Can you describe and identify some of the leadership and members of the committee who are influential? (It’s very difficult finding this information on the city’s website.)

The board’s current makeup is 10 members, 3 individuals from Council District 2, 3 individuals from Council District 6, 2 individuals that represent the lessees, and 2 members at large.  There is currently a vacancy for the 3rd member at large.  Paul Robinson is the chair of the board and Stacy McKenzie (District Manager with the City of San Diego) sets our agenda and drafts our minutes

Here is the link to our agenda and minutes. This link provides the names of our members on the agenda.

What do you think on the direction of the Park Committee?

I do feel that the board is going in the proper direction even with some of our controversial issues.  I feel everyone involved in the De Anza project has the best interest of the park.  We need to ensure it gets that extra boost of vision the final plan really deserves.  We also have a priority list of projects for the park, and the members of the board are engaged to see them completed on time, and on budget.  At our last meeting we were informed that the dredging/eel grass project is not only on time it is also under budget which isn’t that common.

What’s your opinion of the state of Mission Bay and its future?

Mission Bay Park along with Balboa Park are San Diego’s crown jewels as it relates to our park systems.  According to the city staff, Mission Bay is the largest aquatic park in the US and a part of the 3rd largest park system, in terms of acreage, in the US.   It also generates a surplus of revenue from its leases.  A percentage is used for upgrades of other regional parks.  The fact it’s doing great financially will benefit other areas of the city that are not.  Overall, I think the future looks greats as the park meets its target dates for additional upgrades of tot-lots, comfort stations and upgraded/additional bike paths.

Changing direction, have you or the Committee been monitoring water quality in the Bay, especially in the east bay? It’s notorious for being the worst of the Bay. Do you receive any water quality reports from the city?

We haven’t received regular reports on water quality in the bay.  I know there are issues in the Rose Creek area and environmental studies are underway with Re-Wild and the City of San Diego as it relates to De Anza.  This absolutely needs to be addressed and steps taken to improve the water quality.

Do you think SeaWorld will get their hotel?

I feel like when SeaWorld sees the market is ripe for it they will absolutely end up building it.  How long this will take I don’t know.

What do you think of the planned development of Fiesta Island?

They are doing a redesign of part of the Fiesta Island master plan.  This includes the dog park area and changing up the traffic flow.  I like how they are adding additional wetlands on the north side of the park and revisiting keeping the dog park area as it currently is.  I’m looking forward to getting thoughts from the community.

Anything else you’d tell our readers about Mission Bay or Ocean Beach?

Get involved, make your voice heard, attend public meetings.  If desired, try to get elected or appointed to boards within the community or the city.  It frustrates me when I hear about the Planning Board having vacancies. Currently there are vacancies on this board.    Remember most of these boards only require you to be a 30-day resident or home-owner.  You don’t need a background in a specific field to get on a specific board.  The more engaged the community, the stronger the community.  So just remember get involved!

Okay, that’s it mi amigo, thank you.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

editordude May 22, 2018 at 12:23 pm

Dear reader: what do you think about this style of interview – Q & A via email? Please give us some feedback.


obecian May 26, 2018 at 11:54 am

It works, but you’re not getting Gio’s best feature, his Laugh, in an email interview! That guy is epic on so many different levels.


Jon Carr May 24, 2018 at 8:00 am

I really liked this Frank. Perhaps I’m biased since Gio is a friend and someone I’ve been fortunate to work closely with over the years. But I appreciate hearing directly from locals who are making waves in the community. Interviews are tough to write. As you recall back in my more prolific writing days I attempted a few (Stephanie from Surfrider, and the Winstons Comedy gang). It was no easy task to get the conversational nature of the interview translated for a reader to enjoy without coming across disjointed.


Frank Gormlie May 24, 2018 at 11:12 am

Gracias, mi amigo. I also heard from one of your cohorts on the town council that she liked it as well. Feedback is important.


Scapegoat May 29, 2018 at 10:12 pm

Gio was the only MB advisory member at the Bahia/Evans hotel mtg to have the current concerns of citizens guide his questions and vote. thank you sir.


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