Jim Bell’s House on Voltaire Street in Ocean Beach Is Up for Sale

by on May 16, 2018 · 7 comments

in Ocean Beach

Twenty years ago, Jim Bell – OB’s well-known ecology consultant – bought an old building on Voltaire Street in Ocean Beach, which once housed a variety of businesses over the years, including Seedless, one of the incarnations of Hodads and Effie’s Cafe. And for 2 decades Bell rented out the numerous interior rooms while he worked out of his office, “the cave”, deep inside the building.

Both lots combined would make a 10,000 square lot.

Now the property is up for sale. Jim Bell’s daughter Heather, who lives in Seattle, confirmed to this reporter she is trying to sell it. The lot is 50 by 100 feet. This turn in events is all due to Jim’s failing health – he’s now bedridden in a local Point Loma senior assisted living facility, and his well-being is dependent on the sale.

All the tenants in the 5-bedroom building have been evicted. Soil samples were collected about a month ago both on Jim’s property and the Dover Plumbing property next door; there’s a rumor that a potential buyer may wish to purchase both lots. Dover has been for sale for a while and the long-time OB business is down to one guy, and also sits on a 5,000 square foot lot.

Colleen Dietzel who helps run the Green Center right across Voltaire from Bell’s building, has known Jim for decades and is very concerned about his health and the future of the building.

Colleen Dietzel outside Jim’s building.

Colleen told this reporter she spoke with Heather, Bell’s daughter, who agreed Kip Kruegar, one of Bell’s tenants, ought to remain as a sort-of caretaker for the old wooden structure while Bell’s family deals with its sale. Both Colleen and Kip think the building historic value to the community.

Dietzel stated that Zillow had estimated the place at a value of $1.3 million, listing it as a 5 bedroom, 1 1/2 bath.

Kip Kruegar at work.

Kip, who sells his hand-painted signs out in front of the building, agreed to give this reporter a tour of the building.

An old photo of the building showing Seedless.

We entered the front large room that has different levels, which Kip pointed out that one side of the front space used to be Effie’s Cafe, and the other side used to be one of the Hodads burger joints.

The most functional room in the house.

We checked out the kitchen – which Kip called the most functional room of the house – and slowly moved through the labyrinth of rooms of all different sizes, many decked out in old India bedspreads on the walls.

Every now and thing Kip would point out the door to one of the bedrooms.

Jim Bell’s command post – his desk and computer.

In the middle of the house sits Bell’s office, surrounded by filing cabinets, boxes of papers holding documents from his multi-decade career as a environmental consultant – he worked on Peoples Food market – and from his various campaigns for office.

Remnants of past campaigns.

Kip said Jim ran for San Diego mayor three times and once for city council.

It’s an amazing place – so many nooks and crannies; it smells like an old hippie house – which I guess it is.

An interior sitting room.

Kip has a green thumb and many of the plants in the back yard are his.

He pointed out the large Carrotwood tree that dominates the rear space.

The Carrotwood tree.

Before Jim’s health went downhill, he was improving the building by constructing a deck and thick-beamed super-shell over the old wood; that process was never finished.

This sign is from an actual place, Bong, Wisconsin. It hangs at one of the numerous doors.

The super-shell is a stand-alone structure outside of the old building.

With thanks to Kip for the tour, it was time to move on – there’s deadlines you know.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

OBKID May 16, 2018 at 2:41 pm

I’m sure the building will be mired in years of red tape and disrepair.


retired botanist May 16, 2018 at 3:38 pm

OBKID, ya know? I can think of many more thoughtful things to say. I lived about 3 blocks east of this building for 4 yrs, and run-down though the building is, every day I walked by it, my mind and my heart were grateful for its unpretentiousness. Its reflection, through the many signs adorning the exterior, of thoughtfulness, humor, and big heart. Which is quintessential OB.
Based on your other posts regarding development, its pretty obvious this building and its history are much too esoteric for you. So frankly, if you can’t say something nice, try resisting comment. I hope the sale of the building goes to someone as mindful as Bell, and that the $ will make Bell comfortable and provided for. Lets all hope its not going to be a Target Express, right?


marc johnson May 16, 2018 at 4:26 pm

Old school OB will be missed.


Dr. Jack Hammer May 16, 2018 at 5:56 pm

Bong used to be an air base that was going to be used for the Korean War… However, they deemed it useless and abandoned it in the late 50’s.


Judy Collier May 17, 2018 at 7:45 am

In an ideal world, an angel or group of angels would step forward and buy this wonderful, unique property and turn it into a museum of OB History.


dickie May 18, 2018 at 12:49 pm

I remember playing basketball with Jim back in, oh 1973 or so. He had been, I was told, all conference at Long Beach State, and had several inches on all of us and most of the other teams we played. He was a sincere and gentle fellow. I had littlke contact with him over the years, but his career as an OB environmental icon always impressed me. I wish him confort and contentment going forward.


Ted Coakley III September 3, 2018 at 10:38 pm

Jim and the positive effects of him and his building will be sorely missed in OB. Jim, Colleen and Kip are all such big parts of OB’s heart and soul. I, too, hope the new owner somehow does something with the property that carries on the spirit of these OB souls.

Wouldn’t it be great if the new building had a space for Jim to live comfortably? Doesn’t have to be luxurious – but something comfortable.
And maybe a space visible to the public that promoted the ideals of Jim and his co-horts? At least let Jim (and Kip, and whoever else?) design/decorate the outside of the place??
One can dream….


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