OB Planning Board Passes on Approving Cape May Granny Flat, Supports Bike Lanes on West Pt Loma

by on June 7, 2018 · 8 comments

in Ocean Beach

In a move that could bring smiles to opponents of short term vacation rentals, the Ocean Beach Planning Board did not take any action on a proposed granny flat on Cape May Avenue. In addition the Board, at Wednesday night’s meeting, voted to support a proposed bike lane for West Pt Loma Avenue and the concept of traffic calming measures at the intersection of Voltaire and Froude.

The monthly meeting of the volunteer community planners also brought smiles to some in the audience, as the meeting bounced between hilarity and serious discussion of key issues. It was a packed board meeting with 8 board members and nearly 30 people in the audience.

No Action on 4715 Cape May

After the presenter for the owner of the property at 4715 Cape May outlined the proposed addition of a granny flat to the rear garage on a plot with a house already on it, there was a spirited discussion of what would happen to the new construction. No new parking would be added, as the state’s new granny flat (accessory dwelling unit) law allows, claimed the presenter.

The presenter had stated the owner planned to live in the newly-built house once completed.

During public comment, OBcean Kevin Hastings approached the Board with copies of short term vacation rental company ads for properties in OB owned by the same person applying for the granny flat. “The owner has a short term vacation rental in the front house, one next door” and others, Kevin stated.

Others in the audience voiced critical comments about STVRs; a few offered support to the project.

Once the board offered its comments, the meeting got interesting. Jane Gawronski said: “I am totally opposed to the project – its increasing a unit and decreasing parking.”

Tom Gawronski added, “It’s clear what business the owner is in; it’s clear what the owner’s intent is.” Tom was against approval.

Numan Stotz liked the project, as he plans to build a granny flat for his mother on his property. Richard Aguirre also was in favor, and likened the project as a way generally for locals to survive in OB. “People need chance to survive,” he said, “by having accessory dwelling units. … It’s one of the only chances for people to hang on to their piece of the pie.”\

Craig Klein took exception to the board trying to speculate as to what the owner was going to do with the project. “When the proponent says ‘we intend to live in it,’ we cannot have a trial, we’re not a judicial body.” But he added, “personally I am pissed that many proponents have lied to us (about their intentions).”

Dan Dennison said, “City zoning laws prohibit short term vacation rentals, says the city attorney; but there’s no enforcement by the city.” He blamed the city for the mess the board found itself in by not having policy on STVRs, but he felt the board had no choice but to approve the project.

Andrea Schlageter, vice-chair, agreed with Jane, but also believed there was no option but to vote for it, despite stating, “Short term vacation rentals will seriously impact parking.”

Blake Herrschaft – chair – then explained his position. “Short term vacation rentals,” he said, “are the biggest issue facing OB. We lose a resident of Ocean Beach every 36 hours to STVRs.” They are shrinking OB’s population, he reiterated. “I can’t stand seeing it any more.”

Blake added, “The City Attorney has called them illegal, the mayor decided to allow them.” He claimed, “10,000 people have had to leave San Diego due to short term rentals.”

Tom Gawronksi made a motion: “Based on reduction in parking, the apparent use is illegal, we recommend the project be denied.” After it was seconded, the vote was taken but only 3 favored the motion – so it died.

Dennison then made a motion to approve it, even though he didn’t like it. Richard Aguirre seconded it.

More discussion. Klein said the only reason he was compelled to approve it was because state law superseded local ones. Herrschaft then stated, “a vote for this project is a vote against your neighbor.”

The second vote was then taken – with Klein abstaining. It was 4 for approval and 3 against – which is still not a majority of board members present. Another vote was taken – it too failed.

Finally, after 3 failed votes, Blake announced the board was taking no action and moved on to the next agenda item.

Totally exasperated, the presenter was heard to comment, “This reminds me why I no longer live in OB.” He soon left the room.

Some commentary: The OB planning panel is pressed between 2 imperatives. Oppose STVRs on a moral level but feel a need to approve housing that could be used as such on a legal level; they feel the law is clear. Most of the members don’t like short term vacation rentals, as they are destroying housing stock, but feel granny flats are okay – or are the law, and the law must be followed.

The city has truly left neighborhood planning groups – particularly at the coast – in a terrible quandary. Ethically, the local groups want to protect their neighborhoods, but feel compelled to bow down to state demands that overrule local restrictions.

On the other hand, by the board not approving the project as the evidence the owner was going to turn around and use the property for short term rentals was compelling, their decision – or lack of one – sends a signal to the city and to developers who believe they can go gangbusters and build what ever they want as long as its called a granny flat.

We’ll hear more about all of this, guaranteed.

Another issue is whether the vote to support the project – the one that didn’t have a majority of members present – as Klein abstained – should be okay. Some may argue the vote was valid, as there was a majority of votes cast. Others say, there was not a majority vote of board members present.

Editordude’s Note: I will continue this report later.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Denine June 7, 2018 at 1:39 pm

Way to go Kevin Hastings, you rock!


Rufus June 8, 2018 at 7:07 am

“Totally exasperated, the presenter was heard to comment, “This reminds me why I no longer live in OB.” He soon left the room.“

I assume the presenter was exasperated by the process, not the fact that his master is runining OB through vacation rentals.

That’s calling the kettle black.

The only way to fix this is to vote the bums out who won’t enforce vacation rental laws.


Jason Whitmore June 7, 2018 at 10:51 pm

I feel the need to clear a few things up regarding this project as my wife and I are the owners of the property at 4715 Cape May Ave. We have owned this one (1) and only property in OB for nearly 10 years and have rented it both short term and long term during that period. We have had much better results renting short term regardless of the money than we have with some locals who had stayed long term in the past (bad apples in every group). We have and continue to live in OB for over 10 years together (myself 18 years since moving here in 2000 and spending the first 4 months living out of my car).

There are multiple inaccuracies throughout this article but why would that matter when it relates to such a hot button issue as STVRs in this community? Why actually make an effort to report on the truth or contact the owners for comment when we can just rile up the emotions on this matter and argue based solely on that. I wish we could have been at the meeting but we had attended the preliminary meeting in May where although no members of the board found any legal reason to object to the project there were not enough members present to have a quorum. We could not attend the ‘full body meeting’ later in May due to our work schedules (yes, my wife and I both work full time jobs and are not wealthy investors gobbling up properties and ruining communities). However our architect was at the meeting and again there were no objections to the project based of facts, laws, codes, etc. Members at both of the early meetings even went so far as to refer to our project as “a no brainer” and “this is an easy yes” but again not enough members showed up to form a quorum. The board knew we would not be at this week’s meeting either as we had planned our first vacation in years with our great friends and neighbors (yes, our neighbors next to our rental actually like us).

It seems like it wasn’t until this mostly false in its major points OB Rag article came out that the boards’ knees weakened and they, I’m assuming, thought for the ‘greater good’ of OB they would not be in favor of our project as a path of least resistance within the community and I honestly cannot blame them.

In the original article sparking the initial debate, the writer put forth and I quote “problem is this original house as built as a ‘twin’ with the house directly east by the owner” this would infer that we, the ‘owners’ split the lot and built a second house one of which is a STVR. If any actual journalistic integrity or the simple effort of looking up tax records would show that lot was indeed split by an ‘owner’ in the 1980’s and both properties have changed hands multiple times since then….I was between 8 & 12 years old and living in Indiana at the time…far from to be blamed for this one. The writer also refers to the owner as ‘he’ repeatedly which probably upset my wife the most about this as she is a strong independent woman who is the actual owner of the property on title, I merely do the grunt work…again not much effort made to gather the actual truth here.

Next, regarding the meeting and one Kevin Hastings putting forth that we own multiple properties next door to one another, wrong again. The owner of the house next door divorced moved away and let the house go to ruin for 6 years. It was in such bad shape she couldn’t get anyone to rent it short term or long. She proposed that we manage it for her but after looking at the property I saw no upside as it needed so much work. My wife, brilliant as she is, suggested we rent it from her for 3 year period of which we are 2/3 through, use our own money to fix it up, rent it out how we see fit. The owners nut was covered, we put over $30,000 of our own money (quite a gamble) and even had to take a loan out against one of our cars to finish (again not quite the bigtime developer everyone automatically assumes). we do not own this property

Point being, we own one house and one house only in OB, bought in probate 10 years ago (owner died) with no relatives willing to move in…didn’t displace a single OBcean.

We took another gamble a few years back on a house in a vacation rental community outside of Palm Springs. Not sure why anyone in OB cares that we have that one. it covers its nut, is in a land of second homes where no one cares about STVRS and is slowly appreciating in value.

There was a change made to the California ‘granny flat’ law in January 2017 doing away with additional parking per bedroom added if within .5 miles of public transport, finally it would allow for us to add square footage to our property and increase its value. We have spent over 18 months and tens of thousands of dollars (again not easy payments to make for us) between architects fees, city permitting processes and so on to get to this point. I have contractors lined up and ready to go (the majority of them either from OB or connected to OB all currently on hold.

I pride myself on being able to see things from the ‘other side’ and I would hate to live next to a rowdy rental(again bad apples in every crowd) but I could have neighbors on either side of my property validate on a moments notice how we vet, run and operate as to not upset the neighborhood. the majority of our renters are actually your friends and relatives visiting you here in OB. We live in OB, we love OB. The intention for this project as I stated in the very beginning to the board is for us to provide a safe space for my wife’s sister and 4 year old child (who desperately wants him to attend OB elementary) and as a place for my aging father to be able to spend some extended time with us.

Bottom line…regardless of how vehemently against STVRs any one of you are, they are NOT illegal. The city attorney, OB planning board, god himself can find them ‘illegal’ but that is not how it works. As of today, they are not illegal and just because you don’t like something doesn’t make you right. You want to fight the good fight, start coming up with some solutions instead of screaming at the top of your lungs how awful I am, I’ll be the first one to join you in trying to come up with some solutions. Why doesn’t at least a higher percentage of the TOT taxes collected in the areas where STVRs are most prevalent go directly to those neighborhoods, were talking 10s of millions in taxes anyone lobby Lorie or Kevin on that one?…hell, put a community surcharge on rentals that goes directly into the local coffers. Something other than the same old same old that to this point has yielded absolutely zero results.

Our project fits within every legal guideline set forth by the state and city, we know this law better than most and developed this project well within any possible note of contention. While we wish the OB planning Board would have given us their approval, we will be moving forward with a meeting with the city shortly to press this forward. Again, it is not our intention to turn this new space into an STVR and at no time did we mislead the OB planning board. the only conversation that was had, if you could call it that was ‘this better not become a STVR or we are going to have problems’ (planning board member to remain nameless) to which my response was simply ‘that is not my intention’


SaneVoice June 8, 2018 at 12:19 pm

So when you flip-flop and decide to make it a STVR, thank you in advance for publishing exhibit A when the OB community files a class-action lawsuit against you for fraud.


virginiamae June 8, 2018 at 2:43 pm


I attended the meeting of the Project Review Board, met you and your wife briefly, and did not doubt your sincerity, even though I arrived assuming the worst, as I have seen applicants lie to the Board many times. (Lie, change their minds, or succumb to greed once the building is finished, all with the same result)

You stated that you would abide by the terms and intent of the companion unit permit: that you would continue to live in one of the units while using the other as a rental or home for a family member. This permit option is intended to create more housing units of small size and lower cost within existing communities. Transient occupancy is not a permissible use in a residential zone, so not an option on that parcel.

The Board and the community have learned to be wary of these applications, knowing the City has refused to enforce their own Land Use code, and recognizing the uncertain future use of the property, once it changes hands.

When the City approves your permit, please prove to us, your neighbors, that we can trust and believe each other, that our word is still worth something.


Geoff Page June 8, 2018 at 9:43 am

One thing to keep in mind is that planning boards are advisory only, their decisions have no actual teeth. Because of that, they do not have to vote strictly by the rules, they can provide their opinion by voting what they believe. One example is map waivers. THis is a development trick where a project is started as rental units and such a project does not require public approval. Once the building is well under construction, the developers apply for a “map waiver” to convert the project to condos. This avoids any involvement by the planning boards except approving the map waiver. I, and others, always voted against these, regardless of their legality, to send a message that we did not approve of this trick. The OBPB could have, and should have, done the same with this project and provided its reasoning to the city thereby sending a message.


virginiamae June 8, 2018 at 1:25 pm

OB is losing a long term renter, one of our neighbors, every 36 hours. If so, that is alarming. STVR has reached plague status; worse than Hep A. (No disrespect intended by this metaphor. Hep A is serious, usually not fatal, but can kill a person in a weakened condition.)

STVR is a serious problem. Its consequences eliminate our neighbors, weakening neighborhoods until the community as a whole is on the verge of ‘death’. It progresses swiftly, as it has in Mission Beach. And yet the City continues to delay, year after year, on measures to prevent in from spreading.

We need, right NOW, communication, consensus, and cooperation between the Mayor, City Attorney, Planning Department, and City Council. Tell them what we need and want. Ask them to make the right decisions, and THEN, enforce those rules without further delay.


retired botanist June 8, 2018 at 3:23 pm

Jason- Once again I read a defensive developer saying “its not me”, ” I spent my hard earned money investing”, “its not easy making payments of tens of thousands of dollars” and “just a small ‘other’ place in Palm Springs”…
You know? Your defense arguments sit at a lofty level-so glad you both have full time jobs, more than one car, and you have an architect to represent you– cool, but we’re talking about a demographic of renters who can’t find ONE place they can afford to RENT, not own, who are constantly getting turfed b/c someone is “upgrading” a property, who can’t afford a “gamble” on a vacation place in Palm Springs- but you say you only own one property?
And we’re talking about NOW, not the 1980s, not the previous owners. How magnanimous of you to take over your neighbors “woes” and invest $30K, how lucky for you that you can afford to gamble in Palm Springs.
No one is screaming at you personally, if you take no other enlightenment from this issue, for God’s sake understand that the community is “screaming at the top of the lungs” that they do NOT agree STVRs in residential neighborhoods are legal. The community is screaming that they are losing their “community” at the rate of 1 every 36 hours and the City is doing nothing about it!
So, please, quit making it all about you, and your circumstances, your wife’s issue with pronouns, your childhood in Indiana, and try to grasp the greater good problem here. If you love OB and its constituents then get on board with the right fight, and try to recognize that there’s more than one socioeconomic echelon here!


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