Battle Brewing Over Future of Jim Bell’s House on Voltaire in Ocean Beach

by on September 28, 2018 · 4 comments

in Ocean Beach

Front of building.

There’s literally a battle brewing over the future of Jim Bell’s house on Voltaire Street in North Ocean Beach. Locals have mounted a campaign to save the old building (that does have some history) – and they have some good reasons.

Jim Bell – a well-known local ecologist – was taken severely ill a while ago and had to move out of his house and into a care facility. In the meantime, he turned over Power of Attorney to his daughter, Heather, from Seattle.

With all good intentions, Heather then moved to get the property ready for sale -as she needed funds to pay for her dad’s expensive care; the tenants were evicted and a broker hired. Meanwhile, the Dover property right next door to Jim’s was also up for sale.

And then something happened. Something occurred that appeared to be a sale of Jim’s property, along with the Dover property. But questions linger. Was it a valid sale?

And more, the new “owner” has plans to demolish the building and construct a large, 3-story mixed-use complex on the site.

This has led to deep consternation on Bell’s part; he has improved enough to have in the meantime moved back to his house. And with the help of friends, part of the back of the house has been renovated. He is currently living there and is not at all happy his property may have been sold. He wants the sale – if valid – to be nullified.

Here’s the problem: Jim never signed over to anyone the power to make the sale; he he has never signed anything about the property recently.

So the sale may have been in error. Or have other legal problems and issues to be valid.

The so-called buyer, Mark Brencick, has been negotiating with Jim’s advisor, Dustin Johnston – who now has his Power of Attorney – for some kind of resolution. Last we heard Brencick was offering to give the property back for $70,000.

Jim Bell

In the meantime, Jim needs care – and there is a professional caregiver who comes in daily for 8 hours. Friends have volunteered to take shifts around the rest of the clock.

It’s unclear how this will all play out.

For background, here is part of our report from May:

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.

For a “tour” of the old building, go here.

Here is the construction notice:

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

ZZ September 28, 2018 at 2:29 pm

I see no record of sale in County records. The current owner of record is “Jim Bell Trust.”

They might have a sale agreement, but from what I can tell, it is still Jim’s property. And it is basically impossible for a court to force someone off their property unless they signed a document authorizing it.


Rebecca September 29, 2018 at 9:19 am

I know for a fact Mr. Brencick has contacted the Rag to share the full facts but you were not interested. You prefer to keep this one-sided and sensationalized. My opinion in the Rag is no longer what it was. Disappointed you choose sides over balanced journalism.


Patty Mooney October 3, 2018 at 2:30 pm

In this saga, it is all about community service when it comes to Jim Bell. Now it seems that with the opposing party, Mr. Brencick, it’s all about making money. He probably thought his fortune in “purchasing” two adjoining properties was too good to be true. It’s Ocean Beach, so the guy who is in it for the money won’t fare well pitting himself against OB’s beloved unofficial “Mayor,” Mr. Bell. Jim has worked for the good of that community for decades and has an “army” of people around the entire City of San Diego who care about him and what happens to his home. This situation reminds me of a Margaret Mead quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Stay classy, O.B.


Dr. Tandie Mitchell August 21, 2022 at 12:40 pm

Jim Bell mentored me through a doctoral internship in the 1990’s through ELSI in grass roots environmental and conservation studies. I helped him chart his San Diego – T J region map that contains to this day crucial data that can be implemented to conserve life giving water that is needed to survive droughts. Today “the Colorado River drought is so bad you can see it from space”. VOX Explanatory Journalism Aug 17, 2022 by Umar Irfon. Jim Bell’s work needs to be in the hands of America’s top conservation publicists and scientists! Dr. Tandie Mitchell, Research Scientist, Sixth Generation Assiniboine- Sioux Tribal Member, Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow…


Cancel reply

Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: