Peninsula Planners Provide Forum for Famosa Site Advocates But Don’t Take Position

by on October 23, 2018 · 1 comment

in Ocean Beach

Images from Save Famosa Canyon website.

By Geoff Page

The Peninsula Community Planning Board meeting on Thursday, October 18, was both short and relatively quiet, which is not usually the case.

There was only one Action Item on the agenda:

“Report of the Long Range Planning Committee from the “Famosa Forum” meeting of 09 October 2018 – Review and discussion of the input received regarding the petition for rezoning to open space, the message from Councilmember Zapf, and comments offered during the conversational forum on the Famosa Boulevard Housing Commission site.”

This has been a hot issue for a good part of this year and there was some expectation that there might be a lively discussion of the matter.  There was a discussion but it really wasn’t lively.

This issue is that the community wants the PCPB take a position on the Famosa site, the position that the site should remain open space and not be built up with what is called workforce housing, a higher level form of “affordable” housing not to be confused with low income housing.

The PCPB angered local residents when it sent a letter to Council member Zapf and the San Diego Housing Commission in June of 2017 suggesting the site was a good location for affordable housing.  That letter was rescinded by board vote in June of this year based on the community’s objections.  The board issued another letter that took no position on the site but did still seem to favor the idea of affordable housing.  That letter also ran into a buzz saw.

The community was hoping that the board would take a position this time but they did not.  The discussion involved a review of the issue by the PCPB’s Long Range Planning subcommittee or LRP, in a meeting on October 9 that was held at the Point Loma Library specifically to discuss the topic.  According to accounts at the October 18 full board meeting, there were about 35 community members in attendance at the LRP meeting, which is a very good showing for a subcommittee meeting.

There was some upset about how the LRP meeting went.  Audience member Lucky Morrison, who attended the LRP meeting explained what happened.  He said the meeting got underway and at some point, the audience appeared to believe their time for input was over and everyone but Morrision left.  The board members at the meeting said there was a misunderstanding and that the audience did not have to leave.  Something went really wrong.  Some of the subcommittee members said they encouraged people to stay but to no avail.  It appeared that the meeting was not handled very well and it just added to the discontent and distrust of the PCPB in this matter.

The result of the LRP meeting and the full board meeting was nothing.  After a lot of discussion, it boiled down to not enough information now for the board to take a position.

Questions abound about the land ownership and what can be built on the site.  The PCPB said until more information is gathered, it did not feel it could take a position.  To be fair, the PCPB, as are all the planning boards, is normally asked to review current projects proposed for somewhere within the planning board boundaries.  At this time, there is no actual project to review, although many believe the Housing Commission is ready with one but has not proposed it yet.  The community is looking for a pre-emptive opinion from the PCPB and that did not happen.

While all this is going on at the PCPB, a petition is being circulated by community members attempting to get the fate of the site on the ballot, and they are actively collecting signatures to it qualified.  Volunteers have collected signatures at the Famosa site, at the Point Loma High School homecoming game, and last weekend, at Stumps Market on Voltaire. There does not appear to be one website for the effort but there are postings on Nextdoor and on some Facebook pages for anyone interested in signing a petition.  If they are successful, the planning board’s position will become moot.  In fact, considering that the organizers have gathered a large number of signatures, it could be said that the PCPB’s opinion is not really needed.

While it is disappointing for many that the PCPB won’t just jump into this, it appears that a lack of knowledge about the PCPB is causing some of the heartburn.  Very few people in the community really know what a planning board is and what rules govern its behavior.  Having been involved with the planning board for more than a dozen years, this reporter can attest to that first hand.

That said, the reason for some of the distrust is that one board member, Jerry Lohla, is an outspoken advocate for affordable housing and Lohla sits on the LRP subcommittee.  Additionally, board member David Dick was on the Housing Commission for a number of years, albeit some time ago.  Marry this up with several architects and real estate professionals on the PCPB and you get a natural distrust that has to be surmounted.  At this point, at least publicly, the PCPB is making commendable efforts in giving the community a voice on this.  The PCPB held a full Special board meeting on this one topic in June.  And the LRP, that usually meets at 5:30, held its special October 8 meeting at 6:30 to discuss this one topic.

Meeting for Point Loma Town Council

The only other item of interest that was heard at the meeting was a presentation by Michael Winn promoting a Point Loma Town Council, or PLTC.  Winn has been working on this idea all year.  He came before the PCPB some time ago looking for assistance and hit a brick wall.  There was no enthusiasm or support for creating a town council that some believed was redundant of the PCPB and the Point Loma Association.  This was not actually true but the jealous guarding of territory was very apparent at that meeting. Winn has been trying to educate the community on the difference ever since.  He is holding a community meeting on Wednesday, October 24 at the Point Loma library starting at 6:00 p.m. to provide a more in-depth look at the town council proposal and what it can do for the community.

For more information on the PLTC, go to  Very briefly, the difference between a town council and the planning board is that a town council can have money to pursue its efforts while a planning board cannot.  There is a town council in Ocean Beach that has, at times, a sizeable coffer it uses for things like the Christmas festivities including the toy drive.  Town councils are also not beholden to the city.  The planning boards are part of the city’s legislative system and are bound by strict rules of conduct.  Winn believes that it is unrealistic to think the planning boards will take positions contrary to the city, which is mostly true but not always.



{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Geoff Page October 23, 2018 at 3:48 pm

I need to make a correction to this story about the location of the LRP meeting. The subcommittee chair corrected me explaining that the meeting was held at the Portuguese Hall on October 9, not at the Point Loma Library as I had stated.


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