Update on Project Progress in Ocean Beach

by on October 16, 2018 · 1 comment

in Ocean Beach

The front of 5040 Santa Monica. All photos by Frank Gormlie

Here’s an update on some of the projects in and around Ocean Beach. Like the projects near the foot of Santa Monica, over on Froude Street, the THC rebuild on Newport and the Ladera Street stairs repair.

5040 Santa Monica Ave.

The mixed-use project at 5040 Santa Monica Saratoga Ave. includes the construction of a 2-story commercial unit in front and 4 residential units behind and above the front unit. It was approved by the Ocean Beach Planning Board by a vote of 7 to 2 on July 1, 2015.

The project now nearing some level of completion is a scaled-down version of an original development plan that had been approved back in 2006 but never constructed. The site sat dormant for around 10 years, but construction did begin in late 2017. The lot supposedly contains “the last sand dune in OB”.

As that block of Santa Monica is zoned as a mix of commercial and residential, it was incumbent on the developer to install some commercial. The commercial parking – as is all the parking – is in the back and off the alley. Twelve parking spaces are planned. The residential units will be eventually turned into condos, the owner said.

It has been noted that from the street level to the very top of the development is close to 40 feet, but the 30 foot height limit is not measured from the very bottom of the project. During the approval process before the OB Planning Board, as we reported:

“Board members bemoaned the “industrial” look, the very linear and heavy on the glass appearance of the units, and a lack of fitting into the community’s character. “This is transforming,” one member said, and complained that “the character of the community is starting to deteriorate.”

Another said “the facade has very vertical lines, no sloped lines, all flat roofs, and doesn’t necessarily jive with the Community Plan ….”

One of the architects stated that this building is the very first “purposely-designed” building to take energy storage into its design. “It will be highly visible nationally”, he said. Another stated that every one of the units has a view of the pier and ocean.

2257 Froude Street

Another project in our update is what’s going up at 2257 Froude Street. For months, there didn’t appear to be any progress in construction work at the site. But just recently, we noticed at least one construction worker on the site. Work began one year ago – in October 2017. The project includes the construction of two new 1, 814 square-foot homes each over a 1,073 square-foot basement/two car garage on two legal lots. The original house on the lot was demolished.

This project generated quite a bit of controversy back in the Spring of 2016. Besides the bulk and style of the project not fitting in with the surrounding community character, the controversy centered on the fact that the property is within the Peninsula Community Planning Area – not OB – and that the Peninsula planners voted 9 to 1 against the project in January of that year. The city’s Development Services Department overrode the community’s vote and approved it.

The Peninsula Community Planned Board appealed the decision of the DSD but on May 26, 2016, the San Diego Planning Commission voted to approve it. The Commission approved the project with a 5-1 vote, despite several of the Commissioners describing the design as “stark”. The lone “no” vote came from Theresa Quiroz, who said her opposition was based not on size but on the architecture and lack of trees in the proposed design.

Artist rendering of finished construction.

Had this project been situated within the OB Planning Area, it would have not met the more restrictive requirements that the OB Community Plan has. The property is literally just yards from OB, as the other side of Froude is in Ocean Beach.

When the Planning Commission decision came down, many were upset. For example, then-chair of the OB Planning Board, John Ambert blasted the Commission’s decision and the entire process, questioning the entire process as flawed.  He said:

“Approval today will allow developers to use the same project as a benchmark to knock down buildings and redevelop them in a similar style, thereby gentrifying the Ocean Beach community. “The project proposed is grossly out of scale. It does not make an effort to blend into the surrounding community at all.”

Ambert was also quoted in a San Diego Union-Tribune article questioning the city’s approval process for the project, raising the issue whether the process is flawed because it appeared that community opposition makes no difference. He said:

“If the Planning Commission does not listen to the voice of the Peninsula Planning Board or the Ocean Beach Planning Board, then what is the purpose of having community groups speak on behalf of the communities they represent.”

Jarvis Ross, a member of the Peninsula planning committee, was also quoted:

“This project would open the door to destroying the existing character of the neighborhood.”

The New THC on Newport

This is Steve Yeng & Family’s Dream Project. Building a brand new establishment at the site of their former THC and where an Irish bar once stood.

Ground floor.

The entire interior was scrapped clean and a two story building is being created.

A view of project from the alley.

There has been talk of an upstairs restaurant “for the entire family”, a new and improved bar area, and an enhancement to the music venue, such as sound-proofing the bottom floor.

Ladera Street Stairs Repair

The Ladera Street stairs are still closed and still have not been repaired. The chain is still up and people still ignore it.

The stairs were closed by the City back in mid-February when at first a major crack appeared along side of the bluff – and then a portion of the cliff had given way by Tuesday, Feb. 13. Near the end of July we reported a construction company had contracted with the City of San Diego to fix the stairs had been given a waiver for the summer moratorium on all public construction projects. We stated:

The company, Orion Construction Corporation, was sent a letter on July 23 from the deputy director of the Public Works Department informing them they have a waiver from the normal moratorium “due to the emergency nature” of the project. Orion was granted a “Construction Beach Moratorium Waiver” until August 31, 2018.

The waiver lasts from July 23 to August 31. No work on the repairs to the accessory stair way have been seen as of late last week. This reporter visited the site on Friday, July 27, and nothing new had been added to the small gate at the top of the stairs.

The Beach Construction Moratorium was put in place years ago to avoid public construction projects tying up and blocking streets at the busy, busy coast during the summer months.

Then on August 6, the City Council decided to spend emergency funds for the repair of the stairs/ blluffs, and allocated $1.8 million in Regional Park Improvement Funds for what’s called the Ladera Street Beach Access Stairway Emergency Project. The repairs call for “bluff stabilization”.

We reported:

And because the project repair was deemed an “emergency,” it was placed on a fast-track – and apparently totally went around the citizens’ group that advises the city on the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, where the stairs are located.

Ann Swanson, a long-time member and past-president of that advisory group, the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Council, was quoted by David Schwab at  sdnews.comthe Beacon as saying she believes the city tried to bypass them. She said:

“They were calling it an emergency. But it happened in February. They were trying to bypass us.”

City spokesperson Alec Phillip was quoted:

“Since this is a declared emergency, there is no time to solicit and implement public comments into design. Our goal is to rectify the emergency situation as quickly as possible.”

At the time, other locals expressed concerns about just exactly what the “repairs” will consist of – how much of the bluff will be removed in the stabilization process. City spokesperson Alec Phillip was quoted as saying “only loose material and apparent hazards that appear likely to fall” will be removed. Schwab at sdnews.com reported:

The scope of work, said Phillip, will remove any potential loose material from the vertical cliff face, and grade back only the portions of the bluff that overhang the vertical face. “A consultant is on board to evaluate the drainage in the area to determine if the drainage is affecting the bluff stability,” he said.

“Should drainage issues be identified, they will be addressed as part of the emergency stabilization of the bluff,” Phillip said. “We are not proposing a reconstruction of the cliff. The project is intended to stabilize what exists currently. Only loose material and apparent hazards that appear likely to fall will be scaled from the cliff face.”

Another member of the advisory group, Dedi Ridenour, was also quoted by Schwab, as being concerned the repairs will have a negative impact on the cliffs. She stated:

“Younger-generation park users tell me they don’t want to see the cliffs torn down, seawalls, rip-rap or other damage done under an emergency permit anywhere along the cliff. They fear this emergency permit is setting a dangerous precedent. They wonder why we have environmental laws if we don’t enforce them.”

Not by coincidence, on the very same day the City Council voted the emergency monies for the repairs, the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Council voted to advise the city to prepare a full environmental impact report of the emergency project before any repairs. They also asked the city to move the stairs south to enable Garbage Beach access, instead of the so-called emergency bluff stabilization at Ladera Street.

Swanson told Schwab everyone on the advisory group was surprised by the Council action to do emergency repairs. “I knew they had closed the stairs and were trying to figure out what should be done. But we did not know until Aug. 3 that emergency repairs were a docketed item for Aug. 6.” Swanson said they were also upset upon learning the project had already received all the necessary permitting and could proceed soon. All because it was declared “an emergency”.

 

 

 

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Avatar bo bo October 17, 2018 at 8:29 am

Get rid of the stairs completely. As a natural resource, I’d rather we keep people, homeless campers, dogs, and garbage off these cliffs. If people want to access the shoreline, they can hike it from the pier like I do.

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