OB Planners Support New Plans for Ruth Varney Held Park, Table Issue of Police Trailer

by on November 9, 2018 · 3 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

New Ruth Varney Held Park Design

There are those who look at an open space and love that it is open and that it sparks the imagination with possibilities for fun and relaxation.  Then, there are those who see an open space and see chaos and feel it must be organized.  For those in the first group, the revised design of the Saratoga Park was a welcome sight at the Ocean Beach Planning Board meeting on Wednesday, November 7.  The frantic organization seen in the original design has given way to a much more relaxed open space.

According to board member Jane Gawronski, the change was due to complaints from the community about the first design.  That plan had just about every square inch of the grassy area north of the main lifeguard station planned for all kinds of park amenities.

Board member Jane Gawronski. Photos by Geoff Page.

The new design leaves most of the grassy area wide open.  A small “fitness hub” in the northeast corner and a children’s play area on the south side are all that is being planned for the space.  The name has also changed to the Ruth Varney Held Park, named after a well-known former OB resident and historian.

Hopefully, the same rationality will apply to the plans for the veteran park in the other grassy area to the south of the lifeguard station that currently is overdone as well.

The Ruth Varney Held Park is planned to be constructed with private funding, according to Gawronski.  At the moment, they have about $10,000 and she said they will need about $200k.  The money will go to plant trees and place picnic tables.

New design of Ruth Varney Held Park. Click on image for larger version.

The adult fitness hub will be about 1700 square feet, only 2.6% of the space and will include stations on a decomposed granite base.  The whole parcel is 66,567 square feet.  The play area will be 4,362 square feet or 6.5% of the area.  It will include swings, a climber, a spinner, and some seating.  Lastly, there will be a piece of public art.

The OBPB voted unanimously to support the revised design.

Police Trailer in OB Pier Parking Lot

The second most interesting item on the agenda was the police trailer in the pier parking lot.  The agenda mistakenly said the action item was to discuss a request from the OB Mainstreet Association to have the OBPB help pay the trailer expenses.  This is not possible as the planning boards do not have the ability to manage any funds.  According to board member Craig Klein, the trailer was supposed to be “temporary” but it has been in place for 20 years.  The merchant’s association has been renting the trailer for $500 a month all that time.  One may wonder why they didn’t just purchase it outright, but the expectation was that the new lifeguard station was just around the corner.

Klein explained that it was supposed to be temporary until the new lifeguard station was constructed.  The new building is to be joint use between the PD and the lifeguards.  But, the long promised new station has not materialized in all those years.  The merchant’s association apparently would like to devote the monthly rental cost to the private security firm they are paying for now.

The board opted to table the issue until January when they can get a more detailed presentation from the Police Department and the merchant’s association.

How to Increase Public Participation in OB Planning Board

There was a long discussion about ways to make more people aware of the planning board.  Public participation has been low and the elections each year do not draw a great deal of interest.  This is not unique to the OBPB, as all of the planning boards have this problem. (It is possible the discussion was encouraged by some constructive criticism by editordude in OB Rag articles.)  Regardless, the board discussed a wide variety of ways to raise awareness focusing on social media and other ideas.

One idea that will happen is that the board will be in the Holiday parade this year for the first time.  There was a lengthy discussion about how to participate including banners and signs, a golf cart, and matching T-shirts.  The board voted to devote $200 of its meager bank account to the effort. The board should be commended for making this effort and, hopefully, the parade march will help some.  Planning boards are important grass roots type of community organizations that provide a voice for people who do not know where to go to speak up.  They watch out for the community and people should support them.

The agenda allows for visits from government representatives, but none were there at this meeting.  It was suggested that the election may have affected this, it clearly affected the District 2 office.

In other news:

  • Laura Dennison, from the Friends of the Ocean Beach Library provided some news about the library.  The first news was that there will be a book sale this Saturday, November 10th from 9:30 to 12:30.  She also explained that the library is now using the adjacent building at 4817 Santa Monica that is currently full of books.  The building is in need of work and the options are, a total teardown and rebuild, a remodel, or doing nothing. The goal is to make the building usable.
  • Colleen Diezel announced that there will be a party at the Ocean Beach Green Center on Saturday, November 10 from 2:00 to 7:00.  She also said they are vacating the current building and are moving into Jim Bell’s property on Voltaire Street.
  • The board has a new Planning Department representative, Nathan Causman.  Nathan explained he is new to the area from Ohio and will cover the areas of OB, City Heights, Normal Heights, and Talmidge.
  • There will be a Restaurant Walk in OB on Tuesday, November 13 presented by the OB Town Council.  Tickets are being sold and the proceeds will support the OB Food and Toy Drive at Christmas.
  • The OBMA is selling discount tickets that can be used at local businesses, the proceeds of which will go to support the Ocean Beach Clean and Safe program.
  • The OB Historical Society will have its next presentation on the 1978 PSA crash in North Park, November 15th.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

hOBie November 9, 2018 at 3:46 pm

Thanks Geoff. In the article you wrote about this same topic last year (May 2017 – linked above), you asked the same question I am curious of today: Who is advocating that a playground be built in this park? The OBPB? Parents within the community?

I do not think we need a playground in this park. I like the open space and think the best playground in the world is about 50 yards due west.

What I find particularly interesting is the proposed placement of the playground.
There is one spot in this park where transients consistently congregate. Anyone who has ever been knows where that is. Under the palm trees, close to the parking lot, in the SE corner (see pic from the prior story). Exactly where the proposed playground will go.

Maybe just a coincidence. But if I owned that condo building, that is exactly where I would want a playground to be built.


Geoff Page November 12, 2018 at 10:16 am

hOBie, The OB Development Corporation is handling this. I looked at the community plan last year and was surprised to see this park and the veteran’s park in the plan. I have had the same suspicions, that the owners of the new condos are involved. If you look at the current design, it is held away from that building. I asked why at the meeting and they said that was private property but it is not. When the development was constructed, there was an alley on the west side they were given but half of it was not used and the promise was it would be available to the public. Instead, they posted fake signs on the west side saying no trespassing. They are not living up to the agreement. Don’t you think if it was really their property that there would be a fence? I agree, who needs a playground with the beach right there? But, enough folks do want something that I guess we have to say this is a decent compromise. It is far better than the original plan.


kh November 10, 2018 at 6:46 pm

The playground off Saratoga/Ebers is popular with families. I think this new location would do the same for those families closer to it. Yes there’s a beach right there but its a different kind of use, and modest use of the park space that isn’t heavily utilized now. In fact they will be relocating the existing tables to open up the grassy portion even more.

It remains to be seen if the design, enforcement, and use by families can deter others from using it as a campsite and drug den, but it’s always worth trying.

I was please to hear OBCDC will maintain the playground and fitness portion in perpetuity, rather than the city.


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