Peninsula Planners Hear From Jen Campbell on Wide Range of Issues; and About Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

by on February 25, 2019 · 3 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

Our council person from District 2, Dr. Jennifer Campbell, has only been in office a matter of months but has already managed to do something the former council person never managed to do after years in office.  Dr. Campbell attended a Peninsula Community Planning Board meeting.  She came to the Thursday, February 21 meeting at the Point Loma Library despite nursing a sore foot that was in a protective boot.

Dr. Campbell related a few things about her background when asked, chiefly that she was a physician for 38 years and grew up back east. But, she spent most of her time taking questions from the audience and the PCPB members.  She is a small lady with a big smile and an engaging public persona.  Her answers to questions were informed and the intelligence was clearly evident as she spoke.  This was not the typical politician with a polished demeanor and not much else.

She was asked a number of questions about different things and was familiar with them all.

There was discussion of the recent decision by city council to rescind an ordinance in San Diego that prohibited people from sleeping in cars.  She explained in detail about the legal decision in August last year that lead to council action.  She acknowledged that people were upset over this but made it clear the council had no other choice legally.

Dr. Campbell explained that people would have to use existing laws to deal with the situation.  One law requires a vehicle be moved after being parked for 72 hours.  She said if people parked in front of a person’s home, the residents could call parking enforcement that would mark the vehicle and it would have to move after 72 hours.  Admittedly, this tactic is often not as effective as it seems because people can move and then come back.  She also mentioned the more severe restrictions on motor homes that can also be enforced.  Over size vehicles on city streets now require permits.

Officer David Surwilo, the San Diego Police Department’s Community Relations Officer, provided more detailed information about the camping in cars issue. Surwilo covered the ideas of using the 72-hour parking enforcement ordinance and motor homes.  A few years ago, the city council created new, restrictive laws regarding motor homes parked on the streets.  Surwilo detailed those regulations that a lot of people are not aware of covering over-sized vehicles that can include boat trailers and the like.  RVs need a permit to be parked on the street that owners get from the city allowing a certain amount of RV time on the street for loading, unloading, or cleaning. This can be used to move RVs along that may be parked in front of your home.

There was a brief discussion of the 30-foot height limit and Dr. Campbell agreed it is under assault and should be defended.  She knew about the push to raise the limit along the new trolley line to La Jolla and was at least familiar with concerns the community has about attempts to selectively raise the height limit.

There was a discussion about affordable housing and Dr. Campbell sounded well informed on the issue and efforts to deal with it.  Board member David Dick briefly described the situation on Famosa with the Housing Commission looking to build affordable housing on the vacant property adjacent to Nimitz.  He pointedly asked Dr. Campbell, if the issue came before city council as a result of a petition, would she vote to have the council decide to act directly on the petition and rezone the property to open space or park land or would she vote to have it placed on the ballot.

Dr. Campbell answered that the issue would automatically go on the ballot if the correct number of signatures were gathered and certified.  This answer implied that no city council decision would be needed. To understand what is supposed to happen go to  Under the heading “Legislative Action” is the following explanation of council action:

“After an initiative petition has been qualified and presented to the City Council, the following actions may occur:

If the initiative petition contains the signatures of at least three percent (3%) but less than ten percent (10%) of the voters, the Council must within ten (10) business days of the date of presentation approve or reject the legislative act as presented but may not amend it. The Council may submit the matter to the voters, but it is not required to do so.

If the initiative petition contains the signatures of ten percent (10%) or more of the voters, the Council must within ten (10) business days of the date of presentation approve or reject the proposed legislative act as presented but may not amend it. If the Council rejects the proposed legislative act or fails to act within the time prescribed, then the Council has ten (10) business days to call a special election at which the act, without alteration, shall be submitted to the people. The special election may be consolidated with the next City-wide Primary or City-wide General Election, or a separate special election may be called.

If a proposed legislative act is approved by the voters, the act shall be deemed adopted. The act shall be effective at the time indicated in the proposed legislative act or thirty (30) days after the election, whichever is later.”

Dr. Campbell did not actually state a position on the issue, which was probably wise.  She has not been in office very long and there are two sides to the complicated Famosa issue. But, she did take time to have a meeting with the Save Famosa Canyon group on Wednesday, February 20 that they found encouraging.

The subject of scooters littering the streets came up and her answer was a good one.  She said what should have happened is that all of the companies that own the scooters and bikes should have been notified to pick up their equipment within 48 hours or it would go to a recycling center.  Then, the city should have sat down with each company that wanted to be here and worked out a deal and rules. Sadly, that did not happen so the city is now trying to come up with rules after the fact, after all the problems that have become evident.

When the discussion turned into enforcing rules like over-sized vehicles on the streets and short term vacation rentals, Dr. Campbell did not hesitate to make it clear that enforcement was one of the problems.  She knew, for example, that it is illegal to have an STVR in a residential zone but that the law is not being enforced. She explained that the council legislates and the executive branch – the mayor’s office – enforces the law.  Before San Diego voted to have a strong mayor system of government, council did have some enforcement power but not anymore. Dr. Campbell sounded pretty clear on where a big part of the problem lies.

Dr. Campbell spent more than a half hour answering questions before she had to leave.  It appeared that she made a favorable impression on the board and the audience.  She demonstrated that just showing up and being willing to listen and talk to people, in person, has a positive effect because it is humanizing.  Instead of a politician your never actually see, this kind of visit makes folks feel like they know you and that is good for everyone.

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

There was an update on the happenings at the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park clearly designed to quell some of the public outcry over what has been done to the once wild, natural space that is being transformed into an organized park.  A lady named Ellen Quick from the park committee provided the update.

Ms. Quick explained that the current work was Phase II of their master plan.  Phase I largely involved demolishing the abandoned house that was just west of the parking lot where native plants were placed surrounded by an orange plastic fence several years ago.  This area is nearing the end of its five-year maintenance period, the amount of time it takes for the plants to be viable and no longer require irrigation.

Phase II is the current work.  This included removing the old ball field, some drainage work, 27,000 plants, a small pedestrian bridge, and other work.  Ms. Quick addressed the irrigation that has been placed in the park.  She said it was temporary and would be removed after the five-year plant maintenance period.  It is possible that she meant the irrigation would be shut down because it would be impossible to actually remove the thousands of feet of piping without tearing up the new plants.

There has been an outcry on social media about herbicide being sprayed in the park.  Ms. Quick’s explanation sounded almost appealing naïve.  She said that only some herbicide is being used and that the contractor is pulling most of the weeds by hand.  As one who has regularly walked the park, this reporter can say that any evidence of hand pulling weeds is wanting.  Evidence of herbicide use is clear throughout the park all the way to the Navy fence at the south end.

Ms. Quick also stated that it was the contractor’s decision to use herbicide, which sounded very odd because it was hard to believe the city did not have a say in this.  It did not appear the lady was being untruthful, it appeared that she believed most weeds were being pulled by hand. Ms. Quick explained that non-native had to be removed because native plants needed a ration of 75 percent native plants to 25 percent non-native plants.  Anything less and the native plants cannot thrive.

There have been community complaints about the plastic fencing deteriorating and washing into the ocean.  Ms. Quick said that they are requesting the contractor use biodegradable fencing and biodegradable sandbags filled with native soil.  She explained that the Phase I contractor was planning to stick with the fencing it had.

This reporter raised the problem of the smooth road through the park the work created that is now frequented by bicycles and all forms of motorized transport such as scooters an electric bikes, even street legal scooters and motorcycles.  She professed not to know about that and doubted there was much of this happening, which also seemed naïve.  Anyone who regularly walks the park encounters this new traffic.  Where once the path through the park made it very difficult for these forms of transport, the smooth, wide graded road that goes from one end to the other of the park makes it very easy.  She said they would look into getting more ranger time in the park but what is needed are physical barriers of some kind.

Ms. Quick is very positive on the park improvements as are many other people.  But, only one side of the classic park struggle is happy with the changes.  On one side is the group of people that sees a wild open space and loves it for its very wildness, a truly “natural” park.  On the other side is the group of people that sees a wild open space and feel that it must be organized, roped off, with neat trails and benches and informative signs explaining what is there.  When the bulldozers rolled in last year, the second group won, the wild, natural park is now being turned into a display.

Action Items

A request to remove two-hour parking on Curtis Street was unanimously approved and a large remodel on Sorrento Drive was approved by a vote of 7-2.

Controversy Over 4386 Newport Ave

A controversial development at 4386 Newport Ave. received a unanimous vote also, but to deny, not approve.  The applicant is seeking a Coastal Development Permit. It appeared that the owner had already built the home but without permits, or at least without a Coastal Permit.  This was an after-the-fact permit application.

The PCPB’s Project Review Subcommittee voted to deny the project and listed four problems. There was a question regarding the 30-foot height limit that was not settled.  It sounded like the actual roof peak, as explained by the PRC chair Mark Krencik, was just under the 30-foot limit but that there were projections that went as much as 18 inches higher.

There was a concern about the floor area ration of the Newport house having exceeded the maximum requirement for the lot. A third concern was a need to see the claimed three parking spots. The fourth concern was that the home did not comply with the community plan and was too bulky and had the minimum side yards.  What seemed to exacerbate the problems with this project was the owner’s reluctance to be cooperative by not showing up for the Project Review meeting or the February 21 meeting.  Nothing will turn everyone against a project faster than an uncooperative – read arrogant – developer.

Fence Needed Approval. One of the last action items was an odd one for anyone familiar with projects that come to a planning board. This one was for a fence.  The applicant needed a Neighborhood Development Permit and a Coastal Development permit for a fence.  These are two major hurdles for any development in both time and money.  It was hard to imagine why a fence required all of this effort.

Then, it became more of a surprise to see that the applicant, the homeowner with a property that abuts the Point Loma Nazarene Campus, had an architect at the PCPB meeting representing him or her. An architect.  For a fence. You can’t make this stuff up.  The fence received unanimous approval from the PCPB.

Liberty Station lease transfer A final action item was a vote on a letter to various city officials about the Liberty Station lease transfer.  What the letter is asking for can be seen here:  The letter appears to be asking for a lot from the city and if past practice is a predictor, it is doubtful any of this letter will be agreed to.

PCPB Election March 15 at the Point Loma library. The final agenda item was a discussion of the PCPB elections that will be held March 15 at the Point Loma library.  There are seven open seats.  Five seats are up for election each year.  The other two open seats are due to the resignations of former board members Margaret Virissimo and Mick Moore.  Virissimo’s term had one year left on it.  Moore barely served one year leaving a two-year term to fill out.  The decision was to have the 6th place vote getter take the remainder of Moore’s term and the 7th place finisher will take the remainder of Virissimo’s term. The PCPB is having a Candidate Forum on March 7 at 6:00, also at the Point Loma Library. For more on the elections, go here .



{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeshua Stevens February 25, 2019 at 11:46 am

Still in shock about what happened to our park. I was one of those optimists at the beginning of the work. But the reality is definitely what many feared.


GML February 25, 2019 at 2:33 pm

Allowing people to sleep in vehicles is going to be a major problem in Ocean Beach and is only going to get worse. Once summer starts to arrive, so will an influx of visitors. They now get to “camp” for free outside of our homes. Obviously the law was intended to protect those people that are homeless or down on their luck. I’m all for that. However, like many reactions, they have many unintended consequences. In this case the majority of the people that will be “helping” will be those that just want a free handout.

There are the obvious issues of safety, trash, urination/defecation, drug use, etc. This just allows people do it that much closer to our homes and families. The 72 hour rule will do little to nothing to alleviate this issue. Especially considering that it is many times days before someone comes out to tag a vehicle after it is reported.

It is amazing and sad that the council has zero plans to solve this problem.


Geoff Page February 28, 2019 at 12:33 pm

I wanted to add something I left out of the article that I think is important for folks to hear. Chevelle Tate, representing State Senator Toni Atkins told the gathering that 29 local businesses were adversely affected when Prince Recycling by Stumps was run out of town. Each of those businesses face a fine of $100 per day as a result. Prince’s facility helped all of these businesses avoid that cost. The businesses now have to set themselves up to take recyclables themselves in order to avoid the fine, something that is a real burden for some businesses. This is what happens when vigilante justice is allowed to run rampant instead of a reasoned and logical approach to a problem. Maybe the leaders of this group that is so proud of their handiwork should be gifted with all the recyclables instead.


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