District 6 – The Hills of Ocean Beach

by on March 6, 2019 · 1 comment

in Ocean Beach

OB Dist 6 viewtop

This is an updated and slightly edited version of a review of District 6 we published in March 2016.

The Ocean Beach Planning Board will hold its 2019 General Election on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. Polls will be open 4-7 p.m. at the Ocean Beach Recreation Center at 4726 Santa Monica Avenue. Each of the 7 districts has 2 seats and there are 2 at-large seats on the Board.

As we move south across the map of OB in our continuing series about the different planning districts within the Ocean Beach Planning Area – we come to District 6 – “The Hills of OB“.

The district is currently represented by Jane Gawronski and Dan Dennison. Jane has been a volunteer on the Board for at least 5 years and Dan has been on it since May of 2016. Only Dan is up for re-election, and he is running against George McCalla.

Jane Gawronski

(From bio at OBPB website:) Jane retired as Superintendent of the Escondido Union High School District in 1998 and moved back to Ocean Beach. While she worked at the San Diego State University Foundation doing research on the teaching and learning of mathematics she served on the OB Town Council and later the OB Planning Board. “OB has an ambiance that needs to be maintained in a systematic, careful and caring way. I want to be part of the effort to make that happen”. (See this 2013 interview with Jane and husband Tom – who is leaving the Planning Board.)

Dan Dennison

(From bio at OBPB website:) Dan grew up in San Diego, spent five years in the Navy, has Masters of Business degree from Vanderbilt University followed by Planned Community planning, entitlement, development and management in four states. He is also very active in several community organizations. His goal is to utilize extensive planning and development experience to assist with OB’s future harmoniously synchronized with our Community Plan.

George McCalla – New Candidate for District 6

George introduced himself at a recent OB Town Council meeting as a candidate. Here’s a brief report:  He told everyone that his house is the one with the famous painted cow at Sunset Cliffs Blvd and Del Monte Avenue. He and his wife, he said, have volunteered for numerous OB community events, and he ticked them off (there were too many to record). He’s retired now and can devote more time to his volunteer activities. He does support, among other things, community-owned businesses. (No photo available.)


District 6 – The Hills of Ocean Beach

OB District 6 mapStretching from the lowlands of Cable Street going east, District 6 immediately begins to climb up the hill – the hill of Point Loma – which is very steep at times, hence “Niagara Avenue” – and reaches the “peak” of OB at the intersection of Coronado Avenue and Froude Street. This is the highest point in “official” Ocean Beach – the geographical area of the community of OB that is recognized by the City of San Diego.

OB Dist 6 Coron Hilltop

The “peak” of OB – intersection of Froude and alley between Coronado and Del Mar. (All photos by Frank Gormlie except those by Travis)

And yes, other districts have hills, such as District 4 immediately to the north and District 7 to the south.

But District 6 is all hill – except that block between Cable Street and Sunset Cliffs – and even along Cable there is an elevation rise.

On a map, the district is shaped like a large square. From Froude on the east to Cable on the west, it includes the avenues of Niagara, Narragansett, Del Monte, Santa Cruz and Coronado in all the mountains of their 4700 and 4600 blocks – of these wide avenues that go straight up the hill. The district also contains the major street of the community – Sunset Cliffs Blvd – plus the feeder streets that locals use – like Ebers and even Cable -.

OB Dist 6 Hill(When OB was originally mapped out, no one looked at a topo map, and these broad east-west boulevards were drawn in – as planners thought the main traffic to and from OB would be in this east and west direction. Look at the upper rounded corners and over-hanging street lights of Newport Avenue. BTW, did you ever wonder where OB got its street names? See this.)

OB Dist 6 ViewIssueBecause District 6 is mainly hills – Views (with a capital “V”) and view corridors are – and always have been – significant issues. Protecting views from the encroachment of neighbors as they exercise their “property rights” in building up, and then deciding on whether to go higher oneself – has for decades created a tension within the area.

Part of that tension is related to the class base of the district. It doesn’t take one long after observing the housing stock of “the Hill” of OB to understand that the folks who live there are – on average – of a higher economic stratum than most of the rest of the community.

OB Dist 6 HillHses 2They have to be in order to pay for those views. Professionals and retired professionals live here, people with money and connections. This district is the upper echelon in any diagram of OB’s economic classes.

OB Dist 6 LrgAlleyHse 2

Primarily residential – with many large houses recently rehabbed or built -there is a rich diversity of the housing stock, a few near-century old Craftsmans (very few actually remain), cottages from the Thirties, stuccoes from the Fifties, a few neo-Spanish, a handful of older apartment buildings, 60’s apartment blocks, and remodels and rehabs from the remaining decades.

The district does have some businesses – the spill-over from Newport. And because the district goes to the alley between Newport and Niagara, its businesses OB Dist 6 Riteaidinclude on of the largest corporate enterprise, Rite-Aid.

There is a substantial density change as you go up the hill starting from Cable – from the congestion of the flatlands to the sparsity of the incline.

Many large apartments were built in that 4800 block of all those streets of the district during the Fifties and Sixties – the days before community plans, planning boards, height limits, floor area ratio requirements or set-back requirements.

OB Dist 6 Apts 2So on Niagara, Narragansett, Del Monte, Santa Cruz and Coronado, you will see the remnants of that era – the era of unbridled apartment construction in OB and throughout the coastal zone of San Diego. Also note that there are very, very few apartments east of Sunset Cliffs Blvd.

OB Dist 6 LrgAptsAnd along with the apartments come off-street front parking lots with massive curb cuts. You try to find a parking space at night in the 4800 blocks – it’s a real challenge.

The traffic, parking, noise and the blocking of coastal access and views – and other problems related to the congestion that resulted from all the apartment construction – fed into the urban planning crisis of San Diego’s beachfronts in the late Sixties and early Seventies.

Part of this crisis was the “walling-off” of coastal access by apartments being built right on the cliffs and right on the beachfronts – and effectively blocking views, view corridors – visual access – and physical access – to a public resource, guaranteed to all.

OB Dist 6 alleyHse 2

Where’s the ocean?

The planning and over-development crisis helped fuel a grassroots resistance to the rampant and unrestricted construction and led to such things as San Diego’s 30 foot height limit, the California Coastal Commission, and OB’s planning committee itself. The rest is history, as they say.

OB Dist 6 StyAptsWhich leads us back to viewing how people live in District 6.

Sitting alongside the apartments are much newer stylized condo complexes, which is in turn next to an oldie-but-goodie wood house built maybe in the Twenties.

There’s definitely a mix of housing here in this district, and next to the older stock are giant rehabs with expensive landscaping.

OB Dist 6 StyleHse 02You’ll see houses that will make you wonder ‘how the heck did that make it past the planning board?’ because they stand out so much, and look out of character – compared to the remainder of the block.

Of course, this changes as one goes up the hill.

Massive houses, two and three stories have taken the place of older single-family homes demolished in the name of progress – as the streets head up the incline. There’s no more beach shacks here, no sirree.

And now, let’s get back to business – the business of the district.

Here – looking north along Sunset Cliffs blvd towards the District 6 business area – often these days traffic is rerouted due to new pipe installations.

OB Dist 6 RestRowThe Business of the District

Hugging Sunset Cliffs Boulevard for about two blocks is what has become a rejuvenation of commercial enterprises along that section of the main drag. Compared to what this area was like – say in the Sixties and Seventies – the new business mini-zone has changed that entire slide of the boulevard – for the good.

Several small businesses are here; a car repair shop, a mortuary, a nails store, the market of all small markets – Olive Tree, dry cleaners, a new pet-specialized enclave, professional offices – dentists and realtors, and a very vibrant OB “restaurant row” with Hugo’s (formerly Rancho’s), Pepe’s (with new owners), Newbreak, the Donut shop, and the Thai Bistro all in one long building – on the same site where the old Dennys used to be.

Hugo’s – the former Rancho’s – was the first veggie-Mexican restaurant in the city. (Rancho’s predecessor was also a Mexican restaurant but was literally a hole-in-the-wall. That owner sold the place to Rancho’s owner, who with time, was so successful – he went crazy and took over the space next door – which was Paladin Video rental before it moved and died on Newport.)

OB Dist 6 PepesPepe’s – part of the now established “restaurant row”

The intersection at Sunset Cliffs and Narragansett is one of he busiest in the neighborhood – and certainly the district.

OB Dist 6 BizsSunset2

Chris Stavros – the owner of Olive Tree market – has single-highhandedly renewed that entire OB Dist 6 OliveTrebuilding where his market is located, and now he and his spouse operate not only the store, but a beer-tasting room and a new restaurant that took over at the former Expresso pizza place. Okay, it was all possible because his family owns the building.

That place before Chris took it over was a barebones corner market that hardly anyone used. Once he did take it over, it was successful. Then – we understand – he sold it, but the new owner didn’t have the magic and Chris bought it back. We’re glad he did. It’s a quality market – not cheap – but very reliable with a great sandwiches, a huge stock of wine, and friendly staff.

JOB Dist 6 BizsSunsetAcross the street, Victory Liquor has been there longer than before I was in high school (I used to stand outside on weekends as an older teenager and ask people to buy me beer. Everybody always gave me the change back, everybody but Spaceman.)

Jean’s thriving barber shop next door used to be on Newport and moved to its present location sometime around the mid-Nineties.

More businesses in the district include these:

OB Dist 6 SmBizs

There are a few small business along the mini-zone on Sunset Cliffs Blvd.

OB Dist 6 BizsCable

Professional building at the corner of Cable and Niagara.

Here and there are still cottages and small, wood-framed, cozy-looking craftsman-type abodes. And a lot of those single-story Fifties stucco houses. There’s still quite a diversity within the district.

OB Dist 6 SmHseTake a look at the diversity of District 6.

OB Dist 6 SmHse2

OB Dist 6 styeHse 6

OB Dist 6 SmHse 2

OB Dist 6 StyleApts

OB Dist 6 RehabHill

OB Dist 6 OldAptAn older apartment building on Sunset Cliffs Blvd.

OB Dist 6 StyApts2

OB Dist 6 OldHse 5OB Dist 6 OldHseTorreyThis grand old house on Niagara is under a huge Torrey Pine.

OB Dist 6 LrgAlleyHsesThis project is off an alley up on “the Hill”

OB Dist 6 RehabHse

OB Dist 6 OldHse 4Some funk is still around.

OB Dist 6 Cottages

Come – take a walk through District 6 and view some of the wonders and oddities …

OB Dist 6 DelMonteCowThe “Painted Cow” of Del Monte Avenue. OB Dist 6 DM CowClose






This cottage on Sunset Cliffs Blvd was turned into an art gallery.

OB Dist 6 CuteHse

Some take it upon themselves to landscape and decorate the public right of way next to their property.

OB Dist 6 DecorSideWalkAnd speaking of sidewalks, for a while the Planning Board ensured that when old sidewalks were torn up and replaced the concrete stamp of the original sidewalk company would be preserved, such as this one from Taylor & Spencer, installed March 1922.

OB Dist 6 sidewalkOld

OB Dist 6 CautionSignDistrict 6 has some of the more dangerous intersections due to its hilly nature – especially along Sunset Cliffs Blvd at Santa Cruz and at Coronado.

Years ago when I was on the Planning Board, we were able to get the City to install a warning light near these intersections. It was better than nothing but we pushed for a signal light.

At times, it does takes civic action to get the City to install cross-walks, street lights, stop signs and signal lights.

The Masonic Center – is a community resource and institution.

OB Dist 6 MasonCtr

OB Dist 6 VacaRent2

Vacation rentals – dog-friendly – have taken the place of small cottages that used to be peoples homes. Is this a new trend? Or are vacation rentals always been part of OB?

OB Dist 6 OldHseHill

A house on its perch overlooking the village along Niagara Avenue – the steepest hill in OB.

OB Dist 6 OldHse 3

OB Dist 6 StylHse 01OB Dist 6 HillHses

Many thanks to Travis on Coronado for taking photos for us:

OB Dist 6 viewtop2

OB Dist 6 mixHsesOB Dist 6 MixHse 03This is District 6.

OB Dist 6 BumprStkr

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

ZZ March 7, 2019 at 1:52 pm

Great write-up!


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