There’s Lots of Affordable Housing Near Famosa Canyon

by on August 28, 2019 · 16 comments

in Ocean Beach

Areas outlined in red are affordable housing areas; Famosa Canyon is outlined in yellow.

The San Diego Housing Commission is ready to build 78 units of affordable housing units called “workforce housing” on the piece of property at Nimitz and Famosa, called Famosa Canyon by locals.

Yet the same piece of land has been a playground of sorts for generations of local youth – and many neighbors have opposed the idea of developing what appears to be one of the very last portions of open space on the Peninsula.

But who can argue with the need for more affordable housing? Everybody wants more affordable housing. So, what’s the deal?

The deal is the Housing Commission currently controls the land; their goal is to build units on it – and anybody who is against their plan are NIMBYs. Those who oppose that proposition do come from a myriad of stances – okay and some may very well be guilty of not wanting more working class families near them. Others are sincere in their position of wanting to maintain a last bastion of open space that kids have used as their playground.

And why not? The land is part of the land-grant by developer DC Collier – the true father of Ocean Beach – for a park “for the children of San Diego.”

What about affordable housing however?

Well, if you take a look at the above map – you will see areas outlined in red. The land in question is outlined in yellow. The areas in red are affordable housing units in nearby neighborhoods – some within 1,000 feet of Famosa Canyon.

And there’s a lot of areas outlined in red. In fact, there’s plenty of affordable housing in the area near Famosa and Nimitz. (This is not a scientific map, but based on years of knowing the neighborhoods.)

So, really – it’s not an issue of affordable housing – even though San Diego needs more. The Housing Commission even admitted so when they threatened to sell the land to a private developer if the community blocked their plans. Then that developer would be free to build whatever.

The Point has always been more affordable the more north you go. OB used to be affordable – and much of the Midway District was built up with affordable apartment units over decades.

In the meantime, there’s a Special Meeting on this whole deal being held tonight, Wed., Aug. 28th, by the Peninsula Community Planning Board, at the Point Loma Library / Hervey Branch Library located at 3701 Voltaire Street. The meeting will be from 6:00 – 8:00 PM.

Original boundaries of the DC Collier land-grant to “the children of San Diego.”

Here are points to consider:

  1. The development would violate the spirit of DC Collier’s land-grant;
  2. there’s lots of affordable housing in the immediate area of the property;
  3. it’s needed open space in a time when every available parcel is being developed;
  4. the land is an important drainage area for the Famosa Slough.
  5. Imagine 78 new units in that small piece of land – the density will skyrocket with concurrent problems in traffic and infra-structure overload; the impact to neighboring Cleator Park will be tremendous. (Oh, by the way, the School District recently sold off one of the only elementary schools in the area a few years back – Barnard – and unaffordable housing was built.)

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

gregg August 28, 2019 at 2:57 pm

You’re contradicting yourself Frank. First you say that STVR’s are reducing the availability of affordable housing and causing rents to rise (which I agree with) Now you’re saying there is plenty of affordable housing in the area. What gives? Hmmm


Frank Gormlie August 28, 2019 at 3:58 pm

Gregg – not “plenty” but “lots” as I repeated several times, so many near this particular Famosa Canyon that the SDHC can’t wave the affordable flag righteously. I would say this particular area is saturated with affordable units – while other areas of Point Loma most certainly are not. In general of course as I affirmed we need housing that people can afford – but to claim there isn’t any in this particular area and that’s why more should be built HERE is a deception if intentional. That’s like claiming OB needs more apartments so let’s build more in one of the most dense communities in San Diego.


gregg August 29, 2019 at 9:55 am

OB may be the densest community in SD but at 28 DU’s per acre that is not dense. OB should be denser if you want to have more affordable housing. I would say there isn’t enough affordable housing and you need to build more apartments to make housing affordable. You can’t have affordable single family housing.


Frank Gormlie August 29, 2019 at 10:42 am

Gregg, I think you just lost yourself in a circular argument.


Gregg August 30, 2019 at 7:16 pm

I don’t see how my argument is circular but so be it. In my eyes you haven’t justified your contradiction.


Frank Gormlie August 30, 2019 at 8:28 pm

I don’t need to justify my position to your eyes. But for what’s it’s worth – here’s how your argument is circular: you say OB is the densest community in SD but it should be denser in order to have affordable housing and those should be apartments; it’s circular because you don’t justify your position that the densest community in SD should be made denser to satisfy your views on affordable housing. Here, the property in question is not in OB and if you look at my map, you can see there’s lots of affordable housing within a mile of the site. Thus we need more affordable housing BUT NOT ON THIS SITE – one of the last open spaces in the northern Peninsula.


Gregg August 31, 2019 at 9:51 pm

I never said OB was the densest you did. Read you article. I wrote @ 28 units/ acre that’s not dense by your standard. What I meant was, the only way OB can have affordable housing is to be denser than what is current @ 28 units/ acre in order for affordable housing construction costs to be viable. OB is basically built out based on current zoning standards.

You think by getting rid of STVR’s and rent control will solve the affordability problem. It won’t.

Your argument that there’s “plenty” of affordable housing (according to you article) in the area is ludicrous. What doe’s “plenty” mean. What expertise do you have on the affordable housing crisis. Did you do a study of affordable vs. market rate and come to the conclusion that there’s enough AH. There’s never enough affordable housing. Some of those you circled is senior housing and shouldn’t be used as a justification of “plenty” for what the city is proposing (workforce housing).

What makes you an authority on Urban Planning. I don’t understand why you’re against affordable housing. I have close to 40 years of background in Urban Planning so I have a little bit of experience. I’m not against open space. We have lots large open space. What we need is more pocket parks.

You’re against and suspicious of everything new and different. You don’t want any change even if it’s for the good.

BTW I’m not a city PR guy. I’m semi-retired. I have a degree in Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, worked as an architectural designer, work part time for my sister who’s an architect and I own property on Voltaire. I’m not trying to be snarky here. I just have strong feelings and convictions about affordable housing.


OBismostdensezipcode August 29, 2019 at 5:20 am

City PR guy makes snarky comments on OB Rag. I’m surprised you aren’t making the same convoluted argument that you did on Twitter, but you don’t have the unequivocal YIMBY group here to like everything you say.

Looking forward to the traffic study.


Frank Gormlie August 30, 2019 at 8:29 pm

Is “gregg” a city PR guy?


Rufus August 29, 2019 at 4:55 am

You didn’t highlight it in red, but there is already a Housing Commission owned project within the boundary of the Collier land grant and in in the same block as the proposed project.

It’s at the south east corner of Famosa and Valetta, contiguous to the Park Point Loma condos.


Robert August 29, 2019 at 10:30 am

That north section by Famosa is much more affordable. Up adjacent to the YMCA, all the apartments going over to Leland and so forth. Park Point Loma was considered inexpensive for the size of residence you can get. Common sense tells me this is the worst possible location for development. All the Navy traffic, schools and residences utilizing Catalina Bl Monday-Friday getting on or off of Nimitz. Nimitz is backed up by three everyday during the week. If it isn’t backed up, the vehicles travel over 50 miles per hour ( see having a driveway leading out from this project)? High Voltage power lines crossing this area ( where are those going to go)? No public buses or shopping in the immediate area, taking away part of the wetlands and open space., cost to develop, possible future litigation on settling or drainage issues, car and pedestrian accidents and health issues with the high voltage power lines. Better ideas out there.


Geoff Page August 29, 2019 at 1:16 pm

Robert, I’ll start by saying I am in favor of keeping this as open space. But, I believe the effort to do so is harmed by some of the many claims the opponents of the housing project are making and they need to cull it down to the main issue, keeping open space. You’ve listed some of those things.

“All the Navy traffic, schools and residences utilizing Catalina Bl Monday-Friday getting on or off of Nimitz.” Yes, this will add to traffic, but the Navy traffic exits Nimitz and heads south in the morning and then enters Nimitz in the afternoon going north. Traffic from this site would be doing the opposite. School traffic to Dana or the high school can avoid Catalina by going east on Famosa.

“If it isn’t backed up, the vehicles travel over 50 miles per hour ( see having a driveway leading out from this project)?” Not sure what 50 mph has to do with the project. But, the idea of a driveway off Nimitz was something we proposed for that idiotic Upper Voltaire project that will exit onto Famosa from Whittier. The developer said the city would not allow it because of the speed limit. Had they reduced the speed limit, everyone from that project could have entered and exited the parking garage from Nimitz. So, it is possible if the speed limit is reduced.

“High Voltage power lines crossing this area ( where are those going to go)?” There are many construction solutions to this one, it is a non-issue.

“No public buses or shopping in the immediate area.” There are bus stops on the corner of Catalina and Voltaire. Shopping? Why is this an issue for just this project, the area is full of multi-family residences, what do they do?

“taking away part of the wetlands” I’ve heard this a lot but have never seen anything that says any part of the parcel is a designated wetlands. I’ve heard people say a portion of the area is. But, wetlands have to be officially designated as such and, if they are, they cannot be built on. So a project could be built but would avoid that area.

“cost to develop” That is a non-issue. If it is too costly, it won’t happen

“possible future litigation on settling or drainage issues,” I don’t know what this refers to but remember, any litigation will be defended by the city using our tax dollars.

“car and pedestrian accidents” That would not be unique to one project.

“and health issues with the high voltage power lines.” As I said there are many solutions to the high voltage lines.

The issue needs to be simplified. Throwing up all kinds of issues that don’t really matter just makes the opposition look desperate and unfocused. The only defensible issue is preserving one of the last pieces of open space in Point Loma, period. That is a noble cause. Every time one of these weak arguments goes out and gets shot down, it just looks like another victory for the Housing Commission. They can just say “What else you got?”


Cynthia April 1, 2020 at 11:13 pm

The traffic issues alone – as a ‘peninsula’ are inescapable without major Upgrading of Capacity & Safety issues (esp. ’emergency’-there are 1st ‘responder’ TIME requirements- ; military & School traffic -over 3000 drivers to and from 3 middle & High Schools & 2000 to Nazarene University!- No Hospital on Peninsula, zero real ‘bus’ capabilities within Peninsula as noted on Nextdoor), 5G issues, drainage (further stress & Erosion with the non-sewage water drainage into the ocean) & I’m sure other missing ‘impacts’ have yet to be even mildly ‘addressed’ by anyone. Indeed, any ‘affordable housing’ done with City or State ‘affordable housing’ was determined, over a decade ago by my industry’s professional committee, to cost 2-4 times as much as a private developer! None of the Needed & Mandatorily Required Safety Issues would be Able to be adequately Paid For (& Actually put in)…so a lose-lose-lose for Peninsula, OB and Midway Communities. Forget ‘visitors wanting to return’…you’ll have ‘lost’ the family atmosphere & small town community that has always kept Pt. Loma/OB desirable…even for tourists.


sd urban August 30, 2019 at 1:16 am

I’m curious what your definition of “affordable” is. HUD defines it as $1500/month for a family of 4 in San Diego:

Looking at and, there are no 3 BR apartments in these areas under $2200/month. In fact, the cheapest I see are 1 BR apartments for $1500/month. That’s not affordable, regardless of your “years of knowing the neighborhoods”.

“So, really – it’s not an issue of affordable housing – even though San Diego needs more.” That’s a pretty revealing statement: Point Loma has “enough” affordable housing (according to your absolutely data-free analysis), and therefore it doesn’t matter if the rest of San Diego needs more.

I’m 100% behind your right to make these statements, despite how disturbingly wrong they are. But the NIMBYs of Point Loma (and those formerly of Point Loma) have no business planning our city’s future. They only care about protecting their own interests while opposing every economic opportunity for younger residents. And those interests – preventing new housing, opposing bike lanes and scooters, abundant free parking – are definitely not “progressive”, given the backcountry sprawl and climate change they induce. I hope true progressive leaders in San Diego will have the courage (and the votes) to stand up to you.


Vern August 30, 2019 at 11:11 am

Sustainable population growth would be progressive (not the e-waste scooters). Nevertheless…
“… There were 3,853,472 births in the U.S. in 2017 — “down 2 percent from 2016 and the lowest number in 30 years,” the CDC said.
The general fertility rate sank to a record low of 60.2 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44 — a 3 percent drop from 2016, the CDC said in its tally of provisional data for the year.
The results put the U.S. further away from a viable replacement rate – the standard for a generation being able to replicate its numbers…” NPR.
The replacement rate needs to be reassessed, though the U.S. appears to be headed in the right direction.


Frank Gormlie August 30, 2019 at 11:26 am

sd urban – Your apparent lack of knowledge of this area is revealing. Plus you are putting words in my proverbial mouth. I never said “Point Loma has ‘enough’ affordable housing” and I made it abundantly clear that I support affordable housing, that San Diego needs more – JUST NOT AT THIS SPECIFIC LOCATION!

Then you blossomed your argument into a general assault on those who wish to place restrictions of housing, bike lanes and scooters. And you ended it with a direct personal attack on me – who I don’t think you really know enough to make any kind of stance on that level.

It sounds like you want “free market capitalism” to run our lives and environment with no limits on what can be built, how they build it, allowing public commons encroaching corporations to get away with whatever they can get away with.


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