Applicants Victimized by City’s Refusal to Abide by Ocean Beach Community Plan

by on September 5, 2019 · 0 comments

in Ocean Beach

4744 Cape May Avenue

When it came time for the applicants of a Coastal Development Permit to construct a new 3-story residence with decks and a new detached 2-story guest quarters on an empty lot at 4744 Cape May Avenue to appear before the OB Planning Board at Wednesday night’s meeting – planners had a case of deja vue.

The applicants – Alan and Nancy – had appeared in front the Board before – they were at the Project Review Committee (a sub-committee of the entire board, which usually makes recommendations on projects), back on December 19, 2018. Here is our report from the Project Review Committee’s review of that project:

Owners of 4744 Cape May Ave Requested to Return to the Drawing Board

The owners of the vacant property at 4744 Cape May made their own presentation, a husband and wife team. They had purchased the property back in 2015, they said, and bought the plans for a new 3-story residence with a new granny flat as well – which had supposedly been approved. Then, the plans called for the 3-story to be at the rear of the narrow lot. [My emphasis.]

They wish to build a new 1,974 square-foot, 3-story residence with decks along with a new detached 2-story “guest quarters” with decks for approximate 656 square foot. “Guest quarters” is synonymous with “granny flat” or the new “companion unit” description.

The owners claimed the city told them they couldn’t build the 3-story in the back and must have it in the front; so they had the plans changed. Yet when they reached the review panel, they were told that the OB Community Plan preferred the taller structures to be at the rear of a property in order to avoid the urban canyon effect.

Even though the final vote on the project was cased in the language “approval if …” the real intent of the planners was to have the owners return to the drawing board and reverse the position of the structures.

OB 4744-46 Cape May

This is how the property at 4744-46 Cape May Avenue appeared in 2013.

There is some background on this property and permit. The applicants said, as stated above, that they bought the property in 2015 and bought the plans for a new 3-story and a new granny flat – “which had supposedly been approved.”

About two years before the current applicants purchased the property and plans, the project did appear before the OB Planning Board. It was scheduled for their September 4, 2013 meeting and here is how we described the project then:

OB 4744-46 Cape May aerialedit

Google maps caught this scene: wood stacked in the back yard of the subject property – circled in red.

The project called Mucha Haus is located at 4744 – 4746 Cape May. The applicant is seeking a Neighborhood Development Permit “to maintain previously conforming density and remodel & expand two existing, one – story single family residences.”

One residence will be 769 square feet and 2 stories, the other will be 1,856 square feet and 3 stories – both on a 0.08-acre lot.  This project is within District 3 of the Planning Board Area. …

The applicant wishes to build a 3-story unit in the back – and by the looks of things, wood is stacked in the back yard – ready for the Planning Board’s approval or not.  A 3 story house in this neighborhood is somewhat out of character – as there are no other residences at that  height in the immediate area.

Upon checking our files, I did not find a report on that meeting held on 9/4/13. And for some reason, there are no minutes to that particular full board meeting exactly 5 years ago. There are minutes to the applicants appearance before the PRC in December, however. Here they are:

ACTION ITEM #1: 4744 Cape May
Applicants: Alan, Nancy. Outstanding issues: over FAR by 3 feet, and missed a few things in CAP checklist. 3 story in front, 2 story companion unit in back.

[Board member Craig Klein]: Move front wall 6 inches to reduce 3 square feet?

Applicant: Yes.

CK: OB Plan criteria is to not create urban canyon, put bulkier structures toward back of lot. [Ed: my emphasis]

Applicant: have not seen Plan.

[Kevin Hastings, chair of PRC]: Will send community plan.

Applicant: Bought property with approved plans with 2 story in front and 3 in back. City specifically told him they could not have bigger unit in back. [ed: my emphasis]

KH: Not true. Has 2 parking spots, companion unit exempt from parking in transit priority area.

[Board member Virginia Wilson]: Has 3rd story setback. Front could be larger and still lower.

[Board member Dan Dennison]: City is supposed to make sure applicant sees community plan,

[Board member Elizabeth Felando]: Less bulk in front would make it easier to comply with view corridor.

KH: 20 ft front setback is more than minimum.

Applicant: Front property would be long term rental.

CK Motion: Recommend that the full board deny the project in its current form based on incompatibility with bulk and scale provisions of OB plan. Withdrawn.

DD Motion: Recommend approval once open issues are resolved and plan is flipped/modified to comply with bulk and scale requirements of community plan. KH Second.

[Vote] Yea 6 Nay 0 Abstain 0

So, the sub-committee denied approval of the applicant’s permit and I didn’t see any record of them returning to the Board before Wednesday.

And indeed, it was deja vue all over again.

Alan and Nancy were back – with the exact same plans as they had presented to the PRC in December 2018. The proposed project had a FAR (floor area ratio) of .75 – which is authorized in the neighborhoods east of Sunset Cliffs Blvd. (Much of the rest of OB has an FAR of .70.)

And the same issue was back: the large 3-story residence was designed for the front of the lot.

Craig Klein had to repeat himself. The OB Community Plan, he said, puts the bulkier projects in back but the City’s  Development Services Department told them “no”, the applicants had to place the smaller granny unit in back. Yet, the City’s DSD had not given the applicants any information on the Board’s position.

Klein: “These are nice people trying to do the right thing,” referring to the applicants. “But the city has put us in a box.” He went on; the DSD is ignoring OB’s Community Plan and is victimizing the applicants by forcing them to spend time and money going back and forth.

The OB Community Plan values “view corridors” and encourages the larger, bulkier buildings to be placed in the rear of a lot in order to maintain those corridors down the east-west streets of OB. Yet here was staff at DSD walking all over the OB plan and telling applicants they need not follow the neighborhood development plan.

Applicant Nancy blurted out: “All I want to do is build this and have a better place,” as currently the lot is vacant. But Klein brought up “precedent.” If the Board allowed this project as is to move forward, then it creates a precedent for future projects to not have to follow the OB plan.

“You’re a victim here,” Klein continued, “of how the city runs things.”

This reporter reminded the Board and audience that the OB Community Plan went through a rigorous updating process that took 12 years and countless meetings and hearings – and it was finally approved by the City Council and by the California Coastal Commission in early 2016.

Virginia Wilson added: “Yet one more example of the City not listening to OB people or following the OB Plan.”

Several people on the Board and in the audience encouraged Councilwoman Campbell’s new community rep, Teddie Martinez – who was pesent, to sit up and take notice.

Finally, a carefully-written motion appeared – to deny the project as presented but with a detailed explanation of the reasons pointedly made for city staff. It passed 12 to 1. But it included the language “without prejudice” – which means the applicants can return with improved plans.

1409 Ocean Front Street

This process 3 application to amend the Coastal Development Permit and Site Development Permit to allow the construction of a secant pile seawall passed unanimously without controversy.

4830 Muir Ave.

This applicant in this project is seeking approval of their CDP to re-designate their existing 497-square foot house into a granny flat (aka companion unit) and then build a two story 1,097 square foot house. The applicant here is actually Board member Anthony Ciulla – who made his own presentation and stepped out of the room during the vote. The new larger, house – in the rear – will be 2-story, with a 2 car garage in the back. Anthony said his new plans actually reduce the size of the front house – built in 1947 – and will make it a studio for long term renters. His FAR, he said, is .69.

The project passed unanimously.

2068 Sunset Cliffs Blvd.

The presenter for this project told the Board that this was originally only a rehab project to replace the roof and remodel the interior. But during construction, too much roof was removed – which triggered a coastal development permit. The footprint on the new project is exactly the same as the former building.

This convinced the Board to approve the project unanimously.

Appointment to District 3

As there has been a vacancy in District 3 for some time, the Board eagerly pondered the application for an appointment to the seat by resident Chris Chalupsky. He’s been 4 years in OB – and he and his wife love the community. He is currently an arts administrator for the San Diego airport. Chris also has a background in community development and experience in strategic planning and public art. \

In response to questions from the Board, Chris said his position on short-term vacation rentals is “neighborhoods are for neighbors.” He also assured the Board he is familiar with what’s going on at Ebers and Greene. His appointment passed unanimously.

Other News or Issues

Ebers & Greene – During the public comment period Mick and Allison Bush raised the issue of what is going on at Ebers and Greene; Allison had questions regarding the so-called “50 percent rule” whereby developers can avoid public review by knocking down most of an old project leaving up just enough old wall to call it a “rehab.”

Chair Andrea responded by saying, “this project triggers a CDP and will be required to come before the OBPB.” She assured the couple that “It’s on our radar.”

$1.1 Million Access Ramp – referring to the vote against the city’s proposed project of constructing a new ADA compliant access ramp at Dog Beach, Klein – a lawyer – told his colleagues that he had looked at the ramp twice in the last few days and “all the access ramp needs is to be swept, and the money needs to be spent at other coastal access problems” in OB and along the cliffs.

He said he reviewed the legal settlement that supposedly triggered the city’s move to construct a new ramp, and there was a $50,000 cash settlement that released the city from all claims. This is, he emphasized, “an absolute total waste of taxpayer money.”

Street Vendor Ordinance – see separate post.

Airport Authority Presentation

Two representatives of the Airport Authority were last on the agenda and they gave a presentation on the ongoing development plans for the Airport and especially for Terminal One. (See this for details: )

The good news is that the airport planning team took in valuable feedback from the San Diego community and have now incorporated a new piece of the plan – the Transit Center – which actually could be a site for a trolley (see red circle above). The EIR will be out in mid-September and there will be opportunity for feedback for 45 days. Things are scheduled to be start being built in 2021 and the first 19 gates will open in 2024.

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