Housing Commission Extends Deadline for Developers’ Proposals at Famosa Canyon

by on January 29, 2020 · 16 comments

in Ocean Beach

From Point Loma Association:

Haven’t heard much about the open space at Famosa and Nimitz recently, have we?

Want some background on the site?

In 2019, following a couple years of feasibility studies, the City decided the time was right (ripe?) for building. On August 29th, they published a Request For Proposals (RFP) to, “solicit proposals from qualified real estate development entities.”

Deadline for submission was published as November 21, 2019.

A funny thing happened between August and November.

What happened was, not much happened. We have heard from informed sources that prominent developers who have built many things in our community studied the site, crunched the numbers, chewed their pencils, paced around the drawing board and took a pass.

Something about logistics. Sure it could be done, but dealing with all the ups and downs (hills &valleys) would chew up too many pencils and gobble up too much ROI.

So, the Housing Commission decided maybe developers just needed more time to think it over, what with the holidays and all, you know.

The new deadline for RFP# RED-20-01 is now February 27th.

If you’d like a plethora of additional details, click Site 428.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar CC January 29, 2020 at 1:50 pm

This is so confusing. As 34 yr. REALTOR, involved community member & prior Chair of PCPB, 2001-2007, before leaving the position/Park & Rec Committee, our board was involved in making sure that this “undevelopable site” was to remain as ‘Undeveloped Park Open Space’ by the City of San Diego. At the dissolution of real estate owned by the Redevelopment Agency, the site had been determined to be undevelopable as a residential parcel, per several reasons. Conveniently-unrecorded as such in the City’s Records?-the City’s obsession with ruining another publicly-owned, irreplaceable Community Asset lines up completely with its inability (or incompetence?) to remedy the Peninsula Community Planning area’s (of approx. 70-80,000 persons!) Major Deficit of Park (and/or Open Space) zones, of at least “100 acres”per City Standards. How much do the residents of Peninsula pay in City Taxes for ‘Parks?” Understand. The less ‘green’ or ‘open space’ in dense communities affects more than one aspect of ‘Quality of Life.’ http://theconversation.com/green-cities-improve-quality-of-life-13546; https://www.internationaljournalofwellbeing.org/index.php/ijow/article/view/445/538 (2.1 ). Shame on the City of San Diego!

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Avatar retired botanist January 29, 2020 at 5:28 pm

Ok, as much as I might follow City holdings, land grants etc., I’m thoroughly confused by all of this and would appreciate more distillation by those better informed as to what is it about this parcel? Given its already seemingly been “stolen” from the open space parcels, why isn’t this a good space for affordable housing?

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Avatar Paul Webb January 30, 2020 at 10:09 am

To answer your question, the history of this parcel is far from clear. I have reviewed the documented history of the acquisition and ultimate disposal as park land and it is incomplete, at best. The documents I have seen leave gaps in the chain of events and offer no explanation as to why the property was ultimately given to the housing commission.
The city has for decades played a game of “designated” vs. “dedicated” park land. Dedicated park land cannot be used for anything but park purposes, while land that is merely “designated” can be taken, sold leased, whatever, for non-park purposes. Pueblo Lot 212, for example was “designated” for parks purposes, but was ultimately sold of to a developer to build apartments.
That being said, I have observed the furor and outcry over the development of this property with a somewhat jaundiced eye. Just looking at the property reveals that development for residential uses would be very problematic. Ingress/egress would be a huge problem. The amount and type of grading that would be required would be enormous. Bottom line – I’m not in the least surprised that the city has had no responses. It would be a very expensive undertaking and possibly could not even make money if it were built as market rate (as opposed to subsidized) housing.
By the way, you shouldn’t have to put up with being insulted for asking the question as to why it is not a good site for housing. Asking questions is how we get answers.

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Avatar Geoff Page January 30, 2020 at 10:50 am

Paul, great commentary, as always. Her is my two cents. Having spent my whole life in the construction industry, I can say that the site can be built on. All of the problems you listed can be overcome if there is enough money available. My guess is the 78 unit limit in the RFP does not pencil out. Someone mentioned somewhere that the site could accommodate more than double that number of units if it was developed privately. Supposedly, the zoning would allow it. THAT would pencil out, I’m sure.

So, what I fear could happen is the agency could sell the land I’ve heard was appraised north of $40 million, take the money and build somewhere else. Considering it only cost the agency $250,000 originally, that’s a pretty good ROI but that canyon would fill up with condos.

What should happen is the land should be returned to the city because it is not possible to fulfill the original reason it was transferred to the Housing Commission. Then, the city could do the right thing and dedicate it as open space or park land. I think that is the tack the opposition and their attorney should pursue.

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Avatar Paul Webb January 30, 2020 at 11:15 am

That is exactly what I was getting at. At 78 units, some of which would be subsidized, the problems the site presents make it pretty unworkable. Of course, if you have enough money, you can develop any property, but in this case it looks like there is no money to be made. Maybe we will be surprised and someone will come along and submit a proposal, but I’m skeptical. Maybe we’ll be even more surprised and the City will do the right thing and dedicate it as a park!

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Avatar Geoff Page January 30, 2020 at 3:05 pm

So you’re a wide-eyed optimist, Paul! Who knew?

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Avatar Cynthia Conger January 29, 2020 at 6:18 pm

Retired botanist, this is a community asset. Where do you, or have you lived? In a densely populated area? Are you a recent resident? You ask, “Why isn’t this a ‘good space’ for affordable housing?” Does ‘taking away one asset’ to replace it with more of a Density that causes a further, irreversable Deficit, make it better? Please, Accurately define what is to you, “good space for affordable housing.” In an area that is far behind the “2.8 acres per 1000 in population” City of San Diego Code Required for “development” (with our parks and/or open space per code in Deficit by at least 100 acres already, with No Development being proposed) with No Way to ‘Accumulate More Parks or Open Space in our very defined, very ‘privately owned’ community, Do you not understand that ‘creating more population’ with ‘no additional Open Space or Parks’ only Adds to the “Deficit?” When you ‘change a zoning’ as such, you make a community more dense, more crowded, more filled with traffic (trying to get to such an open space/park for a walk, stroll or just open air) or to travel to other needed zonings, such as those that include Emergency (there is No Hospital On Peninsula, which IS surrounded on 3 sides by Water-so ‘access’ to such is already extremely difficult!!), Commercial, Industrial or Retail (to their work, shops or stores) will make it more costly in which to live. Are you ready & able (or know someone who is able) to Donate-at apprx. $500K per 5,000 sq. ft. of land to the City of SD and Peninsula, in which to place “Designated and Zoned, permanent ‘Open Space or Neighborhood Parks” at this time to even get ‘closer’ to that “Minimum Required” Deficit, for now and for the future to ‘accomodate’ the dearth of population that is constantly increasing here on Peninsula? Or are you just a ‘bot’, wasting time?

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Avatar Geoff Page January 30, 2020 at 10:41 am

Cynthia, you need to apologize to retired botanist. I’m not entirely sure if retired is male or female but the question he or she asked was one of curiosity, not necessarily advocacy for the housing. Retired botanist comments regularly here and provides very respected and informative comments. You know me and I will vouch for retired, so believe me when I say it, an apology is due.

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Avatar Paul Webb January 30, 2020 at 10:48 am

Ditto!

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Avatar rick callejon January 30, 2020 at 12:10 pm

Ms. Conger, please show Respect.

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Avatar Cynthia Conger January 30, 2020 at 4:30 pm

I apologize, retired botanist.

My comments are less for the ‘need for affordable housing’ here, than for the reason that there are fewer ‘lower-priced’ homes here vs. …anywhere south, east, or northeast of Pt. Loma. Yes the price is getting expensive to live here. It has historically always been ‘unreachable’ for 1st time buyers (with 34 yrs. in RE here & Newport Beach), just like “New York” has always been ‘more expensive’….which appears to be the reason why the prices are escalating, so many buyers coming from other ‘high priced areas.’… the tax records display where the loans are from. Unfortunately, ‘rentals’ have also become ‘unaffordable’ to many…yet builders refuse to build (or keep/rehab) rental units anywhere here..until they are told, “no.” by the community. Taking advantage of “Quick Money” made at the beach, is always desired by any builder…long a problem here.
I am also sorry that Peninsula residents have to question why people that have lived here for decades, contributing to keeping the community stable (one of the safest areas close to the city) and beautiful (Pt.LomaBeautiful) would even ‘question the need’ for keeping green/open space/parks as even our schools have been recently ‘sold for profit.’ What happened to the $12 mil. in additional sale price received (after fighting to raise the list price, substantially) for Barnard & MBeach Schools? So many appear naive about what urban planning and community planning is all about…it’s all connected: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, social, family & financial. People move here because it is nice. When we don’t have even near the amount of parks & open space for our population (& being a ‘peninsula’ makes it even more difficult to get anywhere-with Only 2 -3 routes out!), expect unrelenting opposition from a good portion of the people who live here. Just as they fought repeatedly (& won) to keep/reopen/maintain Dana-Four Times in the last 36 years!
At PCPB, we had to (& will) fight many ‘projects proposed’ (ie. the methane gas trucks…traveling down residential streets!) for safety issues, alone! How many more schools, fire stations or grocery stores will we need, as the City’s continued neglect in long term planning leaves our Peninsula to become a dead-end with traffic & safety issues a major hazard (see: Sports Arena plans, too!)

I’ve always told everyone that “green” is the most desirable color to the human eye…calming, yet invigorating, which is why anyone with depression is encouraged to ‘go outside.’ Or put it ‘inside’ their bodies for health! Doesn’t the OB community also have a ‘community garden?’ The Loss of ‘green’, long known studies have proven, quickly leads to disturbed mental states in any community (increased crime, etc.). I’m surprised this isn’t evident.

Yes, like any young person without a high salary, even families have to get in a car or take transit (which SD has little of, not planning L/T) to get to jobs, go to the beach, a lake, visit family, etc. There is a reason for Price Differences. We can’t all live ‘at the beach’ here, tho in other states, ie. FL, GA, (similarly) there are safe & beautiful homes available for 20% of the cost of homes here! It’s all up to choice. People have had to work hard (sometimes buying & selling 2 homes; working in Alaska, etc.) to save to be able to buy here. Getting ‘handouts’ is something that few should be looking for, as the US …and its economy has always been & always will be desired for such opportunities, this is where ‘incentive’ comes in.
There are plenty of places (in SD country) that don’t ‘take an irreplaceable asset’ (that could later be developed into more of a park) away from a community (already in ‘deficit’ of green!) in which to place ‘affordable housing’. PL is already a great contributor to ‘eliminating a huge Deficit in City Infrastructure’..by their taxes alone. See: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/san-diego/story/2020-01-28/san-diegos-infrastructure-funding-gap-climbs-past-2b-despite-record-spending. San Diego has far more opportunities for funding much of our infrastructure than they want to admit.

This would not be ‘borrowing from Peter’ to ‘pay Paul.’ It can never be ‘returned or paid back.’ There is Only so much Coastal Property…PL & OB share the beach & most of the parks-with everyone….check out how many ‘teams’ play at just 2 parks in Peninsula area….and when the ‘Senior softball team’ took away from the Community the use of Dana’s fields…sorry that, was not right- it made the lack of parks to play in for the local schools even More difficult (at least Barnard’s 8-9 acres should have been New School Fields for the Density there) …as more lack of privacy & lights, noise & trash onto the neighborhood around PLHS with the too tall lights made neighbors angry! Just as people will want to have ‘cameras’ to keep living near the beaches, working at the businesses & homes nice…and safe, people will want to have somewhere to ‘get away-closeby,’ even if just to walk, exercise, ride a bicycle or chat with a neighbor. That’s how you build & maintain a ‘community’, IMHO, not by building it wall to wall with tall or even medium …structures!

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Avatar retired botanist January 30, 2020 at 6:09 pm

Ok, wow, so much TMI, even for me. Thanks to frequent bloggers who stood up for the integrity of my question. Yes, Cynthia, it was just a question from someone who understands basic zoning, the continual loss of open space in a critical area, the essential need for low income housing, and a critical, and seasoned, eye on the uselessness of “habitat islands” that have been created/preserved in the past that simply do not serve the functions and services they’re meant to.
So let me digest both of your responses and get back to you. Thank you for the perspective. :-)

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Avatar retired botanist January 30, 2020 at 6:57 pm

Ok, so first impressions on your response- a whole lot of 1st world issues. You speak of those working in Alaska, buying and selling homes, the PB and Pennisula residents pedaling out to ‘green spaces”, the deficit of coastal areas, move to GA for better prices (frankly, I’d never move to Georgia under any circumstances! And I was born in Key West, but wouldn’t go there now, my hometown has been lost to the avaricious parrot-heads). Pt Loma Beautiful? Lucky indeed. Softball and sports displacement? Hmm. So far, none of these are weighing in against the urgent need for housing for LOW INCOME PEOPLE. So often is the response, “let them live somewhere else”. But they don’t work “somewhere else”. Its not about “Gee, I want to live near the ocean”, its about, “I need to get to work to do my job that supports these people that live in Point Loma”.
But as I said, let me muse on the actual space and its pros and cons per its potential, other than its “color”. I absolutely hear you with regard to the value of green space, the fact that it can rarely be reclaimed, the fact that the City continually seizes these small pockets for future profit (to wit, Collier park). But there might be smarter perspectives than simply trying to staple it down. Like “we give you this space, but we get “that” in exchange, or other, more constructive compromise.
And with respect to where I’ve lived, so you understand my commitment to community, I lived in Golden Hills (off 30th st) for a few years, Hillcrest for about 12 years, Voltaire St for about 4 years, and had family living on Shelter Is, and in OB, for about 30 yrs, so I am wholly vested in SD coastal community issues. :-)

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Avatar Vern January 31, 2020 at 6:01 am

Good grief, keep that area as open space. The community enjoys it as such.

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Avatar retired botanist January 31, 2020 at 4:24 pm

Vern, I get that. So I am trying to drill down on this particular parcel and its value vis a vis functions and services as a habitat, a community amenity, etc. Make no mistake, I’m all about Famosa slough, I have been birding there many times and it is kingfisher habitat, an adorable bird just btw!, and its an important downstream confluence, etc. So development of this upstream parcel, with sloppy BMPs and excessive density, with no consideration to downstream effects, could be impactful to the slough area. With respect to the surrounding communities and their access to available park/green space/beach/ basic nirvana nearby, I’m not so sympathetic.
The parcel itself, well, there’s nothing native on it, and altho I’m also all about urban tree canopy, green space etc., I don’t see anything here that warrants a “wait a minute”, other than a cautionary “connection of dots” to downstream effects and, hopefully, a careful consideration of the design, LID development on the part of the City. Could they just honor these important caveats in granting development?!
We need housing, and I have to ask: Is it really the “disturbed habitat” green space, or other issues that are driving resistance? :)

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Avatar Vern February 3, 2020 at 7:45 am

rb, to be fair I’m a long time ZPGer, so that pretty much sums up my thoughts on the “need more housing” thing. Still, why we’re not using empty malls/big box and such for housing is beyond me. These sites seem to be much closer to major transit hubs, city grid and freeway access.

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