Peninsula Planners: Good News for North Chapel, Land Use Changes Opposed, and Crosswalk at Voltaire and Froude?

by on August 26, 2020 · 9 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

The Peninsula Community Planning Board held its regular monthly meeting Thursday, August 20, on-line, which is how almost every organization is now meeting.  The format works well, the only drawback is the requirement to pre-register on-line. It is necessary to visit the PCPB website at pcpb.net where the on-line registration instructions are prominent.

The PCPB is not the only group that requires pre-registration, this function is being used to prevent unwanted hacking and interruptions of the meetings. There is a significant benefit to the on-line forum in that the meetings are fully recorded and posted on You Tube . Subcommittee meetings are also recorded and posted.

Planning Department Rep – where are you?

One of the first orders of business was supposed to be an appearance by Tony Kempton from the Planning Department.  Kempton has been the PCPB’s assigned contact for many years although he has not attended a meeting for several years, unlike his counterparts at other planning board meetings. Kempton was not in attendance at the start of the meeting but appeared later.  Kempton demonstrated, once again, his inability to answer any questions related to planning boards, bringing into question the need for his appearance.

Liberty Station North Chapel

One of the most interesting meeting subjects came up in non-agenda public comment.  A gentleman named Ron Slayen, an artist at Liberty Station, talked about positive developments with plans for the North Chapel.  The chapel has been in the public eye for several years as it was turned over to a company that is attempting to use it to create an event venue. This has dismayed people who use the chapel for services and community members who revere the chapel’s history.

Slayen related that the Historical Resources Board, or the HRB, shot down the developer’s plans for removing several parts of the chapel, point by point.  The board ruled against removing pews, the altar, kneeling rails, the organ keyboard, console, and bench and against removing a small interior wall.  The board went against approvals from Washington and Sacramento. Something that Slayen said is very unusual for the HRB.

The HRB decision requires the developers to go through a Process Four permit process that involves the Planning Department and City Council.  Obtaining approval in that process is lengthy and complicated and with the HRB against the current plans, the developers face an uphill battle.

Slayen was been a sort of point man for this issue for the last two or three years and, while this was a welcome victory for those who want the chapel protected, it came at a personal cost for Slayen.  He has a fine art shop in the Art District at Liberty Station where he is a marquetry artist.  Wikipedia describes marquetry as:

Marquetry (also spelled as marqueterie; from the French marqueter, to varigate) is the art and craft of applying pieces of veneer to a structure to form decorative patterns, designs or pictures. The technique may be applied to case furniture or even seat furniture, to decorative small objects with smooth, veneerable surfaces or to freestanding pictorial panels appreciated in their own right.

Slayen was recently informed that his lease will not be renewed after eight years in his current location. He is certain this is the result of his opposition to the chapel development and other battles with the Liberty Station operators during the COVID crisis.  (See this article in the Union Tribune for more on how the Liberty Station management is pushing artists out of the Arts District.

A big takeaway from Slayen’s news is the public will have plenty of opportunities to chime in on this project as it moves through Process Four, meaning the battle to preserve the chapel is long from over.  Another takeaway is that this is more in the sorry tale of how McMillin handled the Liberty Station giveaway.  The chapel was supposed to be preserved in the original agreement and McMillin loudly touted its Arts District for the culture it brought to Liberty Station, bragging that rings pretty hollow, and really always has.

Planning Department Non-Help

Tony Kempton of the City’s Planning Department finally appeared and was asked to explain the current state of planning boards around the city – what he had to say made no sense.  He was asked about how the Peninsula Community Planning Board (PCPB) could hold an election under the COVID restrictions. He mentioned that one board had done absentee ballots, which are currently specifically prohibited by the City’s guidelines.

Kempton went on to say it was possible for the Rancho Bernardo planning board to do this because they required community members to register to participate in the meetings, something that is also prohibited by planning board guidelines and the Brown Act.  Community members do not have to register as community members.  Kempton was oblivious to all this.

Kemton claimed this would be impractical for the PCPB because its elections usually draw several hundred voters.  The planning board that did this had to sent out ballots and self-addressed stamped envelopes to vote in that manner, which would be cost prohibitive.  The other clear problem is that the PCPB does not have a list of community members, nor do most planning boards.

Despite repeated questioning about whether or not the city planned to come up with guidelines on holding an election, all Kempton had to say was the boards could come up with their own plan for the city to review.  No help was forthcoming.

Kempton was asked if the city planned to help planning boards out with the additional cost of holding on-line meetings and he said he did not think so.  He suggested passing the hat for donations, which he had to admit, after it was pointed out to him, would be difficult, nay, impossible with on-line meetings.

CPC Land Use Changes

The next item of importance was a discussion of land use changes that board member Korla Eaquinta brought back from the Community Planners Committee, or the CPC.  This group is the central planning group organization attended by members of every planning group every month.  The CPC was looking for input on various issues.

Posting Development Signs

The first issue that the PCPB discussed was an item about posted development signs.  Developers are required to prominently post a document titled “Posted Notice of Future Decision” at sites of new proposed projects.  These signs are on colored paper and tend to deteriorate and blow away over time if not protected somehow. The proposal is to require a durable sign of some kind.  The signs contain a description of the proposed project, the applicant’s name, the city project manager’s name and contact information and an explanation of what will take place next.

The discussion took an odd turn when board member Brad Herrin spoke about the difficulty of placing signs based on his experience in real estate sales. This reporter listened in disbelief as the discussion progressed on how difficult it would be to put a sign in the ground given the conditions of hard soil or concrete surroundings.  After a career spent in construction, this objection made no sense at all to this reporter.  While it may be a chore for a real estate person to plant a For Sale sign, it would be a snap for a developer or a contractor.

The hard sign idea made sense but a lack of details regarding any of this made a decision impossible.  A motion was made and failed to garner a second.  The PCPB’s comments will be taken back to the CPC.

‘No Parking’ for Granny Units Opposed

The next two items were of much more importance.  The first was the city’s proposal to not require any parking for ADUs, additional dwelling units.  Because the ridiculous pressure for housing has pushed the city to the point of allowing three structures on a formerly single-family lot, a house, an ADU, and a “junior” ADU, no parking would be a nightmare.  After a lengthy and unanimous discussion against this idea, the board passed a motion to oppose it.

Lot Splits Not Favored

The second item of importance was a proposal to allow building on substandard lots and the possibility of allowing regular sized lots to split in two.  Theoretically, a 5,000 square foot lot could be split into two 25-foot wide lots, something no one on the PCPB favored. The board passed a motion unanimously opposing this suggested change to the land use laws.

Voltaire and Froude

An item of particular interest to this reporter, and anyone who travels the Voltaire to Froude intersection, was discussed.  The PCPB sent a letter to the city dated January 18, 2018, requesting the city study the intersection of Voltaire and Froude Streets.  The letter stated:

“The intersection at Voltaire and Froude is one of the most dangerous intersections in our community. Residents attempting to cross Voltaire St. at Froude are unable to see automobiles traveling downhill on Voltaire due to the blind corner.  This condition and the width of the street puts pedestrians, bicyclist [sic] and motorist [sic] attempting to cross the intersection in danger of being struck by cars.”

The city proposed putting in a crosswalk with lights at this location.

When this letter was approved, this reporter was frankly astounded.  This hardly qualifies as one of the most dangerous intersections in our community.  Having lived for 33 years blocks away from this intersection, and, having made the trip into Ocean Beach by turning off Voltaire onto Froude, literally thousands of times, this reporter has never witnessed an accident there.

Board member Mandy Havlik, the new chair of the PCPB’s Traffic subcommittee, stated she had a list of 31 incidents to prove this was a dangerous intersection. The list was obtained from Havlik, it contained 70 items.  The list only showed “Voltaire” with no cross streets but it did have block numbers. The intersection is the 4600 block of Voltaire.

Two incidents were listed in the 4600 block, “Miscellaneous hazardous violations of the vehicle code” and “Yield right of way to pedestrians.”  There were three, one block east, “Violation of basic speed law speed unsafe for conditions,” “Entrance from stop through highway yield until reasonably safe,” and “right-of-way: ped not in crosswalk yield to vehs (i).”  There were nine incidents in the 4700 block from Ebers to Sunset Cliffs, which is a busy commercial stretch.  This information did not substantiate that the intersection of Froude and Voltaire is a dangerous intersection and did not support the statement that there were 31 incidents at this intersection.

Havlik also referenced a recent fatal accident on Voltaire as another reason, although several board members pointed out the accident was no where near this intersection and did not involve a pedestrian crossing. A young man skate-boarding down Voltaire, in the street at night, was struck and killed.  Havlik and the board now want the city to put a stop sign there at Voltaire and Froude.

Board member Herrin suggested that a stop sign or crosswalk further east made more sense.  The road is narrower and farther away from the existing traffic signal and crosswalk already present at Ebers. This was a sound suggestion.

The folly of this is that there is a traffic light and a crosswalk one block away at Ebers street.  It has never been made clear why people feel a need to cross at Froude because both sides of the street are residential neighborhoods. The point that this is a blind corner is simply not true.  If a pedestrian is crossing from south to north, traffic is easily visible.  There is a blind curve when crossing from north to south that is easily remedied by walking short distance east on Voltaire where traffic is clearly visible and the crossing is shorter.

Adding a stop sign or even a crosswalk one block away from a crosswalk and a traffic signal makes no sense and is a waste of taxpayer money.

More Planning Department Non-Help

During the course of the meeting, board members asked Kempton for advice on several items.  Here are the responses.

When asked if the PCPB could send a non-board member to the Airport Noise Advisory Committee, or ANAC, because the PCPB subcommittees can have non-board members on them, Kempton said the board needed to ask Tait Galloway, the Principal Planner at the Planning Department.  Not I’ll check on that or anything helpful, just ask the head of the Planning Department

When asked if someone who does not live in the PCPB territory could be on a PCPB subcommittee, Kempton just said he did not know.

When asked if a quorum is really necessary for subcommittees, that only provide recommendations to the full board, Kempton said he would have to get back with them on that. Kempton’s appearance was really no better than his non-appearance in the last two years.

In other news:

  • The controversial project to build nine condos at Kellogg beach has been shelved.  A rumor was cited saying the project may come back scaled down as three townhomes.
  • The City of San Diego presented an explanation of a large water main replacement project that will stretch from West Mission Bay Drive to the 805 on Friar’s Road. This will clearly be a disruptive and lengthy project.  For details on this, watch the section of the YouTube meeting video or go here.

 

 

 

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar A A Ron August 26, 2020 at 2:03 pm

With respect to the Parking requirements. A lot of OB is in a transit priority area and with that comes no parking requirements, March 2019 SD City Council. This allows for more multifamily residential units to be built without parking to lower housing costs and encourage residents to use alternative modes of transportation such as walking, biking and transit(city website). The Coastal Development Commission has also waived the parking requirement in transit priority areas. Don’t oppose the no parking requirement. Don’t blame the city as the bills were already passed at the state level to not require ADU parking in CA. I feel like the opposition really shows we are behind the times on what is going on.

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Avatar Geoff Page August 26, 2020 at 3:20 pm

A A Ron, A “transit priority zone” should not just mean there is a bus stop nearby. Our transit system is woefully inadequate. People who rent these units will still need cars to get to jobs, entertainment, and to grocery shop. If we had a good system of buses that went everywhere and in regular quick cycles, then maybe. You can go to many other countries where they have this down pat. Mexico and Central America run on buses. But, until that happens, this will just mean more cars on the streets that are already too crowded. After having reviewed many projects in Pt. Loma, providing parking is not nearly as difficult as developers make it out to be.

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Avatar A A Ron August 26, 2020 at 4:17 pm

Thank you for your reply Geoff. I agree the transit system totally is hurting here. Yes, I understand it takes 3 hours to travel by bus to Kearny Mesa. Ouch! But maybe 10 years out people have innovative self driving cars pick them up for work commutes and bike/walk around town. We should not look at the small today impact but really the future years of impact that this new construction unit would create with no car parking..

If people can’t have parking they will hopefully look to other means of transportation. It forces governments to invest in public transportation infrastructure or people will find other means such as Uber/Lyft/delivery services. We have to hope that these laws today will help shape the future. Not the next 2 years but 10, 20, 40, 100 years out. The state is forcing us to invest and change the way we currently do things to open up housing space and improve transportation innovation.

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Avatar kh August 27, 2020 at 3:26 am

Incorrect. The “zero parking” exception applies to most ADUs in transit priority areas (TPAs) but does NOT apply to dwellings. For those, you must be located in the “parking standards TPA” overlay zone which is a different map, and it excludes Ocean Beach.

That map is here: https://www.sandiego.gov/planning/programs/transportation/mobility/tpa

It’s ok, plenty of applicants get this mixed up, even some of the city planners get this wrong.

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Avatar Geoff Page August 27, 2020 at 11:01 am

I’m not sure what generated this comment, kh. I did not say the no parking applied to the main dwelling units.

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Avatar Paul Webb August 27, 2020 at 1:28 pm

So, why exactly is Sea World and its surrounding areas included in the TPA as depicted on the map?

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Avatar Paul Webb August 26, 2020 at 2:29 pm

While I agree that sight-lines at the intersection of Voltaire and Froude are not great, I don’t believe that signalization of the intersection is a great idea. I would be supportive of the crosswalk and pedestrian activated warning lights as are found on Chatsworth and at the Point Loma Ave/Sunset Cliffs intersection.

The real problem on Voltaire is speed. I frequently see cars obviously speeding, passing other cars and even racing on Voltaire. This is crazy and something should be done to end this. Stop signs and stop lights are a very poor method of controlling speed, but stepped up enforcement can deter speeders, as can the radar speed signs.

I think there also needs to be enforcement of traffic laws with regard to skate boarders, bikers and pedestrians. I can’t go anywhere either by car, bike or foot (I gave up my skateboard many years ago) without seeing behaviors that range from the risky, to the wantonly reckless, to the downright insane. I have seen people do really risky and even crazy, illegal things directly in front of a law enforcement officer with out any response. SDPD needs to target both speeders and non-motorized scofflaws.

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Avatar Geoff Page August 26, 2020 at 3:33 pm

Here is what one news story said, which was similar to others:

“Cameron Loren, 25, was skating in the exact middle of Voltaire Street between Bolinas and Soto streets at about 10:30 on the night of Thursday, June 4, whenever a car headed west came around a curve and hit Loren from behind. Loren died at the scene, and the driver of the automobile, a light-colored sedan, never stopped, fleeing the scene.”

The key part is “skating in the exact middle of Voltaire Street between Bolinas and Soto streets at about 10:30 on the night of Thursday, June 4.” I have seen this many, many times. The story was incorrect about coming around a curve, the curve is a vertical curve, Bolinas sits at the top of a hill that slopes both ways. 10:30 at night. No one should have left such an accident but much of the fault has to be placed on the unfortunate young man who took the chances we all did when we were young. Some of us survived, others did not.

Paul Webb is right too, the city needs to pay attention to speeding on Voltaire. In 33 years in this neighborhood, I have never seen anyone getting a ticket or seen a speed trap. They need to reduce the speed limit and I would suggest putting the stop sign midway between Bolinas and Froude where visibility is good. Putting something at the bottom of the hill at Froude will not help.

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Avatar Debbie August 27, 2020 at 5:44 am

I do not believe speeding is enforced anywhere in OB. Put two stop signs in on Voltaire!

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