Peninsula Planning Board Wrangles Over Froude and Voltaire – Received Presentation on Measure E

by on September 21, 2020 · 3 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

As it almost always does, the Peninsula Community Planning Board offered up some controversy again during its regular monthly meeting held on Thursday, September 17. (Because it was conducted on Zoom, it was recorded and can be viewed here – ) This is one definite benefit to on-line meeting forums.

The controversy occurred during discussions of three letters the PCPB’s Traffic subcommittee drafted and wanted the board to approve to send to the city.  These three letters contained recommendations that could have directly affected the community, so they are described below along with the actions taken.

The Froude and Voltaire Intersection

The first letter was about the intersection of Froude and Voltaire streets. It is important to state first that this reporter spoke out strongly in opposition to the letter. The reason for this is that this reporter lives very near the intersection, has used it extensively for many years, and thought the letter was misleading and completely incorrect.

A little history. In an earlier letter to Council District 2, dated January 18, 2018, the PCPB stated, “The intersection of Froude and Voltaire is one of the most dangerous intersections in our community.” The letter went on to describe dangers and requested traffic calming measures for the intersection. Despite repeated attempts by this reporter to obtain any substantiation the PCPB had to characterize the intersection as that dangerous, none was ever produced.

Unfortunately, the letter got the city involved and there is now a plan to put a crosswalk at this intersection with a pedestrian activated beacon. The stupidity of this expense is that there is a traffic light and a crosswalk already in place at Ebers and Voltaire one block west.  But, for the current PCPB Traffic subcommittee, even this was not enough.

The new subcommittee wrote two versions of a letter. The first was the one posted on the website before the meeting.  That letter stated:

“The recent death of a community member, Cameron Loren, in July and 31 reported traffic incidents in the vicinity of the corner of Voltaire and Froude Street highlight the need for expedited traffic mitigations to be installed. The intersection at Voltaire and Froude has been identified as a dangerous intersection in our community prior to Mr. Loren’s death Encl (1) refers.

The Peninsula Community Board would advocate for the installation of a 4 way[sic] stop sign and crosswalk at Froude and Voltaire in lieu of the approved flashing beacon and crosswalk to slow cars down traveling North West on Voltaire Street.”

This reporter spoke up and pointed out that the letter was misleading and unsubstantiated again.  It was misleading by bringing in the sad death of a young man who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in the vicinity.  The young man was skateboarding down Voltaire at 10:30 p.m. in the middle of the street and was hit from behind, blocks away from Froude and Voltaire.  Having lived in this neighborhood for 33 years, this reporter can attest to the popularity of skateboarding down Voltaire at all hours. This incident had nothing to do with Froude and Voltaire, it was simply used as scare tactic and a sad one at that.

The unsubstantiated part was the claim of “31 reported traffic incidents.” When this reporter first heard this, it did not make sense.  In 33 years, the route for this reporter into Ocean Beach has been west down Voltaire to south on Froude. There are no stop signs from Voltaire to Newport on Froude.  To say this reporter has made this trip a thousand or more times would be an understatement.  This reporter has never witnessed an accident at this intersection.

When asked to substantiate the 31 incidents, the PCPB Traffic subcommittee chair, Mandy Havlik, provided traffic data that listed 71 incidents on Voltaire from the beach to the high school.  The incidents were listed by block and the Froude and Voltaire block showed three incidents but did not indicate the intersection was the exact location.  This was pointed out to Havlik, who was again asked for the actual list of the 31 incidents before the PCPB meeting.  Havlik repeated that the information was already provided.

To summarize, the letter the traffic subcommittee wanted the PCPB to approve used an unrelated traffic death, with a strong emphasis on the word “used,” and a list of 31 incidents that does not exist.  The PCPB did the right thing and did not approve the letter.  The idea of a four-way stop did not sit well with one member, the location was not logical to another, and the proximity of an existing crosswalk and traffic signal was also a concern.

The second version of the PCPB letter was not posted on the website and was only emailed to the board members before the meeting.  When asked, subsequent to the meeting, to identify which letter was the subject of the meeting, Havlik sent a copy of this second version.

Clearly, the PCPB should not have even taken action on this request because what was available to the public, 72 hours in advance as required for public meetings, on the PCPB website and what was discussed were two, significantly different letters.

The second version of the Traffic subcommittee letter mysteriously changed the wording “31 incidents” to “several incidents.” Apparently, the Traffic subcommittee realized it had a problem because someone kept asking for the list of 31 incidents that did not exist.  But the Traffic subcommittee felt it just had to say something to “substantiate” a need based on at least “several” incidents, and decided that change solved the problem of the missing list.

As is readily apparent to anyone, this wording was no better because even “several” incidents need substantiation, and none was provided. Not a single one.

The second letter also added the following paragraph:

“Additionally, the PCPB would request the city of San Diego Traffic and Transportation Department to consider adding traffic calming measures, flex posts to narrow the road or convert this intersection into a traffic circle in the future on Voltaire Street.”

The public might have been interested to read about proposals for flex posts or a roundabout at that intersection and might have had something to say.  This letter business was very poorly handled but, luckily, it became a moot point.

During the meeting, Havlik said that the OB Planning Board had voted to support the letter. This turned out to be incorrect.  The OBPB’s Traffic subcommittee had reviewed the subject and voted to recommend supporting a letter approved by the PCPB.  The full OBPB has not voted on the recommendation.  It is assumed that OB will probably not take any action now since the PCPB did not approve its subcommittee letter.

Stop Signs?

The next of the three letters the Traffic subcommittee proposed to the PCPB for approval had to do with placing stop signs on the north and south bound lanes of Devonshire Drive at Leon Street, more at Osprey and Sunset Cliffs, and more at Guizot Street and Leon Street.  The reason given in the brief letter was “to help slow down traffic and help increase pedestrian safety in the neighborhoods surrounding Sunset Cliffs Blvd.”

No technical or anecdotal information was provided explaining why these three locations were selected.  Nothing was provided to show there was a pedestrian safety issue either. After some discussion, a motion to approve the letter was defeated.  Generally, it appeared that the board did not want to approve suggestions for so many stop signs based on so little information.

The third letter the Traffic subcommittee wanted approved was tabled for further discussion.  It involved the intersection of Chatsworth Blvd. and Plumosa Drive by Plumosa Park.  The letter proposed a pedestrian activated beacon and a crosswalk across Chatsworth.  The board believed this needed more research.  Chatsworth is a difficult, heavily used road and recommendations on what to do there needed to come from traffic engineers.  The board voted to table the letter.

Having gone zero to three on its proposed letters, some members of the subcommittee were unhappy.  One in particular, board member Margaret Virissimo, voiced a not-so-veiled threat against the board members who voted against the letters.  This board member’s true personality comes out when people do not agree with her.

“…certain individuals voted it down, the same individuals voted both action items down that’s a big problem so I just want to make that clear for the record because this is being recorded pay attention to who’s voting for what…”

Virissimo pounded on a table in front of her as she said each word bringing to mind several past and present world leaders most people would not want to be compared to. It did not have the intended effect on some people.

Two board members, Lucky Morrison and Korla Eaquinta objected to Virissimo’s statement.  Morrision explained that he changed his mind on the issue after listening to the discussion. Eaquinta expressed that she had a right to decide the issue on her own.

This was not the first time Virissimo has gone after those who disagrees with her, even if it is just one time.  She has actively campaigned against incumbent members running for re-election in the past two elections because they were not in lock step with her. She was correct about the recording but perhaps forgot her remarks were also recorded. If there is any dispute about this account, Virissimo’s remarks begin at 2:29:38 on the recording.

Havlik also had something to say.  She expressed her irritation with the voting and said that many people had worked a long time on these issues only to have people who did not bother to attend her subcommittee meetings vote down their recommendations.

The three, very brief, unsubstantiated letters did not appear to be the work of many people working many hours. Havlik did not seem to understand that if the work product was insufficient to convince a few members of a planning board, there was little chance it would have any effect on the city. The problem was not that everyone else failed by not attending her subcommittee meeting, the problem was a poorly done work product.

Projects Reviewed

There were three projects looking for approval and all three received it.

The first was a bit unusual in that it involved a building at 1366 & 1357 Rosecrans where a commercial building contained apartments that were supposed to be offices.  Many years ago, the offices were illegally converted to apartments and the applicant was only now trying to legalize this long-standing use.  The applicant and a renter spoke in favor of the project.  There were no objections so the PCPB approved the conversion.

The second project was a private home that wanted to convert a large, 1,027/SF guest quarters to a companion unit to take advantage of the new laws regarding companion units.  The change would allow the owner to now rent the unit. There was no objection and this item was also approved.

The third project was a set of condos at 2806 Jarvis Street.  Three residential homes will be demolished and five new two-story condos will be built.  Parking will be partially subterranean and there will be a rooftop deck. This project had apparently come before the PCPB several times in the past and the final iteration was acceptable to the board.

San Diegans to Revitalize Midway (Yes on E) Presentation

Cathy Kenton, chair of the Midway-Pacific Community Planning Group and Co-Principal Officer of the San Diegans to Revitalize Midway (Yes on E) campaign gave a brief PowerPoint presentation.  It was designed to explain why her planning group and others believe people should vote to do away with the 30-foot height limit within the Midway group’s boundary.

The developer chosen by the lame duck mayor to redevelop the city’s land, that includes the Sports Arena, is pushing the height change as is the mayor and the councilperson who represents much of the area where the height limit is in place.

Despite a strong campaign promise to protect the 30-foot height limit, Jennifer Campbell is very much in favor for removing the height limit.  Campbell has clearly shown that she only said what people wanted to hear when she campaigned for office. No one would have gotten elected to the District 2 seat had they said the height limit should be removed.

During her presentation, Kenton mentioned that her family has had businesses and property in the Midway area for 60 years.  It is clear that Kenton is not the only Midway group member who has property or business interests in that area.  While there is no disagreement from anyone that Midway needs revitalization, it is questionable whether planning board members should be commenting or voting on this project or campaigning against the height limit.

There is nothing wrong with board members benefiting monetarily from the development but taking public actions as a planning official could be construed as a conflict of interest.

“Save Our Access”

Speaking against removing the height limit was long-time community activist Tom Mullaney representing a group called Save Our Access. Mullaney recounted the history of the height limit initiative and spoke passionately against removing it anywhere.  Mullaney pointed out that the Midway group now contains the Naval Training Center and MCRD.

This reporter was present at the meeting when the Midway group discovered, to their surprise, the addition of this property to the Midway boundaries.  This occurred during approval of Midway’s community plan.   Mullaney warned what could happen if these military properties were acquired by the city with no height limitation.

Kenton’s and Mullaney’s presentations can be seen on the recording very late in the meeting.

AB 2731 California Environmental Quality Act: City of San Diego: Old Town Center redevelopment

And, lastly, Todd Gloria put in a brief campaign appearance.  The main item to take note of is his legislation to support building an intermodal transportation center at the old SPAWARS site on Pacific Highway.  Gloria is in lock step with the outgoing lame duck mayor and SANDAG on this.  The public has had virtually no say in in this plan that is steam-rolling along with Gloria’s help.  If he wins the coming election, it will be tough to stop this boulder rolling downhill.

 

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Kirk Mather September 21, 2020 at 1:43 pm

Wow. Felt like I was there. Thanks for deep dive and comprehensive report. Question @ NTC (assume that’s Liberty Station)… I thought it was its own planning area? Never heard about connection to Midway, Peninsula would seem more logical. Has any city source confirmed NTC/LS and MCRD were part of Midway planning boundaries?

Reply

Avatar Paul Webb September 22, 2020 at 9:55 am

First, thanks to Geoff for doggedly following the local planning board meetings and reporting on them for the rest of us. I tried to “attend” the latest PCPB zoom meeting, but it was so disheartening I just couldn’t stay on.

It makes me very sad to see that the members of the planning board cannot recognize that all of the members should behave as though they believe that every member is a citizen who is dedicating his or her self to trying to make the community a better place to live, not a rival to be blocked or diminished. I did not stand for re-election after two terms on the board because I couldn’t stand the fact the meetings did not display the kind of collegiality and harmony that I believed we owed to each other. I say this not only about those with whom I did not agree, but also about those with whom I share values and a long history of friendship.

Board members owe the community and each other a level of respect that I do not see exhibited in these meetings. Yes, disagree with each other or with proposals placed before the board, but do so in a polite, non-confrontational manner. It’s not about who prevails on an issue, it’s about how can we make the peninsula a better place to live. There’s no winners and losers, there’s only members of our community. It’s not a contest, it’s life as we make it. Let’s make it better.

Reply

Avatar Geoff Page September 22, 2020 at 10:41 am

Kirk, that was a mistake, thank you for mentioning it. Liberty Station is in the Peninsula Community Planning Board area. It is only the MCRD base. I was thinking there was another facility beside MCRD, ,my mistake.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: