Peninsula Planners Support Criticism of City’s Master Plan on Parks and Want a 4-Way Stop at Froude and Cape May

by on January 27, 2021 · 8 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

The Peninsula Community Planning Board held its first regular monthly meeting of 2021 on Thursday, January 21.  The meeting was held using the Zoom meeting system. It is necessary to go to the PCPB.net website and register to attend the meetings in advance. The link to join the meeting is in the agenda.

As a side note, in comparison, the Midway planning group also uses Zoom but does not require registration.  An Issue with registration is that attendees are not required to sign in when they attend meetings in person.  There is a sign in sheet but it is voluntary and includes very little private information. The on-line registration system actually runs counter to the Brown Act privacy requirements.

A highlight of the meeting was a presentation by a volunteer group concerned about the city’s proposals for the Parks Master Plan component of the Complete Communities plan.  The lowlight was the board’s decision to support a request to place a four-way stop at Froude and Cape May despite having a city engineering decision that the intersection did not rate a four-way stop.

Parks and Recreation Coalition Alert Public to City’s Plan

A group of volunteers have formed the “Parks and Recreation Coalition,” or PARC.  They don’t like some of what they see in the City’s plan and they are alerting the public. One of the volunteers, Tom Mullaney, made the presentation.

PARC consists of “city planners, landscape architects, architects, and community planners, each volunteering to improve the Parks Master Plan.”  Some of the names are familiar including activist Tom Mullaney and former Planning Commission member Carolyn Chase.  Here is the fill list of volunteers from PARC’s presentation:

Susan Baldwin, Nico Calavita, Carolyn Chase, Julie Corrales, Howard Greenstein, Diane Kane, Debby Knight, Stacey LoMedico, Tom Mullaney, Deborah Sharpe, Rene Smith, Mike Stepner, Andy Wiese, Wally Wulfeck

PARC has an immediate need for support of comments and requests PARC is putting to city council concerning the Parks Master Plan, or PMP, a component of the Complete Communities Plan. These volunteers have pored over the city’s plan and found it wanting. The most serious concern, among a number of concerns, is the city’s proposal to completely drop the current design standard of 2.6 acres of park land per 1,000 residents in favor of a highly flawed points system.

According to PARC, the city is substituting a complicated point system for city facilities that allows points for what are dubbed “amenities” to offset the need for land.  One extreme example Baldwin offered showed that the new point system gave a 10 square foot interpretative sign the same point value as a one-acre park.  Beyond the absurdity of a trading sign for an acre of land, a sign does not fit the definition of the word “amenity.”

PARC stated “We have found no other city that doesn’t have a clear land standard.” PARC has a number of suggestions starting with the idea of “Simplify by separating Land from Recreational Amenity points,” that’s the gem.

It is easy to see why the point system is attractive to the city and development interests.  “Amenities” can be added to existing park land to reduce the need to provide additional park acreage.  Think about it, by adding enough signs or other simple “amenities,” San Diego can absorb the population increases in the next decades and not provide any additional actual park acreage.  This, of course, makes no sense at all.

An equally serious concern of PARC’s is that the public was shut out of the planning process.  The standard presentations of city plans to community planning groups or the Recreation Advisory Groups were not made.

The city, according to PARC, rushed the Parks Master Plan through last fall with an unsupported deadline of the November election. Because of this unnecessary haste, the planning and recreation groups were not included in crafting the “vision.”

This is an extremely important point because a 50-year plan for our park lands will have been created by only a few public officials. Considering the historical influence of the development community in city politics, this scenario just spells trouble for San Diegans.

Another of PARC’s concerns is park commercialization. The city is eliminating and adding language that could lead to open commercialization of the parks.  The city removed “Protect parks from commercialization and privatization.” That says a lot right there.

The city then loosened the language regarding what was been previously permitted on park land.  The previous uses were specifically listed as “restaurants and cafes, food trucks, carts and kiosks, youth-oriented facilities, bike rental and repair, museums, and cultural centers.”  The city inserted the words “but are not limited to” before the previous list meaning that list is no longer a specific list of the only permitted uses.

To make sure it was understood that the door was now wide open to commercialization, the city added “other retail uses, and other similar uses” to the end of the previous list. It would be difficult to find a more amorphous way of saying something like this.  They should have just said the welcome mat is out. PARC suggests the following language.

“Protect parks from commercialization and privatization. Ensure that commercial uses within parks contribute to the recreational use and value of the park and are sufficiently limited.” Much better.

PARC’s presentation included a section devoted to funding that is too detailed to summarize here.  It is clear that the volunteers understand the funding mechanisms and believe the Park Master Plan needs to address funding much more specifically and strongly.

PARC also discussed equity in how parks are sited and funded. For example, the existing systems allow developments to waive as much as 100% of the Development Impact Fees if the developer satisfies park standards on the development site.  PARC points out this leaves nothing for parks in other parts of the city where development may not be taking place.  It’s easy to see how discriminatory this practice is.  PARC suggests all developments pay a fee of some sort to benefit the whole city.

PARC suggested a motion for the board to approve.

“Support the improvements to the Parks Master Plan and Recreation Element recommended by PARC and send letter of support to the Mayor and City Council requesting that city staff be directed to work with Community Planning Groups, Recreational Advisory Groups, and PARC for input.”

After a long discussion, the Board voted to support PARC’s request “in concept,” particularly the part about slowing the process and obtaining public input from planning groups and recreation groups.  The PCPB wrestled with supporting all of PARC’s recommendations because they had not had enough time to study the admittedly detailed information PARC provided.

This was more than the Midway group did, Midway just tabled it.  The PCPB’s Parks and Recreation subcommittee will study the proposals in more detail and another vote may take place in February.

(The PCPB posts its meetings on this YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdZqz44Fjy4NrbIbkw6d-EQ.  Mullaney’s presentation starts at 1:20 and runs to 1:32, which is followed by a long discussion.)

Airport

The agenda had an item on it titled “Airport Part 150 Workshop” about a public workshop that had taken place earlier in the day.  The agenda contained what looked like a reprint of the Airport’s announcement:

“On January 21, 2021 from 4-6 p.m., the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority is welcoming the community to attend our second public workshop for the Part 150 Noise Compatibility Study. Attendees will learn about what the technical and citizen advisory committees have studied to find potential ways to reduce aircraft noise impacts from San Diego International Airport. Small breakout sessions will allow attendees to ask one-on-one questions to technical experts on noise contours, magnetic variation, operational alternatives, land use and administrative alternatives, preliminary recommendations and next steps in the study.”

PCPB Chair Fred Kosmo explained the item was placed on the agenda, which is published 72 hours in advance of the meeting, in hopes that people would see this and have some advance notice of the meeting.  Kosmo explained that there will be other opportunities to provide comments on airport noise in the coming months.

Famosa Canyon

The board voted to send a letter to the San Diego Housing Commission showing support for a letter from the Point Loma Recreational Advisory Group, or PLRAG, regarding what is referred to as “Famosa Canyon/ Site428.”  This volunteer group is part of the Park & Recreation department. The site is the open piece of land on the south side of Famosa opposite Bill Cleator Park, bordered by Nimitz Blvd. on the west.

Famosa has been in the news for the past two years as community groups have opposed the Housing Commission’s plan to build affordable housing on the land.  The PLRAG is advocating for the sale of the land to the Parks and Recreation department. This was tried in the past and failed.  The value of the land was too high for Park and Rec to afford.

The Housing Commission obtained the property many years ago for virtually nothing, about a quarter of a million dollars.  It is worth much more now.  Considering the state of the city’s finances during the pandemic, it is doubtful the money is available.  On the other hand, it appears that the Housing Commission has been unsuccessful in engaging a developer to build the affordable housing.  It is very possible it will remain open land for a while by default.

PCPB Elections

After waiting all year for guidance on holding annual elections, the city’s guidance was ‘hold elections but be careful’. That took a whole year to come up with. The challenge is how to hold an election when larger gatherings are not considered safe.  The city is allowing a serious loosening of the normal election rules and will allow voting by various methods that would not usually be permitted such as online or drop off balloting.

The main issue will be to confirm a voter is eligible.  Tracy Dezenzo from the Ocean Beach Planning Board described a system being designed by a volunteer that will allow people to send in copies of identifying documents such as driver’s licenses long enough to be reviewed.  The copies will automatically be deleted from the system.

The PCPB’s election subcommittee will research the possibilities and make recommendations to the full board at the February meeting.

The takeaway is that there will be an election in 2021.  Because there was no election in 2020, there are a lot of open seats.  Each year, five seats open up.  Since there was no election in 2020, there will be 10 open seats in this election.  There is also one more spot to fill for a member who resigned recently.  This means more than two thirds of the total seats are up for election.

The PCPB website, pcpb.net, has an elections page that will contain the election information and candidate applications.  Folks are encouraged to run for a seat.

The Lowlight

The PCPB voted to support placement of a four-way stop sign at Froude and Cape May.  Their letter, with attachments, is on the PCPB website.  The attachments contain anecdotal accounts of traffic at the intersection, mostly about speeding.

Locals were previously able to get the city to assess the intersection. The result was a score of 12 points out of 50.  The city concluded the site did not warrant a four-way stop sign.  But, that did not stop the PCPB from approving a letter to the city advocating for the stop signs they knew the city said were unnecessary.

But that was not enough, the PCPB also wrote;

“Additionally, the PCPB would request the city of San Diego Traffic and Transportation Department to consider reviewing the stretch of Froude in between Voltaire and Newport to install traffic calming measures. There are currently no stop signs along this route of .44 miles.”

No documentation of any kind was provided to support this request.  It seemed as if the road having no stop signs in .44 miles was reason enough to get out there and do something.

Anyone who has driven Froude can attest that it has the best calming measures a road can have, serious dips at each intersection designed for surface water drainage.  In fact, one of the toughest dips is at Cape May and Froude.  It is very difficult to speed on Froude without damaging a car.

The PCPB has become a font of requests to study traffic or place crosswalks or stops signs, with virtually nothing to back up any of these requests.  Their advocacy for a lighted crosswalk at Froude and Voltaire is the most egregious to date.  Their claims of many incidents at the intersection have never been supported.  Placing a crosswalk one block away from a traffic light and a crosswalk makes no sense – but the PCPB did not care.

The original request was generated by cycling advocate Nicole Burgess, who was not satisfied with just a crosswalk and wanted another four-way stop.  One block from a traffic light.  Burgess previously asked the city to put No Turn On Red signs at every corner of Catalina and Voltaire.  After studying the intersection, the city placed one on the right turn from Famosa west on Voltaire, which has fouled that intersection for no obvious gain. When the city was asked for a list of people who wanted the crosswalk at Froude and Voltaire, the only name they came up with was Burgess.

 

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie January 27, 2021 at 11:32 am

Isn’t part of that intersection in OB? the western half of Cape May and Froude?

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Avatar Geoff Page January 27, 2021 at 3:14 pm

Yes, it is, it is an issue for both planning boards.

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Avatar kh January 27, 2021 at 11:01 pm

This same item came to the OB board but was tabled requesting more information.

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Avatar Geoff Page January 29, 2021 at 12:33 pm

The PARC presentation was very detailed with lots of information. What more information was needed? Or did OB table it because they needed more time to look at what was presented?

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Avatar kh January 29, 2021 at 1:04 pm

I was referring to the stop sign.
But Parc was tabled, in my opinion because it was asking us to endorse too many positions. I might be able to but it will take more work than that. Parc would be better off with a short list of general points that can be easily agreed on. I think it was partly in how the presentation was framed. Also recognize that OB is built out, yet has better access to park space (and beaches) than most, and that it stands to benefit from a plan that promotes adding amenities to existing parks instead of just adding acreage.

I may reach out to them directly with input.

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Avatar Geoff Page January 29, 2021 at 1:26 pm

Oh, my mistake. I think that position on the stop signs was the correct one. The PCPB, however, doesn’t need, not just more, but any, information. Planning boards get requests from people all the time and have to look at the facts before deciding what to do. Some on the PCPB are hell bent on trying to satisfy everyone because it makes certain people look good.

I agree that the PARC presentation would benefit from a bit more simplicity for the sake of communication. Trying to distill it down and write about it was a chore.

Interesting comment about OB, makes sense.

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Avatar Paul Webb January 27, 2021 at 4:10 pm

There are some people in this community that will not be satisfied until there is a four way stop sign at every intersection. I drive Froude almost daily as it is a very wide street (compared to Guizot) and has much less traffic and fewer parked cars than Ebers (don’t even get me started on Sunset Cliffs – I avoid it as much as I can!). Almost every intersection has very good sight lines, the one exception being Froude & Brighton where someone has built a vine covered fence that extends all the way to the sidewalk on both streets. As Geoff points out, there are dips at every intersection. I know some people will still speed, but most people slow for the dips. I know speeding is an issue in our community, but the speeders will probably run the stop signs too. I’m consistently shocked by how many people fail to even slow down very much, much less come to a complete stop.

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Avatar Geoff Page January 27, 2021 at 5:20 pm

I agree, there are people who won’t be satisfied until there are stop signs everywhere; they are called cyclists and they don’t stop. My son argues with me on this saying the stop signs help cyclists. But, he won’t listen to reason. I told him that one of my reasons for not wanting the stop signs is to protect cyclists. When the signs go up, cars must stop or risk a ticket. Cyclists, however, routinely do not stop at stop signs so each new one is a danger to cyclists, one more opportunity to get creamed running a stop sign. And they never get ticketed. If all cyclists were made to come to a full stop at every stop sign, as the law requires, I think thee would be far fewer of these requests.

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