Peninsula Planners Table Park Recommendations Until Public Input

by on May 26, 2021 · 1 comment

in Ocean Beach

The Cañon Pocket Park is a small piece of land at the southern end of the Cañon Street canyon, on the east side. Avenida De Portugal dead ends at the park entrance.

By Geoff Page

The subject of Peninsula parks came up twice during the Peninsula Community Planning Board’s regular monthly meeting Thursday, May 20.  Two parks were discussed, Collier Park and the Canon Street “pocket” park. There were, however, problems with both.

Collier Park

Collier Park is all that is left of the Collier land grant legacy that is still just open park land.  Bill Cleator park is laid out into Little League fields.  Collier Park is bordered by Greene and Soto Streets and is adjacent to the Point Loma Native Plant Reserve.

The Ocean Beach Planning Board formed an ad hoc subcommittee to look at the area parks and make recommendations for improvements.  Some of the parks are within the OB board’s boundaries such as Saratoga and Ebers Street parks.  Some are within the Mission Bay park area like Robb Field.  Collier is within the PCPB area.

The OB ad hoc subcommittee made a presentation of its park recommendations to the OB board in April.  The board voted to table the recommendations and asked its subcommittee to do some more work on it.

However, the chair of OB’s ad hoc subcommittee made a presentation of those unchanged recommendations to the PCPB Parks and Rec subcommittee.  That subcommittee consisted of three PCPB members.  The purpose was to gain the PCPB’s support for the park recommendations, including Collier Park. It was not clear if the PCPB parks subcommittee knew that the draft recommendations were not yet approved by OB.

The chair of the PCPB Parks and Rec subcommittee, Mandy Havlik, presented a draft letter to the full PCPB that expressed support for OB’s park recommendations.

“The Peninsula Community Planning Board (PCPB) is in support of the Ocean Beach Planning Board (OBPB) Parks Ad-hoc committee’s recommendation as outlined in Encl (1) to the City of San Diego Parks and Recreation advocating for improvements to Peninsula area community parks.”

The subcommittee’s vote was 2 – 0 in favor of the letter.  Havlik recused herself from the vote. It appears that she also sits on the OB board’s ad hoc park subcommittee that came up with the recommendations and seemed to believe voting on it was some kind of conflict.

So, the PCPB Parks and Rec subcommittee wanted approval for a letter of support based solely on a presentation to three PCPB members, only two of whom voted on it. No additional work was done on this item.

The letter was addressed to every city councilmember, the mayor, and the chair of the OB planning board.  There was an odd “INFO:” heading below the addresses that included the names of the San Diego Park and Recreation Director and the city’s Director of Planning.

This was an impressive list of officials to be addressing. It was also a detailed set of recommendations to be offering that were not approved by the OB Planning Board yet and were only reviewed by three members of the PCPB. Newly elected board member Paul Webb, who has served number of years before he was elected again in March, spoke up.

Webb pointed out that no one had a chance to review the letter because it was not distributed to the board.  There was a brief discussion about whether or not the document had been available. Regardless of the problem, the consensus was that few people had seen the information before the full board meeting.

In her attempt to get some kind of a letter approved, Havlik suggested the letter be edited to state only Collier Park because that was the only park within the PCPB boundaries.  That idea, in an effort of full disclosure, did not sit at all well with this reporter who has lived one half a block from the park for 34 years.

Two people were voting to approve changes to this neighborhood park with no input from the large community that uses it.  Asking the full board to support something like this was irresponsible. Fortunately, the PCPB was not in favor of that idea either. The PCPB sensibly voted to table the matter and wait until the OB Board had approved the recommendations.

The PCPB’s letter with the OB presentation attached, can be found at the pcpb.net. Hit “Board Meetings” on the left and a list of all the board meetings comes up. The May 20 entry has a link to the letter.

Cañon Pocket Park

The Cañon Pocket Park is a small piece of land at the southern end of the Cañon Street canyon, on the east side. Avenida De Portugal dead ends at the park entrance. There has been an attempt to build a “passive” park at this location for several years.  It appeared to be well under way at first then action seemed to stop.

At one time ~$840,000 was devoted to the park.  The money was from developer fees on the large 178-unit condo complex that replaced Barnard Elementary school.  Oddly enough, instead of using the money to repair horribly messed up Barnard Street that fronts the project, the money went all the way across Point Loma for a small neighborhood park. The allocation of all that money to this park was criminal.  Hardly anyone in the Peninsula had any say in how to use that money.

The $840,000 was supposed to be enough to build a little park but that changed almost immediately. The park budget swelled to $1.5 million and then to over $2 million to build a less than one-half acre of park.  It appears that all the available money was spent on design and management and there is no money left to actually build the park.

The city spent money to design something they did not dedicate money to construct.  The only ones who made out were the designers.

The PCPB chair Fred Kosmo, Havlik, and board member Sevrens met with the city and learned the park is unfunded.  The city had some weak suggestions like trying to find enough money to build the park in two phases, the first phase priced at $550,000.  The second phase would follow when money became available. This idea does not make sense because it just raises the overall cost considerably.

It is ironic that one of the main concerns about the park’s design was that it should not encourage the homeless to camp out there.  The SDPD spoke during one presentation of the design recommending that there had to be a clear viewing area three feet high, from the ground up, in the landscaping.  They recommended the design avoid shrubs and other plants that grow close to the ground.  Then, the PD and the public would have a clear view of the park from Cañon street.

When the PD made those recommendations several years ago, the lot was clear of most growth.  Today, the lot is covered with all kinds of growth that obscures any view of the park from Cañon.  A park of sorts has been built for homeless campers and it did not cost anything.

The PCPB did not take any action other to make a commitment to follow up on getting the park built, one day.

Projects

There were three projects on the agenda, all of which passed easily. One generated a discussion.

The first was a home at 952 Rosecrans the applicant is seeking historical designation for.

Another was a plan to demolish and replace a home at 3029 Nichols.  Because the new home would sit where the existing home sits, there were no real objections.

The third project was for a property at 4226 Coronado Ave. The applicant wants to build a 1,200 square foot companion unit on a single-family lot.  Apparently, the project was all very legal but it prompted a discussion of how single-family neighborhoods are being destroyed by the rules that now allow additional units on lots zoned for one unit.

This problem has been discussed for years on the PCPB.  Some believe they have to approve projects like this simply because they are legal. Others believe the PCPB can take a stand and deny projects like this because the disagree with the broader policy.  Unfortunately, the new chair of the PCPB’s Project Review v, architect Joe Holasek, does not believe taking such a position is proper.

Holasek believes their review is limited to things like the height, the floor area ratios, and checking parking, and aesthetics.  This just relegates the PCPB to the role of a secondary plan reviewer.

Holasek then made a contradictory statement when he said he had no problem voting against an “ugly” project. An ugly project could still be just as legal as the companion unit and the word “ugly” is completely ambiguous.

The planning boards are responsible to review projects to see if they conform to the community plans because this is one thing the city’s plan checkers do not do.  This project did not conform to the community plan because there is nothing in the plan to turn single-family zoned neighborhoods into multi-family zones.

Because the PCPB is advisory only, they have every right to register their displeasure with this new development by denying a project.  That won’t stop the project but it sends a message. These local planning boards are where it starts. To do nothing and sit back to watch what is happening is not doing the community any good.

Bicycle Boulevard

Havlik also chairs the PCPB’s Traffic and Transportation subcommittee and she had another letter she wanted the board to approve.  This letter received the same reaction as the parks letter Havlik presented.  Webb spoke up again and said no one had had a chance to review the letter. This issue was also tabled.

The letter proposes designating certain Point Loma streets as part of a “Bicycle Boulevard.” The letter stated:

“The Peninsula Community Planning Board (PCPB) requests that the City of San Diego designate a Bicycle Boulevard as an updated amendment to the community plan. The Bicycle Boulevard would connect Liberty Station from Laning to Rosecrans West, right on Poe Street, left on Locust to Nimitz Boulevard.

These streets are in very poor condition and should be considered for resurfacing and at that time, it is recommended that traffic calming, signage and street marking improvements be made to support safe walking and biking in the area.

Optional consideration is to make a right onto Newell from Locust and a left onto Evergreen to Nimitz. Space would need to be created through bushes with proper access, but this could be as a longer vision for improving this intersection as Evergreen to the west has been reclassified to a Bicycle Boulevard already and would be the direct access.”

Once again, a subcommittee was recommending changes in the community with no community discussion.  There was nothing to show that residents on the affected streets were polled before making such a designation, or that anything was actually done for that matter.  What had happened was the subcommittee decided to back another cycling proposal created by cycling advocate and newly elected board member Nicole Burgess.

One of the problems was that the letter proposing the route only described it, no thought had gone into including a map of the route. Another problem was that no details were provided regarding what this Bicycle Boulevard would consist of to “support safe walking and biking in the area” or any information indicating that these streets are not safe for walking and cycling now.

Other News

  • Newly elected County Supervisor Nora Vargas made an appearance to introduce herself and describe how she plans to do her job and what is important to her.  She encouraged the community to contact her with any issues.
  • There is grant money available for businesses called the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant. Businesses hurt by the pandemic are encouraged to apply here .
  • Second vice chair Brad Herrin made an impassioned speech about climate change and said that things are being done on the federal, state, and municipal level but that the communities and the local planning boards should get involved in addressing the problem too.
  • There was a discussion of the Peninsula’s 38-year-old community plan and the need for it to be updated.  The city has told the community that it is concentrating on community plans where there will be development in the future and the Peninsula is built out.  This explained why the Midway plan was updated first.

 

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie June 1, 2021 at 9:36 am

It is true that Collier Park – or what’s left of it – is in the Peninsula planning area, but it has been part of Ocean Beach for over a century. If one looks at the precinct maps of the area to the west of the park, you’ll see them named “Ocean Beach.” Over the years, some OB planners have shied away from viewing the park as part of OB because it would add some acreage to the OB total for parks and somehow detract from the need of more park space within Ocean Beach planning area.

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