Peninsula Planners Hear the Bad News About ADUs and Grapple With Undeveloped Pocket Park

by on September 30, 2021 · 4 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

The Peninsula Community Planning Board’s regular monthly meeting September 16 had basically two items of interest to the community as a whole, an eye-opening presentation about new state law concerning accessory dwelling units and a pocket park.

State Law and Accessory Dwelling Units – ADUs

One of several organizations that have formed to protest the new state and city laws about accessory dwelling units is Neighbors for a Better San Diego or NBS. Kathy McClelland, an adjunct instructor at Southwestern College and Bob James, a contractor, provided a presentation.

Two California senate bills, SB 9 and SB 10, allegedly designed to produce more housing, will create havoc in San Diego. And, as if the state law was not ruinous enough, the city of San Diego decided to go even further with this.

The main objection NBS has to the new state and city laws is that the laws allow virtually unlimited ADUs in single family neighborhoods. Their second objection is the city piling on even more making the whole issue an uncontrollable mess.

According to NBS, the new laws allow unlimited ADUs in TPAs, Transit Priority Areas and two thirds of San Diego is within a TPA.

The laws are not limited to ADUs, there are also JADUs or Junior Accessory Dwelling Units.

NBS compared the state and city laws. Both columns below are a concern but the San Diego column is outright ridiculous.

STATE LAW                                                                     SAN DIEGO

1 JADU                                                                             1 JADU

1ADU                                                                                3 ADUs*/Unlimited ADUs**

16-foot height                                                                Allows 30 feet of height

Four feet side/rear setbacks                                      Allows zero side and rear setbacks

Waives developer fees for ADUs<750/SF                Waives all ADU developer fees

No bonus ADUs                                                             Gives away bonus ADUs

Allows exclusion for public safety                            No restrictions in very high fire or

Hazard Severity Zones

*Outside a TPA

** Inside a TPA

Unlimited ADUs in TPAs, zero side and rear yard setbacks, and no developer fees are by far the worst of what the city is allowing. Zero setbacks provide all kinds of safety problems, the main one being fires and the ability to fight them. No fees from developers needs no explanation. Where will the money come from for beefing up the infrastructure that was not designed for this density. What about parks and libraries and fire stations?

This is a developer’s dream. It will cause competition between developers snapping up homes and home buyers trying to buy a home. If a developer knows they can make the kind of money they can, the buying price is no object. A regular person wanting to buy a home to live in will not be able to match those prices.

This kind of thing is already happening in places where developers want to place short term vacation rentals. Imagine 17 STVRs on one lot.  On top of that, homebuyers are also competing against large corporations buying up homes to keep as rental properties. Something’s gotta give.

Because there is very little open space left to build large residential projects, developers have turned their attention to “infill.” They have sold it as a way to solve the housing crisis. The only housing crisis this will save is the crisis developers face finding places to build and make money.

NBS provided a graphic that should frighten everyone.  James created two plans for a lot.  One shows what was allowed and the other shows what could be constructed under the new laws. See graphic above (Don’t Be Misled picture).

Three residences versus 17 residences on the same lot.  Let than sink in.

NBS shows that San Diego has a surplus of moderate-income housing. The housing shortage is for the categories of extremely low income, very low income, and above moderate income. Apparently, the laws allow developers to set the income levels for affordable housing they want to build. Not much chance of seeing any extremely low income or very low-income developments when there are higher stakes to choose.

The NBS group has recommendations for city council to ameliorate the effects of this steamroller.

Change the ADU code to match state law:

  • 1 ADU and 1 JADU
  • Four-foot rear and side yard setbacks
  • 16-foot height limit
  • Fee waivers only as required by CA or to encourage deeded affordable
  • Exempt areas from ADUs based on Public Safety (Fire), Traffic, Water and Sewer
  • Develop housing on transit corridors and hubs

The NBS website contains the detailed presentation. Anyone concerned about this should visit the site . The site contains a petition to sign and provides a way to join the group’s email list.  Frankly, everyone should be up in arms about all of this.

Cañon or Avenida de Portugal Pocket Park

About five years ago, the PCPB was successful in snaring all of the developer fees, from the 178-unit condo project on the old Barnard Elementary School site on Barnard Street.  The fees were between $890,000 and $840,000. This, in itself was a crime.  Barnard Street, in front of this development, is a horrendous potholed mess. It was before the development and the work damaged it even more.

The developer fees should have gone to repairing this road that all of the new condo residents use and all the existing residences in the apartment buildings across the street also use.  But, some PCPB members had some city contacts at the time who let the PCPB decide how to spend the money.  In 16 years of experience with the PCPB, this writer has never seen such a decision being left to a planning board.

The board decided to use all the money to build a “pocket” park on Cañon Street at the north end of Avenida de Portugal.  The site is .67 acres, hence the name pocket park. At first, it was said that the $890,000 and $840,000 was enough money but the overall budget swelled to about $2.5 million.  All the money was apparently spent on the design and management leaving nothing to actually build the park.

This little park will have no parking so it will only be useful for nearby residents to walk to or cycle to.  Ironically, one of the main concerns was that it would attract the homeless.  The landscape design attempted to account for this by keeping the bottom three feet under the trees clear so the SDPD could see clearly.  Five years later and the site is completely overgrown with trees and shrubs obscuring any view from Cañon Street.

The PCPB approved a letter to the city about the park.  The letter expresses the concern that the park may never be built, “throwing away $1 million on an unfinished pocket park.”  The PCPB is worried this might happen because of the city’s newly adopted Park Master Plan.  The new plan, adopted over very strong community opposition, incorporates a point system for satisfying park requirements.

The point system was described in this OB Rag article last January.

The PCPB’s letter requested three things:

The first was to “Grandfather the park under the old rules.”  This request does not make sense because the park has not been built or dedicated.

The second request was, “Find the funds to fill the gap and devote staff resources to get the park built.”

The “gap” referred to was from this sentence in the letter:

“Except, the cost of the park, estimated at $844,000 in 2014, has tripled over seven years, the city believes.”

This is not entirely correct.  By July 2017, the cost to create this park had already risen by $320,000, the extra was supposedly coming from somewhere in the city budget. Here is The OB Rag article in 2017 about the pocket park workshop on July 26 which provides more detail.

The original figure cited, $844,000 in 2014, was not reliable even at the time.  That was an estimate for 2014, not a properly projected estimate several years down the road when the park might have been accomplished.

It is not clear what the PCPB believed could be accomplished by just telling the city to find the money and devote the staff.

The PCPB’s third request was this:

“Identify how much money was spent and what money remains for the project, given the lack of transparency by the City.”

Putting aside the disjointed nature of that sentence, what the PCPB is asking for could have been obtained by the PCPB’s Traffic and Transportation subcommittee simply by making a Public Records Request. The city will not provide any documentation anymore unless it is requested through their PRR site.

The letter referred to this as a “three-quarter acre park.”  The park is two-thirds of an acre.

The PCPB voted unanimously to approve this very weak letter. The full text of the letter can be found here .   There is also a chronology of the effort to build this park here

In other News

  • The PCPB is moving ahead with creating two high school student liaison positions on the board’s Environmental subcommittee to encourage more community involvement at a younger age. There is an application and a flyer on the PCPB’s Home page for students interested in one of these positions. The deadline is September 30 but, depending on the response, that deadline may be extended.
  • The PCPB had a good laugh at the beginning of the meeting about the OB Town Council’s recent troubles. Considering the checkered history of the PCPB, laughing at the one problem this writer has ever heard about the OBTC was a bit smug.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sam September 30, 2021 at 12:29 pm

Unfortunately, this is what happens when you have a super majority in the state house. While I don’t agree with our “friends” on the right, I do think they play a vital role in keeping extreme thinking in check. It feels like these types of bills will keep getting passed as progressives trip over themselves to prove their collective bona fides, without any real forethought as to what the unintended consequences will be. Southern California will be unrecognizable in 20 years. I’m thinking it will be more like Tijuana or the slums of Rio de Janeiro.


Geoff Page September 30, 2021 at 4:02 pm

I’m a lifelong Democrat, Sam, and I agree with you completely.


Toby October 6, 2021 at 12:05 pm

Geoff, I too am a life long Democrat in agreement with you & Sam on this.
SB9 & 10 is a gift to the developers under the guise of “affordable housing.”


Kathleen Blavatt October 1, 2021 at 3:17 am

Back in the early 2000 Cañon or Avenida de Portugal Pocket Park and old Barnard Elementary School site were suppose to be part of the benefits from North Bay Redevelopment. A book “A Hole in the Blueprint” was even written about the way schools were being closed, and teachers treated badly, all for development. The Barnard Elementary School site and adjoining property was once on the PAC list to become a park and ballfields, but the push for needing housing for teachers and police that they could afford kept coming up. Instead the property went to a developer that built houses that were advertised as “Resort Housing”!
Cañon or Avenida de Portugal Pocket Park was saved from development but there is still no park. This is just two examples of how redevelopment was a scam.
Now we have SB 9 and SB 10, the Sports Arena development, NAVWARS, etc. etc., which is Redevelopment on steroids. As Geoff said “Where is the money for infrastructure?” Safety, quality of life, having yards, parking, water, no longer matters?
Unfortunately, both the San Diego Dems. and Rep. have a history of selling out to developers. Now the state is complicit and led by our former council members.


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