Peninsula Planners Pushback on Proposed Accessory Dwelling Unit and Planning Board Changes

by on January 28, 2022 · 5 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

Land use changes that are designed to destroy single family neighborhoods and planning board changes that are designed to destroy planning boards were the two main topics of interest at the Peninsula Community Planning Board’s monthly meeting January 20. Pretty depressing stuff. Accounts of how the PCPB’s last election went did not help.

Accessory Dwelling Units -Proposed Land Development Code Revisions

The PCPB discussed a draft letter it has addressed to the mayor and all nine city councilmembers providing its opinion of the proposed Draft Housing Action Package. The main subject of the letter was accessory dwelling units and junior accessory dwelling units and the new state law versus the city’s proposed “enhancements” of the law.

The PCPB letter detailed the objections in a series of eight bulleted items. One sentence says it very clearly, “Each of these provisions go far beyond changes in the Municipal Code required to bring the Code into conformity with State law.”

The letter then states what the perceived harm would be. The city’s enhancements of the state law “will have significant, irreversible and negative impacts on the character of the Peninsula Community.”

Although these differences have been described here in The OB Rag previously, a refresher never hurts. Here are the PCPB’s bullets.

  • The changes in State law allow one ADU and one JADU. However, the proposed changes to the Code will allow one ADU and three JADUs in most areas.
  • Portions of the Peninsula community are located in designated Transit Priority Areas (TPAs). The proposed Code changes will allow unlimited ADUs in areas subject to the TPA designation.
  • State law prohibits local jurisdictions from requiring interior rear or side yard setbacks of greater than four (4) feet. The proposed code changes allow for zero side and rear yard setbacks where the one-story ADU or JADU is less than 16 feet in height. The State limitation on interior side and rear yard setbacks is only recognized where the ADU or JADU is greater than 16 feet in height and the lot abuts other residential uses.
  • New trees are required only if there are more than three ADUs per premises, and only one tree is required per 5,000 square feet of lot area. This minimal tree planting effort could reduce or eliminate opportunities for mitigating climate change effects, contrary to current City climate goals.
  • Existing curb cuts that “no longer lead to a safe and efficient off-street parking space” as a result of ADU or JADU construction can be closed “to the satisfaction of the City Engineer.” No specific criteria are provided as to the definition of “safe and efficient.”
  • New ADUs may be permitted within the habitable area of existing multiple family dwelling unit structure up to 25 per cent of the total existing dwelling units in the structure, increasing the number of ADUs allowed.
  • New ADUs in some circumstances will be exempt from the requirement to pay a Development Impact Fee, despite the additional impacts these ADUs will have on the community.
  • Creation of all new ADUs or JADUs, whether by conversion of existing structures or by the construction of attached or detached structures will be treated as a Ministerial Permit/Process One eliminating any possible review by area residents of Community Planning Groups.

In the end, the PCPB is supporting a growing opinion that the city needs to roll back, do just what state law requires and no more harmful enhancements. In other words, reel it back to no more additional units than state law requires.

When the vote was taken, only two board members voted no. Matt Schalles and Nicole Burgess voted no for basically the same reason: they did not want to see the letter contain a limitation on the number of units a developer could build on a lot. Both Schalles and Burgess are on the board of directors of BikeSD.

Burgess is well known for her cycling advocacy; she has been a one-issue person for years.  Schalles is not as well known but shares her opinions. These two board members are taking a position that is contrary to what the majority of Point Lomans want. Burgess and Schalles are not being advocates for Point Loma, they are advocating for BikeSD and the a segment of the cycling community.

During her comments, Burgess melodramatically stated her position. “Cars and cars and cars, we’re gonna have to live without them to save our planet.”

Proponents of this point of view believe if we have fewer and fewer places to park cars, we will all give them up. The new laws do not require new units to include parking in the majority of cases. The problem is that there is nothing in the new laws that say you can only rent one of these many new units if you swear that you do not have a car. That’s the flaw.

This was not the first time Burgess took a position that was contrary to the community she is supposed to be serving.  Burgess attended the Midway-Pacific Highway Planning Group meeting the day before the PCPB meeting and introduced herself as a PCPB board member.

Burgess did not state whether what she had to say was the PCPB’s opinion or hers alone, so it was assumed it was the PCPB’s opinion. She said the following, as I reported previously:

“It’s unfortunate that Point Loma and Ocean Beach doesn’t want to see that beautified (meaning the Midway area) and see that become what it really can be. I’m really disappointed in the lawsuit (fighting Measure E) and I really hope our city can overcome and I’m grateful we do have a leader in Todd Gloria that is wanting to challenge that.”

“The Point Loma community is actively fighting Midway a lot of times… so maybe there is that we need these community groups to be larger so that we actively have these all-inclusive conversations.”

Her claim that Point Loma is fighting Midway is unsupported by anything and hardly the sort of thing the PCPB would actually ever state. In addition, her position on the 30-foot height limit is contrary to most of Point Loma’s. Burgess and her ilk want to see the tall building s and so there will be more density for the same reasons already explained.

Both Schalles and Burgess unashamedly and inappropriately tried to use the recent tragic fatalities of two pedestrians on Harbor Drive to further their agenda. An elderly couple aged 69 and 71, tried to cross Harbor Drive, after dark, but did not use the controlled intersection at Scott Street or the America’s Cup intersection south of that.

It was reported that a speeding car hit the pedestrians. Driving too fast is a crime of course. They must have seen the car coming from a distance and probably thought they had time to cross. The driver may not have seen them in the dark as they tired to cross. Very sad, but what does this have to do with the cycling agenda? Using this incident was unconscionable.

So the question becomes a version of, is the Pope running America or is JFK? The community should take a close look to see who their planning board representatives are actually representing. Are they representing them or another master?

CPC recommendations for proposed planning board changes

The proposed changes to the entire planning board system contain a number of things that illustrate a push to disassociate the planning boards from the city. One proposal is to do away with the stipend the boards get, a princely sum of $500 a year. This is the only money the boards get outside of any private donations.

Another proposal is to no longer support the planning boards on the city’s website. Many planning boards, who have the resources, have their own websites but many boards depend on the city’s site to advertise meetings, post agenda, and post minutes.

The most harmful proposal of all that illustrates this desire to disassociate is the one to remove the planning boards from the land use review process.  That particular task is why the planning boards were created in the first place.  If they are removed from the process, citizen access to development information for their communities would be drastically reduced.

Another effect of disassociating the boards from the city would be the loss of indemnification. Board members are currently indemnified by the city.

The value of indemnification became obvious when PCPB board member Don Sevrens sued the PCPB and the city attorney had to defend his fellow board members against Sevren’s suit. Without indemnification, board members would be exposed to legal risks they would have to pay to defend against. Why would a volunteer want to do that?

Other requirements in the proposed changes would make volunteering to be on a planning board very unattractive and seem designed to discourage participation.

The Community Planners Committee, or CPC, came up with four possible responses to city. The CPC consists of all the planning board chairs across the city and it meets monthly.  The four possibilities were:

“1. Work with CM LaCava (council member Joe Lacava) to make his proposals as acceptable as possible, then live with them.” This item refers to the former La Jolla Planning Group chair, Joe Lacava, now the District 1 council member who is spearheading these proposed changes.

“2. Request that the Mayor appoint all members of CPGs so as to avoid conflict with the City Charter, and keep current or preferred rules.” This is the least favored idea for obvious reasons.

“3. Work toward an amendment to the City Charter that establishes CPGs and some of the rules for governance.” This is the one the PCPB favored.

“4. If Council passes Mr. LaCava’s proposals in their present form, then organize independent community groups that do not request recognition from council, but that continue to advocate for their communities.” This is unrealistic.  With no participation in the project review process and no indemnification, such groups would be very hard to organize.

This was an information item only, the PCPB did not take any action by vote but wanted its CPC representative to make known what the PCPB favored.


The PCPB will be having an election in March, as it does every year.  How to hold the election was the discussion.  Last year, because of COVID, the PCPB decided to use a hybrid system of mail-in ballots or dropping them off at a specific site.

Board member Virissimo, who was on the election subcommittee last year surprisingly recounted serious problems with that election that were not revealed after the election. These problems, had they been made public, may have invalidated the election.

The main problem was the mail-in ballots. These ballots did not go through the normal vetting process.

At an in-person election, voters have to bring something to show they are eligible to vote in the PCPB election. This was not possible with the mail-in ballots so it was on the honor system. Apparently, the honor system was not effective.

Virissimo described receiving batches of ballots from the PCPB mailbox that were clearly filled out by one person using different addresses. She described a painstaking effort to compare handwriting on hundreds of mail-in ballots and reject ones they thought were written by the same person. This alone pretty much torpedoed the validity of the election.

There was also a problem with the ballot drop-off process. Some people arrived to drop off multiple ballots and were turned away because the PCPB had a rule stating only one ballot drop-off per person. Apparently, this was not clear to the public.  According to Virissimo, 28 people were turned away and walked off “sad and cursing.”

In an attempt to verify this serious information, the chair of the subcommittee, former board member David Dick, was contacted by email. He was unwilling to discuss the past election.

The election subcommittee was formed and will be presenting the election plan at the February PCPB meeting. Board member Angela Vedder volunteered to head the subcommittee. The by-laws call for the first vice chair to head the subcommittee but both the first and second vice chairs are up for election so a volunteer was required.

The community should see what process the PCPB comes up with.  If any of it relies on the honor system and accepts votes without identification, the election coming up in March will fare no better.

Other Items

  • Board member Havlik announced her candidacy for the District 2 council seat this year.
  • Cathy Kenton, chair of the Midway group gave an update on Midway’s problems and provided Midway’s reasoning for wanting the 30-foot height limit removed. In her opinion, there would be no development with the height limit removal. She said the group that sued to stop the height limit Measure E wants most of the area devoted to a park, an idea she roundly denounced.
  • One project was heard and approved. It consisted of an illegal accessory dwelling unit the owner was cited on and was now trying to legitimize. This is sadly so common in Point Loma.  There have been illegal conversions of garages and add units for years that people on the planning boards have been fighting. Now with the change in the laws previously discussed, the illegal units are lining up to made legal and there is nothing to stop them.

The PCPB meeting was recorded and can be seen on YouTube here


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie January 28, 2022 at 12:24 pm

Why can’t voting be done online? Ocean Beach Town Council just did voting online for their board members.


Mat Wahlstrom January 29, 2022 at 3:03 pm

For the reasons mentioned in this news item from November and more:

San Francisco’s Department of Technology obtained a $1.5 million federal grant to explore online voting. That didn’t go over too well with voting experts.

In a scathing letter* delivered to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, a long list of election experts blasted The City’s Department of Technology on Tuesday, calling it illegal, a serious security risk and lacking in transparency.

“We are writing to you today with grave concerns regarding an initiative of the San Francisco Department of Technology,” the letter reads, citing a pilot program for “an electronic ballot return system, which is not permitted under California law.”

* Link to download this letter,


Judy Swink January 30, 2022 at 1:51 pm

The headline needs correction so it reads “Accessory” and not “Assessory”.


Frank Gormlie January 31, 2022 at 8:52 am

Whoops, thanks Judy.


Vern January 31, 2022 at 7:20 am

Instead of eliminating SRO’s, build more of them. Areas like Mission Valley, Mira Mesa and Miramar are central county locations and SROs may be ideal for hospitality workers who’d rather not make the commute from TJ or struggle to find affordable housing.
Also, consider building bikes lanes underground, like “bike subways”. It’d be unique to SD.


Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: