Peninsula Planners Tangle With Traffic Recommendations Along Sunset Cliffs

by on February 21, 2022 · 11 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

The regular monthly meeting of the Peninsula Community Planning Board, Thursday, February 17, was a basically routine affair. What was probably of most interest to Point Loma residents was a letter that contained traffic recommendations for the length of Sunset Cliffs Blvd. from Adair Street at the north end to Ladera Street at the southern end.

Sunset Cliffs parking regulations

Residents along this stretch of Sunset Cliffs have been complaining for at least two years or more about noise, trash, and basic lawlessness by visitors. The sunsets at the cliffs apparently made it to social media some time ago and crowds flock to the cliffs from outside the area.  The traffic jams leaving after sunset are well known by everyone.

Some of this crowd is unruly and it appears the San Diego Police Department is not doing a great job of handling the problem. The PCPB has suggestions and is sending a letter to the mayor, the District 2 council member, five members of the SDPD, a traffic engineer, and a person on the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Council. Talk about overkill.

The main request is to prohibit parking from 11:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. with signs. The signs may run along both sides of Sunset Cliffs. There was some discussion about only placing the signs on the west side.

This idea seemed odd because there is very little on-street parking along the west side of Sunset Cliffs Blvd. There is a little south of Hill Street. The longest section is from Carmelo to Ladera. The idea of placing no parking all along the east side of Sunset Cliffs received some pushback. One board member worried about residents along the road who might park there.

One board member spoke up and said, “A community representative said the residential owners there park in their driveways and are not concerned about on-street parking for their vehicles.”  He did not say who this community representative was that spoke for this whole area. It’s hard to believe every resident along the road is that callous.

Board member Mandy Havlik, who was presenting the draft letter as head of the PCPB Traffic & Transportation subcommittee, argued that only posting one side would not solve the problem as people would just go to the other side. The problem with this, as was pointed out, is this would just push the parking onto the side streets.

Board member Paul Webb, with 13 years of Coastal Commission experience, said the parking has always been considered a form of access to the coastline. Webb said the Coastal Commission resists any projects that restrict that access and it will be an uphill battle to get approval for this.

All Havlik had to say was “At this point, we need to try something.” That said a lot.  This is more about a gesture than a serious effort to address the problem.

The PCPB letter also requested more SDPD enforcement action. It is doubtful that letter from the planning board will influence this. It is a matter of money to devote the police resources, something the city has been unwilling to do.

The letter also requested some additional red curb at the intersection of Ladera and Sunset Cliffs to “allow for additional maneuvering space for emergency vehicles when turning on and off Sunset Cliffs Blvd.” Who asked for this is a real mystery.

The letter requested more red-painted curb at the fire hydrant on Ladera by the alley entrance and more red striping by the storm drain at the west end of Ladera. Once again, how did this become such a concern to the PCPB is unknown.

Lastly, the letter requested “closing gated parks and posting no overnight parking in city parking lots along Sunset Cliffs.” This one has loads of problems including building gates and having someone open and close them all. Overnight parking is already illegal along with lots of other things that the SDPD is not enforcing as seen on the posted sign.

The letter includes a map and “Recent pictures of vehicles camping along Sunset Cliffs Blvd.” The map contains a series of red dots as suggestions where to place the new signage and it shows the area by Ladera where the additional red curb is requested.

Then, there were the pictures. It is hard to know what to say about the pictures. There are seven. The first is the back of a Mercedes Sprinter van, including a nice shot of a license plate. That was all. The second was a shot of a Ford van, also showing the license number plainly. The third was the front of a Chevrolet truck or van, it isn’t clear, but the license plate is.

The fourth shown was the oddest. It was very blurry and was taken from an elevated vantage point from the east side of Sunset Cliffs somewhere near Carmelo Street.  It was a van of some sort. Shot number five was another of the back end of a Sprinter van, again showing the plate number. The sixth shot is the back of a small camper van. Number seven was the back of some kind of van.

Havlik contends these are all campers. There is nothing in any of the pictures that would support such a contention. It just looks like a collection of pictures of vans parked on the side of the road. She said, “A lot of them are Mercedes Sprinter vans and they are not being respectful of the community.” She did not say how these pictured vans were not being respectful and the pictures did not support that either.

This writer was puzzled why this sudden attention from the PCPB to a long-standing problem. At the beginning of her presentation of the draft letter, Havlik mentioned one resident, who lives on Sunset Cliffs between Carmelo Street and Ladera who had complained because the noise was making it hard for him to sleep.  This is curious considering the size of the homes along this little stretch and how setback and elevated they are from the street.

But, complaints from one person would not explain why the PCPB would be getting involved, finally.  What might explain it is that Havlik is running for the District 2 city council seat and appealing to the well-heeled aggrieved along Sunset Cliffs, no matter how impractical the solution is, could be beneficial.

The request for more police presence is an empty gesture, residents along here have been screaming for this and a planning board letter will make no difference. The no parking signs sound great but have little chance of ever happening. The reasoning for the additional bits of red curb and some striping is a mystery.

But it looks like the PCPB, Ms. Havlik in particular, is trying to help and that generates good feelings that might translate into votes.

Sunset Cliffs Park Letter

This letter was brief and basically was written to support a budget request. This was also presented by Havlik, this time in her capacity as chair of the PCPB’s Parks & recreation subcommittee. The request is from the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Council for $1,095,000 in the fiscal year budget now being drafted. The letter is titled “Letter of support for Sunset Cliffs Park Drainage Improvements, CIP# L14005.”

The agenda item was titled this way but the description under the agenda title definitely gives pause. It first stated:

“This project provides for drainage improvements at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, Hillside section, including the removal of existing houses located on parkland, restoration of natural areas to allow water percolation, and installation of site appropriate drainage devices.”

What caught this writer’s eye was the removal of the existing homes. It was not at all clear how doing that would help with the major drainage and erosion problems at the cliffs. The agenda went into more detail.

“Phase I includes the removal of four existing homes located in the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, the restoration and revegetation of these areas, ADA parking, and the inclusion of trails and lookouts per the community master plan.

Phase II includes the evaluation of the drainage within the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park and the implementation of a complete drainage system.”

When the first work was done in the park, in the past three years, there was an outcry that the money was not used to address the parks biggest problem – erosion – first. Now there is request for a million dollars that will first be spent on non-erosion and drainage efforts.

The parks committee has wanted the houses gone for years so it appears the priority is finally removing them and revegetating more area first and also building more trails and lookouts. Then, some effort will be made to deal with the drainage problem.

Labeling this a request for money to address the “drainage problem” would be something many people would be happy to finally hear. Few people, if anyone, care about the four homes as much as they do about the park they see washing into the ocean.  The only savior in recent years has been the drought. In this writer’s opinion, after 30 years of walking in the park, all the money should be spent on solving the erosion problem.  Worry about the houses later.

Sports Arena

There was a presentation by one of the Sports Arena redevelopment proposers called the Monarch Group. Their proposal was previously presented at the OBPB’s January meeting, reported here in The Rag.


Two projects were heard during the meeting and both were for building accessory dwelling unit, or ADUs. One was to convert an existing garage and the other was an 827 square foot behemoth. The word “accessory” hardly seems appropriate for something this large. Both projects passed easily.

SDPD Homeless “Progressive Enforcement”

Officer Michael Hayes, representing the PD’s community relations team, described a new program the PD will follow called progressive enforcement. It is a four-step approach for each person.

1. Make a first contact and offer services and document the field interview with each person contacted.

2. Offer services and if not accepted, write a citation for an infraction.

3. Offer services and write a misdemeanor ticket.

4. Offer services and if refused, make a custodial arrest and remove the person from the street.

Sounds very cumbersome and like it will take a great deal of time and document maintenance. But, it is what the law requires and it is at least doing something. Of the approximately 200 people in the big Midway clean up in recent weeks, only seven people accepted services. A new approach is clearly needed.

Canon Pocket Park and the Voltaire Bridge project

An update of the progress on the Canon Street pocket park basically was that there is nothing to report.  The park was approved several years ago and money has been spent on design but, beyond that, little is known.

The Voltaire bridge project is intended to beautify the railing along the bridge over Nimitz Blvd. A design has been done by board member architect Joe Holasek. The plans sent to the city were rejected because the city wants a civil engineer’s stamp on them. This is adding time and cost to the project. Money to perform the improvement is also still lacking.


The PCPB will hold its yearly elections in person this year for the first time in two years. Voting will take place at the Point Loma library on March 17 from 2:00 to 7:00. The deadline for candidate applications is March 10, which will also be the date of the PCPB’s Candidate Forum where the public can meet the candidates. This will also be held at the library.

Other news

  • The city is discussing a new cannabis ordinance that will remove the 1000-foot separation that cannabis outlets have to be from schools and churches. Board members Korla Equinta and Havlik were opposed to this being changed. Havlik openly admitted that she uses cannabis and she has young children, which made this position seem strange.  But, again, it is a popular stance to take. It is curious that locations selling alcohol are not under such a restriction as well.
  • Tracy Dezenzo, who sits on the OBPB and the Arts and Culture Commission, explained that there are three monthly meetings the public can participate in. There is the regular commission meeting, a policy and funding meeting, and a public art committee. Dezenzo encouraged the public to attend the meetings.
  • The District 2 representative, Makana Rowan, announced that the long awaited vendor ordinance is out of committee and will be heard at council March first.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

kh February 21, 2022 at 2:08 pm

The city is in the process of applying for a coastal permit to add a gate to Sunset Cliffs natural park to be locked for 6 hours overnight.

For status and funding of the various CIP projects there, go here:


Geoff Page February 22, 2022 at 7:25 am

kh, what gate are you referring to? There are already two gates off of Ladera Street. Is this new gate somewhere else?


kh February 22, 2022 at 9:26 pm

Busted! You’re right they do already have a gate last I checked. So then why is Parks saying otherwise and claiming this would now add a gate? It seems they don’t know what they have to begin with. Maybe it’s not being locked currently? They said $6K per year budget per gate to lock and unlock it.


Geoff Page February 23, 2022 at 12:35 pm

It may be the labor cost to lock the gate, you might have hit on it. It has been locked regularly, but intermittently, over the years. The upper gate has always been locked, it is only opened for maintenance and opens to the upper dirt road. The lower gate goes to the parking lot.


Sam February 22, 2022 at 11:06 am

The police should start having sobriety checkpoints a few times a week. This will surely weed out the unwanted/unsavory visitors.


Frank Gormlie February 22, 2022 at 11:14 am

Sam, that’s a real pipe dream there, buddy.


Geoff Page February 22, 2022 at 11:54 am

You know , Sam, there seems to be a real lack of enforcement anywhere these days. Just look at the freeways, people driving 90-100 mph and the CHP are nowhere to be seen. People speed on Voltaire all the time and I have never seen a cop give anyone a speeding ticket. If the police were to make a concerted effort on Sunset Cliffs, the word would go out on social media and maybe they would go somewhere else. It’s not signage or striping we need, it is enforcement.


kh February 22, 2022 at 9:19 pm

I see multiple CHP every single day during the late commute hours hunting for easy targets. They don’t mess around when it comes to revenue generation. Can’t remember the last time one of those was for an apparently unsecured load, a much more pressing issue.

Perhaps we can get CHP to patrol some busy city streets.


Geoff Page February 23, 2022 at 12:37 pm

Well, I don’t drive the freeways as much as I used to but, when I do, all I see are cars speeding way above the limit with impunity.


kh February 22, 2022 at 9:20 pm

They did one last weekend in PB using a state grant, were out hassling thousands of innocent people for 5 hours straight and nabbed 2 DUIs I think.


Geoff Page February 23, 2022 at 12:39 pm

A weekend night in PB for five hours and only 2 DUIs? That sounds impossible. Where did they set up?


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