Peninsula Planners Okay Loss of 21 Rental Units for Condos on Worden Street

by on March 22, 2022 · 1 comment

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

A spirited discussion at the Peninsula Community Planning Board’s regular monthly meeting March 17 was a microcosm of the housing dilemma that seems to be affecting everyone in some way today.

Apartments to Condos on Worden Street

A few years ago, 21 apartments on Worden Street, with great unobstructed views of everything to the west, were remodeled.  The apartments are located just past the intersection of Worden and Bob Street, heading north. They are on the left as the road rises, bends to the right, and becomes Leland.

The property owners now want to convert the units to condos. That means 21 fewer apartments available for rent being replaced by homes the renters probably will not be able to afford.

The property owner is American Assets Trust. The description on the company website states, “American Assets Trust, Inc. is a full service, vertically integrated and self-administered real estate investment trust, or REIT, headquartered in San Diego, California.”

A “real estate investment trust.” These are companies that own and often operate income producing real estate. According to Wikipedia:

“REITs are strong income vehicles because, to avoid incurring liability for U.S. federal income tax, REITs generally must pay out an amount equal to at least 90 percent of their taxable income in the form of dividends to shareholders.”

What this means is the company that controls 83 apartment buildings in the Worden area must maximize profits to keep shareholders happy. Its only concern is those shareholders, that is important.

Jerry Gammieri, representing American Assets, described the project that consists of three buildings. The apartments were built in 1958 and renovated “to condo standard” in 2017. There are five “penthouse” units with the best views on top of the structure. There are amenities such as a pool, lounge, and fire pits.

Gammieri was asked how much the condos will sell for and gave a very squishy answer of around, maybe, about $600,000 to $800,000. These are two-bedroom units. When asked what the home owner’s association fees would be, Gammieri did not even try to ballpark a figure.

In anticipation of the criticism American Assets has probably already heard about removing rental units from the market, Gammieri stressed that they were only converting three of the 83 buildings they had in this area.

During the discussion about affordability, another representative for American Assets said the average rent now is $3,000 a month for the apartments. They also claimed to have statistics that show the average income of their renters is $125,000 to $150,000. They believe some renters will buy the units as they will have the first right to purchase.

It was pointed out that a buyer would need from $120,000 to $160,000 to make a down payment based on Gammieri’s estimate of the selling cost.  While people at those salary levels might be able to pay a monthly mortgage, coming up with that down payment is extremely difficult.

This means people who could afford to live there as renters will now have to live somewhere else in a shrinking rental market.

When asked if any of the new units will be affordable housing, American Assets’s representative said no and that there were none of those at this location, meaning all of the 83 buildings.

The board was divided on this project. One board member made a comment about private property rights that is often heard at planning board meetings as a justification for approving a project the board does not really approve of.

That argument rings hollow when you consider who owns this property. It is one thing to have to approve ugly projects or additional ADUs on properties owned by actual individuals. But, despite what the Supreme Court ruled, corporations are not people.

And, planning boards only provide recommendations, they have no authority. There is no reason then, not to deny a bad project in order to send a message. Voting against this project would not stop it — so why not do it?

This one passed 8 to 5.


The PCPB election was supposed to be the same day as the meeting, but it was cancelled. The reason for the cancellation was a complete lack of interest. There were five open seats as there are every year and only five people filed candidate applications.

Three of the five applicants are incumbent board members. Only two other people filled out an application. Of those two one, Leah Schaperow, was disqualified for not having attended one board meeting in the past year.

Schaperow also failed to attend the PCPB Candidate Forum on March 10 — had she done so she would have qualified. In a ridiculous by-law change some years ago, the PCPB decided to allow attendance at the Candidate Forum to count as attending one meeting.

The reason for the attendance requirement is to ensure a candidate has an idea of how the board works.  The Candidate Forum does not resemble a regular meeting in any way at all. Allowing the Forum to count was just a way to accommodate last minute candidates that were asked to run for a seat but had never bothered to attend a regular meeting.

Apparently, Schaperow was listed as being a citizen member of two PCPB subcommittees but had never attended any of those meetings either.

The PCPB will fill the remaining seat by a board vote at the May meeting. This is the appointment process in the by-laws that allows the board to fill an empty seat when vacated long before the next election.

The PCPB will advertise for applicants who must turn in applications one week before the May 18 meeting. They must also attend that meeting to qualify for having attended a meeting if they have not already.  At  the May meeting, they will be introduced, questioned, and voted on. The public at large does not have a chance to vote in this case.

At the beginning of the March 17 meeting, Board chair Fred Kosmo, talked about the new members coming onto the board. He never said a word about the lousy showing for the election.

The one new member will be E. Javier Saunders, a semi-retired professional engineer who has past experience with the city, the county, and the Port of San Diego.

Point Loma High School Students’ Environmental Letter

The PCPB decided to involve the younger generation in its work so they could get a taste of how the planning board operates.

Two Point Loma High School students, Caleb Rogart  and Anastasia Birmingham, were selected from among the applicants months ago. They were assigned to the Environmental subcommittee and given the task of choosing an environmental issue to propose.

Rogart and Birmingham chose street sweeping and signage as their focus. They drafted a letter that is posted on the PCPB website’s meetings page for March 17.

Believing the city’s current street sweeping effort to be inadequate, the letter contained a list of requests:

  • Provide consistent signage for street sweeping
  • Request additional signage to be installed where it is not posted to ensure our community streets are being cleaned on a consistent basis
  • Request consistent enforcement of cars illegally parked in areas marked for street sweeping
  • Enforce posted signage to clean pollution in the streets
  • Ease to accessibility in the knowledge of dates and times of street sweeping
  • Signs need to reflect correct, consistent dates and intervals of sweeping
  • Times for sweeping need to be made available to the public (online)

Rogart and Birmingham were both articulate and handled their presentation very well.

Newport Palms

An update about the palms on upper Newport the city wanted to cut down was provided by board member Mandy Havlik. A response to emails Havlik sent to Scott Peters office resulted in a response from the FAA stating the FAA had nothing to do with the city’s attempt to cut the trees down.

This was described in The OB Rag story March 17 that did not get a mention.

The city is now on the hot seat. In media communications while this issue was in the news, the city clearly said the FAA was involved. This was a bald-faced attempt to give legitimacy to the city’s plan to cut the trees down for its own reasons.

A Public Records Request has been filed to force the city to explain the claimed immediate safety hazard they tried to use to circumvent all the normal processes for removing public trees.

Midway-Pacific Highway Planning Group Workshop on Sports Arena Development Proposals

What can only be described as a completely incoherent report from the PCPB liaison to the Midway Group was given by board member Margaret Virissimo. For anyone old enough to remember, it sounded a lot like Professor Irwin Corey. Virissimo apparently had no notes and gave a stream of consciousness report.

The one important piece of information Virissimo left out was that the Midway Group is holding a workshop this Thursday, March 24, for all of the proposers on the Sports Arena Development project. This was detailed in The Rag also on March 18.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Bearded OBcean March 22, 2022 at 2:05 pm

The dichotomy of removing market-rate apartments for market-rate condos is a tricky one. It provides an affordable pathway to homeownership at the beach while displacing some renters from the equation.

And given that a number of those units might sell below the cost of a jumbo loan, borrowers probably wouldn’t have to come up with the full 20% down.


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