OB Planners Ponder What Mayor’s ‘Build Better SD’ Means for Ocean Beach

by on April 8, 2022 · 0 comments

in Ocean Beach

OB Planning Board to Return to In-Person Meetings in May

By Geoff Page

By far, the main topic of interest at the Ocean Beach Planning Board’s regular monthly meeting, Wednesday, April 6, was the mayor’s grab for development fees called Build Better San Diego.

The board had a long, heartfelt, somewhat fatalistic discussion of how to respond to the mayor’s proposals.

The city’s website for Build Better San Diego, https://www.sandiego.gov/buildbettersd, describes it briefly as follows:

“Build Better SD is a citywide initiative to enable the faster delivery of public spaces and buildings equitably and sustainably across San Diego.”


Luckily, the site adds some more explanation:

“Inequitable planning policies and the lack of equitable funding tools have resulted in significant disparities in funding for parks, libraries, public streets and other public spaces. Under the current structure, funds are locked into place by community boundaries. This has resulted in wealthier communities receiving more infrastructure investments, while traditionally disadvantaged communities have received significantly less funding for these spaces and services.

There are significant infrastructure needs across the City and approximately $222 million are unable to be spent within the current structure in areas with the greatest need. Community funds are insufficient to fund existing planned projects. Build Better SD will help fund public spaces and facilities faster and more efficiently by expanding to a citywide model.”

What this actually means is that the city wants to collect developer fees and not have those fees be tied to the community where they were generated. In other words, fees collected in Point Loma can be used for improvements somewhere in North Park, Mira Mesa or southeast San Diego.

The original reason for developer fees, Development Impact Fees, or DIF, was to mitigate impacts caused by developments within a community. If the developments themselves didn’t create problems that required mitigation, the money could be used within the community for other needs like parks or infrastructure repairs.

The big dishonesty in the previous statement from the city’s site was this sentence:

“Inequitable planning policies and the lack of equitable funding tools have resulted in significant disparities in funding for parks, libraries, public streets and other public spaces.”

No.  The reason for the “disparities” is the city’s historical refusal to spend money in these areas, because they don’t have the political clout other areas have. DIFs do not amount to a lot of money and were never intended to fully fund all of the “parks, libraries, public streets and other public spaces” in each community.

The majority of the funds needed for those things is supposed to come from the city budget. But, city politicians have never made these things a priority because the political will did not exist. The city wants to grab these, basically unencumbered funds and apply them socially. It will make them look like they are solving a big problem, with a band aid.

The city already does a lousy job of using DIF money. Here is an example.

The Barnard Elementary School was closed and demolished and 170+ condos were built in its place.  The road in front of this development, Camulos Street, was a disaster before construction and worse later. It is still a disaster years after the project completed.

About $840,000 in DIFs were collected on this project. Because of political maneuvering by former members of the PCPB, the previous District 2 council person, and possibly the former mayor, this money was instead earmarked for a pocket park on Canon Street.

Camulos Street is a short, heavily used road with a sprawling apartment complex on one side and 170+ condos on the other. Instead of applying those dollars to this mess, the money went to a .67-acre pocket passive park. Apparently, the park has been designed but there is no money left to build it.

The point is, Camulos Street should never have been allowed to get in such terrible condition, even absent the development. It is a pocket of an underserved community within a larger, marginally better served community. Maintaining and repairing this road should never be dependent on developer fees. Nor should shoddy roads and sidewalks in all parts of town.

It becomes apparent that the motivation for all of this is the city’s transparent attempt at some kind of “social justice.” As was pointed out by Vice Chair Kevin Hastings, this was not what the DIF funds were created for. All this does is give the strong mayor a fistful of cash that it appears he can use at his discretion.

The OB board discussed possible effects of the proposed change on OB and other communities. The biggest unanswered question is how the city will prioritize use of the funds. Apparently, the current language is very vague, according to board members who have read it.

Hastings voiced the major concern that funds would be prioritized based on overall income data. This would mean that communities like OB could miss out on needed funds because of its mixture of lower income folks and wealthier people. The average income level may be higher but the infrastructure is some of the oldest in the city.

The board discussed three important points about OB that should transcend income considerations.

  • First, OB’s aging infrastructure has to handle not just a fast-growing population but also a huge tourist influx every summer.
  • Second, those tourists spend money everywhere in the city. This means the pier and beaches and downtown Newport could be considered revenue generators for the whole city.
  • And, third, the pier and beaches provide recreation for San Diego residents from all over the city. It is healthy and free entertainment everyone can enjoy. OB helps serve the underserved a little in this way.

There’s some social justice for you, help OB handle all of this and fix the things all the visitors from within San Diego and beyond use. Like the pier or the stairs to the beach. Or the lifeguard station where the lifeguards watch over everyone, not just people who live in OB.

The group spent a great deal of time making a motion and discussing and editing it. Motions generally are better when they are concise and on a particular point. Here is the motion that passed unanimously.

“The city should continue to prioritize DIF spending based in part on infrastructure condition and amenities that serve residents from all over the city, particularly low-income residents from any community.  Needs benefiting historically underrepresented residents are not necessarily located in communities of concern.”

That last sentence is a gem. It says briefly all that was previously described about how much OB means to people all over the city who may not have a lot but don’t need a lot to enjoy OB’s beaches, pier, and downtown.

After wrestling with keeping the motion succinct, it was agreed to include some omitted, additional points in the letter the board sends to the city.

One of the more poignant things that will be included in the letter was something that board member Craig Klein pointed out. People not familiar with the pier might not know that many folks fish the pier to actually provide food for themselves and their families. This writer can attest to that as well. A walk on the pier almost any day or evening makes it clear many of the people there are clearly not sportfishing, they are seriously fishing.

There are also lots of people who frequent the pier with their families and set up in a spot mainly to enjoy being on the water and doing a little fishing too. It’s safe for kids, there’s room for chairs and coolers. And, enjoying the fresh ocean breezes and the scenery may well be a respite from less enjoyable surroundings at home. Like El Cajon.

Building a new pier would benefit folks from underserved communities right here in OB. As one board member pointed out, it isn’t the OB Pier, it is the San Diego Pier.

The public has a chance to comment on Build Better SD. Down below all the propaganda on the previously linked website is information about public participation. Comments can be sent to publicspaces@sandiego.gov. There is also a survey that can be taken. Documents are available for review. Public comments have to be in by May 22, according to the Mayor’s representative Khota Zaiser.

Other News

The election results wound up with one new member, Stephanie Villamizar, and two unfilled vacancies the board will fill by appointment. Candidates are encouraged to apply.

The board officers were selected and were unchanged from last year with Andrea Schlageter as chair, Kevin Hastings as vice-chair, Craig Klein as treasurer, and Tracy Dezenzo, temporarily, as secretary.

The new area representative for District 2 is Linus Smith.  The former representative, Teddy Martinez, is gone, joining a steady line of folks who have left Rancho Malario, uh, Campbell’s office.

And, lastly, the OBPB voted unanimously to return to in-person meetings for its May meeting. It will probably be at the Recreation Center but details are not finalized yet.


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