A Tribute to Mignon Scherer – An Activist Who Helped Place the 30-Foot Height Limit on the Ballot in 1972

by on October 7, 2022 · 2 comments

in History, Ocean Beach

Our Mighty 30-Foot Women with the Strength of a Redwood and the Beauty of a Rose

By Kathy Blavatt

Photos by Kathy Blavat and from Scherer Family Collection

As I viewed Queen Elizabeth’s memorial funeral procession and ceremonies on television, I was impressed by the countless flowers from her many admirers along that lay along roadside, and in parks.

I was touched by the stories of the Queen’s gardens and her passionate love of the flowers, which played a significant role in her life. As her casket passed by the crowds, a large and lovely floral arrangement rested on top of Elizabeth’s coffin. Flowers from her garden made up the gorgeous arrangement. The floral display included her favorite variety of flowers, Sweet Peas.

Sweet Peas grown in O.B. Garden.

In the language of flowers, the Sweet Pea symbolizes many meanings. My favorites include blissful pleasure, good wishes, friendship, and kindness. Sweet Peas are also planted in yards to bring joy, love, friendship, and peace.

Years ago, I worked as a floral designer. I would try and match people personalities and likes with flowers that suit them.

These days, for fun, I think about a person and what kind of plant describes them. I look at their traits, looks, personality, and lifestyle, then find a variety of plant that most closely resembles them.

Recently, Mignon Scherer, a good friend of mine from my past, has filled my thoughts because of the November election having Measure C on the ballot. The ballot measure triggers thoughts of Mignon because it threatens to do away with the 30 Foot Coastal Height Limit in the Midway District and Sports Arena public land.

Mignon Scherer was my friend, but more than a friend, she was a force of nature! She was a coastal queen with the heart of a heroine. She looked like a rose, but her sharp thorns extended if you trod on her or her causes.

Mignon as a young woman.

Mignon was an icon of womanhood with the strength of a redwood tree. As a young woman, she went to New York and became a cigarette girl and model. Later she was a teacher, a Rosie the Riveter who stood out by wearing large white flowers in her hair.

Mignon posing on a beach.

Mignon lived in Ocean Beach for a time. Like many OBceans, she became an activist, environmentalist, and community advocate. Much like a sapling stretching her branches, she faced parasites who were eating away at the habitat along the coast.

After living in Ocean Beach, Mignon moved to Point Loma, where her family lived in an early 1900s barn-style home with lots of character.

Several large trees grew in Mignon’s front yard had. Near her front window, a beautiful old olive tree’s roots were lifting the front of her home. Sadly, she had to have it cut down.

Mignon was an environmentalist and  recycler. She offered the tree’s hardwood to local woodworkers. Her mind was always searching for ways to make things better, on both a small and large scale.

Decades ago, Mignon attended her first City Council Meeting. She got up to speak, and the mayor sarcastically said, “What would you like to speak about Little Lady?” He, and those that followed, soon learned she had plenty to speak the about! Years later, nobody dared call her a little lady. She was the 30-Foot Woman!

Mignon Scherer with former Council Member Floyd Morrow. Floyd Morrow was the Council Member who voted for the Coastal Height Limit when it first went to City Council, but the motion was rejected by other Council Members, so the VOTE group collected signatures and put the Measure D on the 1972 ballot and WON!

Mignon Scherer with former Council Member Floyd Morrow. Floyd Morrow was the Council Member who voted for the Coastal Height Limit when it first went to City Council, but the motion was rejected by other Council Members, so the VOTE group collected signatures and put the Measure D on the 1972 ballot and WON!

Like the mighty redwood, Mignon became stronger with time. She spread her branches with a protective canopy over our coast for over a-half-century.

Mignon’s roots took many directions, which included being an active Sierra Club member. In her later years, she became a therapist, a Point Loma Community Planning Board Member, and a member of several other community advocate groups.

In the early days of Mignon’s activism, she joined a group of teachers who, in 1968, had the idea of putting in a coastal height limit law in San Diego. The idea spread, and soon the Pacific Beach Action Group supported the group, propagating their numbers.

Poster of Mignon by Kathy Blavatt. Mignon hung this art in her kitchen.

Mignon adamantly opposed tall buildings along San Diego’s coastline. She educated and fought for decades to preserve the 30 Foot Coastal Hight Limit.

Mignon was no longer a seedling. Her branches stretched out, spreading the word about protecting and preserving the coast, the surrounding habitat, and the communities’ beach town character.

The coastal height limit founders named their group VOTE – Voters Organized to Think Environment.

Alex Leondis lectured and celebrated the 40 Year Anniversary of the Coastal Height Limit with the Ocean Beach Historical Society.

One of the teacher’s husbands, Alex Leondis, became the VOTE chair. Alex was a wise sage who was hardy and passionate about their cause. He stressed the importance of keeping building profiles low, so breezes and ocean winds could flow through the coastal communities, unlike the tightly packed high-rise cities such as Miami.

The group knew that every large city needs some area for high-rises. Downtown was a natural choice. They mapped out the downtown section with the north boundary at Laurel Street, limiting the high-rises to downtown.

Because of the height limit, coastal communities maintain their beachy character. These communities retain historic buildings and cottages. By not having a massive over-density, they have kept access to the coast, making it easier for San Diegans living inland to enjoy the beaches and bays.

Today we still see lines of tall palm trees as we drive into the coastal communities. High-rises do NOT block the iconic palms that are the signature of San Diego’s coastline.

Voltaire wrote: “One Must Cultivate One’s Own Garden.” Like a garden, the VOTE group spread seeds, that multiplied in supporters. They won the Coastal Height Limit vote!

The dedicated residents saved the lovely views that frame the silhouetted landscape over our low- profile coastal communities.

The 50th Anniversary of the 30 Foot Coastal Height Limit must be respected, honored, and preserved by keeping the coast accessibility for all, NOT extending a wall of high-rises from downtown San Diego to the Freeway 8.

The city has tried to recycle a plan from two-decades ago. It needs to be trashed. Vote NO on Measure C.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathryn Burton October 7, 2022 at 4:44 pm

Mignon Scherer has always been one of my heroes!


Frank Gormlie October 10, 2022 at 9:46 am

Great tribute to a woman whose name should be a house-hold name. It’s fun seeing photos of Mignon as a young woman as many of us got to know her in her later years during the resurgence of OB grassroots activism with OBGO.


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