‘Midway Planners Are Not Really a Community Planning Group in the Truest Sense’

by on October 5, 2022 · 9 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

The Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group’s regular monthly meeting Wednesday, September 21, once again called into question why this group exists. The agenda was filled with only informational items and no action items at all. Action items for this group are very rare. Public information about the group is almost impossible to find.

Vacancies on the group are chronic. There are three right now. They petitioned the city to allow them to have fewer members because it has been so hard to fill the seats. There is no listing of current members anywhere. Most of the members are either property owners or business owners in the area along with a couple of residents who rent.

Until last year when the current chair created a website, something the group talked about for years, the only information available was on the city’s planning board website. Agendas are posted there but no meeting minutes have been posted since 2020 when only seven months were reported.

The only contact information available is the acting chair. The meetings are held at 3:00 in the afternoon. Elections are held at 3:00 in the afternoon and take less than a half hour.

The bulk of the meeting attendees are representatives from various agencies. The agenda lists 13 government agencies from the state, county, city, SDPD, Navy, airport, and SANDAG.

And, the city barely pays any attention to the group. This writer was present when the city told the group, “Oh, by the way, MCRD is now part of the Midway group boundaries,” to the obvious surprise of the members.

The city has planted various homeless shelters within Midway with not even an email notification to the group. The federal government planted shelters for Afghan refugees in the area with no word to the group. The first NAVWAR development proposals were a complete shock to the group.

Wednesday’s meeting was another illustration of how the group seems to operate, not following even basic meeting rules. For example, every planning group meeting agenda contains non-agenda public comment. Here is how this is described in the city’s governing document for planning groups, 600-24 and the Brown Act.

Non-Agenda Items: Each agenda for a regular community planning group meeting shall allow for a public comment period at the beginning of the meeting for items not on the agenda, but that are within the scope of the group. (Brown Act section 54954.3(a)) Community planning group members may respond by asking for more factual information, or by asking a question to clarify, and also may schedule the item for a future agenda. However, no discussion, debate, or action may be taken on such items.(Brown Act section 59454.2).

West Point Loma and Sports Arena Intersection

During this portion of the meeting, a member of the Peninsula Community Planning Board and cycling advocate, Matt Schalles, brought up the intersection of West Point Loma and Sports Arena where cycling advocates want to see cycling improvements. Schalles was asking for the group to approve the changes they wanted even though it was not listed as an action item.

Contrary to what 600-24 stated, the group then launched into an extended discussion, as if it was an action item. The current chair, Dike Anyiwo said, “We can sort of approve it. Seems we just need concurrence.” This was the group chair, who is supposed to know the rules governing planning groups. But, this was a topic the chair was sympathetic to, so he allowed the discussion.

The reason Schalles came to the meeting was because his own board, the PCPB, was presented with the same proposal the previous week, and decided to wait and hear what Midway had to say about it. That intersection forms the border between the two planning groups. The problem was the item was never added to the Midway agenda.

Schalles was accompanied by PCPB member and major cycling advocate, Nicole Burgess. Burgess has been on the PCPB for a number of years and should have known the rules of non-agenda public comment. Schalles has much less experience.

Burgess said they wanted to make this an “emergency” so that District 2 council member Campbell could get money in the budget for what the cyclists were advocating. This was just another stealth tactic by the cycling community, the public was completely cut out of the discussion.

In an attempt to soften this move, Burgess said that biking improvements benefit pedestrians too. Then she said two contradictory statements. First, she said, “I actually won’t come to Midway anymore and visit those businesses because, you know what, it’s actually too dangerous to bike.”

Then, she said, “I’m actually super happy” that this committee agreed to remove parking spots on Sports Arena a few years ago, “that has created a really safe place for me to access that area.”

There are terms for this kind of contradictory talk.

The removal of those spaces was another sneaky tactic. Burgess came before the group a few years ago asking the board to approve removing “oh, about” 20 parking spots on Sports Arena. The board approved the request without hesitation or investigation. This writer measured the area under question, and using the standard size of a city parking spot, found it was 29 and half parking spots.

This information was reported to the group at the next meeting and resulted in no reaction at all. The mere fact that the group approved something like this, with no investigation, was a violation of its responsibility.

Midway group member Judy Holliday spoke, vehemently, against agreeing with any new changes to the intersection for cycling because, she said, it was already under study for pedestrian improvements. Holliday urged the city to study it because senior citizens from the senior housing complex on Sports Arena needed improvements to safely access the nearby shopping center on the west side of the intersection.

Holliday said she wanted pedestrian improvements first and did not want to have the cycling proposals basically stalling the already on-going study. The proposals were for cycling changes and Holliday was having none of it because she was advocating for seniors who don’t ride bikes.

At the end, after a long discussion, Anyiwo did say it was not correct to discuss the matter because it was not on the agenda. Apparently, Anyiwo did know the discussion was improper but he allowed it anyway.

Anyiwo said they would consider making it an action item at the next meeting. The PCPB was waiting to hear what Midway decided, so it appears this will also have to wait for them.

Anyone interested in these changes should contact Midway through its only contact on its website, or PCPB chair Fred Kosmo at pcpbsd@gmail.com.

Government Reports

As usually happens, only some of the listed agency representatives showed up. No one showed from the city planning department, the mayor’s office, the SDPD Council District 2, and the Airport Authority, among others. One interesting representative was Lisa Jones from the Housing Commission reporting on the new Rosecrans shelter tent at the County Mental Health facility.

Jones reported that the 150-bed shelter had 138 intakes in a week and a half after opening. Jones said that 76% of the people who entered the shelter were from the Midway area. Jones said that as of the Midway meeting, 119 people remained at the shelter. She said the shelter “triages” people to other sites more specific to their needs.

While 138 people sounds like an amazing immediate success, it needs to be noted that the opening coincided with the major police action in the Midway area to clean up several camps. Once the beds were available, the police had a stick to use to get people moving, either enter a shelter or move off the street.

It should also be noted that Jones has been reporting on the facility that opened at the former Pier One building on Sports Arena last year. That facility has forty plus beds, but was unable fill them with a majority of Midway homeless. The police were on hold when that place opened.

Removing the 30-foot height limit

The Midway group is a proponent of removing the coastal height limit. Their position is touted by the city, which is what the city always does when a planning group agrees with it. Despite being ignored for everything else, the city pays attention to this one position of the group. The questions is, why?

Many of the group members stand to potentially profit financially if the height limit is removed. That alone should require them to abstain from even voting on the issue but it hasn’t. The new chair, Anyiwo, is a career minded political aspirant and is in lockstep with whatever the city politicians want. In short, the motives for most of these people are selfish, there is no other way to put it.

To be fair, this is a group of generally nice people, but it is not really a community planning group in the truest sense of the definition. Part of the reason is that Midway is not a “community” like Hillcrest, Barrio Logan, Ocean Beach, or Clairemont for example. It is an area that consists mainly of commercial businesses and very little residential housing. The biggest portion of the residences is a complex for senior citizens.

It is, however, a good place to build some new housing but that can easily be done under 30 feet. The original proposers for the development in 2020 provided two designs each, one for over 30 feet and one for under, showing the needed housing can be built under 30 feet on the 48 acres of city property.

It is the other 1,276 acres of the Midway area that has put $ signs in everyone’s eyes. That is the motivation, not affordable housing.


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Mat Wahlstrom October 5, 2022 at 1:23 pm

Suggest it also bears mentioning that the MPHCPG chair is also the Public Policy Advisor for the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. But is it using your hobby to make money on the side if your hobby is already part of your job? https://www.instagram.com/p/CbgP8wDKaAs/


Geoff Page October 5, 2022 at 1:46 pm

Yes, I knew about the Chamber gig. It’s hard to understand the correlation when you look at some people’s background and then look at the titles they have in positions such as the Chamber and now SANDAG. He is an articulate and intelligent young man on the rise saying and doing all the right things for such a career.


Paul Webb October 6, 2022 at 7:28 am

I was under the impression (perhaps mistakenly) that he left the chamber position for the SANDAG job.


Mat Wahlstrom October 6, 2022 at 7:58 am

Entirely possible, as that post was from March — and now the Chamber website doesn’t show him with their org, though he’s still in the group photo “About” photo, https://sdchamber.org/about/.

But if he’s now with SANDAG, a government agency, and doing the same political lobbying, that’s even more problematic. (Maybe not illegal, but definitely stinky.)


Trevor Hill October 6, 2022 at 11:29 am

Reading the series of articles on Midway planning issues that have come out of OB Rag in the last year, I’ve been really disappointed by the ungenerous slant. I’m an OB resident and used to live in Midway and I’m 100% in favor of raising height limits. It’s easy to write articles about the ‘scourge of development’ or imagine that the only reason anybody would want more of it is because there are ‘dollar signs in their eyes’ when you’re not housing insecure. Most renters in San Diego are one paycheck away from missing their rent because dramatically undersupplied housing has caused rents to soar. We need as much housing as we can get and we need to support non-car trips to the maximum extent possible to combat rising costs and meet our climate goals. It’s not dollar signs motivating the people who support these projects, it’s empathy for those who rent and are being priced out, empathy for the homeless, and concern for our climate.


Geoff Page October 6, 2022 at 2:31 pm

Trevor, one of the things we are trying to do is counter lies from the city. This is one, it is not necessary to raise the height limit in order to build affordable housing in the Midway area. In 2020, the proposers at the time submitted two versions of proposals, one at 30 feet and one over 30 feet. The at 30 feet proposals showed the amount of housing the city was looking for could be built without removing the height limit.

The motivation for removing the height limit is the money to be made on the other 1,276 acres that would be under no requirement to build affordable housing. The city is fooling you and using this to disguise the city’s lack of action on affordable housing to date. They think this will rescue them.


Chris October 7, 2022 at 7:40 am

“It’s easy to write articles about the ‘scourge of development’ or imagine that the only reason anybody would want more of it is because there are ‘dollar signs in their eyes’ when you’re not housing insecure.”

The fact is, dollar signs ARE on the minds of developers. Whether or not raising the height limit will fix the problem of affordability remains to be seen (I’m torn on that), but the fact is developers themselves only care about dollar signs. You Trevor and everyone else who want to get rid of the height limit are fully dialed in to that.

“and we need to support non-car trips to the maximum extent possible to combat rising costs and meet our climate goal”

I’m in full agreement we need to make our city less car dependent, but that really wont have any affect on making housing more affordable.


Vern October 6, 2022 at 6:55 pm

No on Measure C.


Sorry not Sorry October 7, 2022 at 9:06 am

Trevor, with all due respect, it is pretty naïve to think that these developers only want to increase the height limit for “empathy for those who rent and are being priced out”. I wonder if you also think that most politicians are really in it to serve the people instead of the money and power.

If they want to prove that, then they should charge the same rent for a 1st floor apartment as they do a 12th floor apartment with those spectacular views of the water and the sunset. But, alas, this will never be the case.


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