OB Planners at a Loss as to Why City Is Allowing Narragansett ADU to Exceed Floor Area Ratio

by on November 9, 2022 · 2 comments

in Ocean Beach

Seems there’s always a nugget…

By Geoff Page

An ear-catching revelation about how the city is treating a project that seriously exceeds the Floor Area Ratio (F.A.R.) requirement sparked some interest at the OB Planning Board meeting, November 2. It seems that the city dismissing the extra 400 square feet as no big deal.

At least this was how the explanation from the project designer representing the owner came across. The designer said she had an email from city planner Kyle Goossens telling her the 400 extra square feet was not an issue. The designer did not know what this decision was based on.

The project consists of a 453 square foot ADU above a garage at 5018 Narragansett Ave. The problem is that this addition would put the property 453 square feet over the F.A.R. for this location. The F.A.R. is a serious matter, it dictates how much can be built on a lot as a percentage of available land. This writer has never seen a variance granted for the F.A.R. requirement despite requests.

This is a small lot. .08 acres or 3,500/SF.  It is long and very narrow. The F.A.R.s were created to ensure that lots were not completely covered with structure leaving no room for open space, landscaping, and view corridors. The allowable F.A.R. for the lot is 70%. Taking 70% of 3,500 square feet results in a total allowable F.A.R. of 2,450 square feet.

If the applicant is allowed to exceed the F.A.R. by 453 square feet, that would be an 18% increase. The applicant did not offer any extenuating circumstances or a dire need for the ADU, which applicants often do in an attempt to sway an approval.

The OB board based its decision on what is known today about F.A.R. requirements. Because they did not have anything to document a change, or what the designer said she had received, the board voted to deny the project because it exceeded the F.A.R.

An email was sent to Kyle Goossens asking where the record shows how an approval to exceed the F.A.R. could be justified. Goossens response was, “Please reach out to our Communications Department for any and all media inquiries.”

When asked why he could not respond, Goossens replied, “I do not respond, the City has designated staff through our Communications Department that responds to media inquiries.”

So much for open government. There was a time when a person could contact a city employee and get a document if needed. No more. Every document request must now go through the public records request process. This was not what the public records laws are intended for, not for every single request of any employee.

To make matters worse, the law allows an agency 10 days to respond, no matter how small the request may be. The law also allows an agency to request an additional 14 days if what is requested is complicated and requires more time to gather a response. The City of San Diego automatically notifies the requester at the 10th day that it will need the additional 14 days, no matter how small the request.

The average response time is five weeks. Not on every request but on very many.  Now, there is the communications protocol. Any request for information or a clarification about something city-related cannot be answered by anyone but a communications employee. And, responses are not rapid.

The point is that our supposedly “open” city is closed up like a clamshell. An update will come when a response is obtained from the city and Goossens. Either the designer, or Goossens, is mistaken or there has been a major change in the building code no one knows about.

Mission Bay Park

Gio Ingolia, the District 2 representative to the Mission Bay Park Committee, gave a report on money in the Mission Bay Park Improvement Fund that is coming OB’s way. Three projects totaling $2,215,000 are budgeted for Dusty Rhodes Park.

The first budget item was $444,000 for the restrooms, that have been euphemistically renamed “comfort stations” in recent years. The second item was $327,000 for parking lot improvements. The third item was $1,444,000 for a playground.

Ingolia also presented a letter that the park committee is seeking support for. The reference line of the letter is “Parks & Libraries, Zero-Tolerance Zones for Crime.”

The letter is a long, detailed appeal for law enforcement in the city’s parks and libraries. The letter describes problems with crime as “unprecedented violence, drug use and sales, and other nuisance behavior that impacts the ability of San Diegans, specifically seniors, families, and youth, to safely learn and recreate.”

Three steps were described that the park committee is urging the city to take. The first was “Declare parks & libraries Zero-Tolerance Zones for Crime.”  The letter stated:

We urge you to declare parks and libraries Zero-Tolerance Zones and direct SDPD to enforce the law with a specific emphasis on parks and libraries. We also urge the City Attorney’s Office to consider stay-away orders for those who repeatedly choose to use our parks and libraries for criminal activity.

The second step was “Fund increased police patrols in parks.” The letter got specific.

As part of the Fiscal Year 2024 budget cycle, we also urge you to consider one-time capital expenditures aimed at securing our parks and libraries. This includes but is not limited to: Zero-Tolerance Zone signage, lighting that does not disturb neighbors, metal detectors at Central Library, and security cameras.

The third step was “Enhance inter-agency coordination.” It stated:

We urge you to hold recurring meetings of the San Diego Police Department, Sheriff’s Department, City Attorney, District Attorney, Probation Department, and the Presiding Judge to regularly coordinate around serial offenders who frequent park and library facilities. Repeat offenders and those who pose the greatest threat to our community are regularly back on the street within 24 hours of arrest. By meeting on a recurring basis, departments will have an opportunity to better coordinate and prioritize those individuals who pose the greatest risk.

The letter can be seen on the OB board’s site here  opposite the November 2 Agenda. For more information contact Gio Ingolia at gingolia@hotmail.com. The board voted unanimously to support the letter.

CIP Wish List

Once again, as planning boards do every year, the OB board worked on its capital improvement project list for submission to the city. The list consists of various projects around OB that need budget money in order to be accomplished. The lists are usually long and the list of what actually gets done is usually short. The list was not available as of this writing but can be obtained from the board by contacting them .

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

kh November 9, 2022 at 9:55 am

DSD did not respond to my inquiries either. There is near zero support for CPGs amongst city staff. It is difficult to operate with any sort of effectiveness when we’re left in the dark.


Paul Webb November 11, 2022 at 2:43 pm

The public records act was intended as a mechanism for opening up government and providing an avenue for the average citizen to gain information from his/her/their government. Sadly, it has been perverted into a way to keep information from the public. We should start over with more reasonable rules for what info can be denied to the public and stricter timelines for providing a response.

I know that there are some jurisdictions that have employees widely copy correspondence, memos, etc., to staff attorneys to allow for the “privilege” exemption to be invoked – even if attorneys were not involved in the actual work and were not consulted.

There has to be a better way.


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