Midway Planners: If There’s No Community, How Can There Be a Community Planning Group?

by on January 25, 2023 · 2 comments

in Ocean Beach

It’s Disclosed 3pm Meeting Time Is For Convenience of Business & Property Owners and Government Staffers – Not for Residents

By Geoff Page

The Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group held its first meeting of 2023 on Wednesday, January 18 using the Zoom meeting format. The meeting was a head shaker once again.

Byron Wear

Because it was clear there would be a developer feeding frenzy in the Midway area, when the height limit was removed, it was no surprise to see a familiar face show up, former city councilperson turned lobbyist, Byron Wear. No doubt, we will see many more familiar faces fronting for development interests.

Wear spoke up during non-agenda public comment. It seemed Wear had already made friends with the group chair, Dike Anyiwo, who called him familiarly by his first name. Wear spoke at length out-lining his long list of advice for what he thinks the Midway group needs to do as the development moves ahead.

During his talk, Wear went from referring to “Midway” to saying “we.” Considering that he does not reside or have a business in the area and has not attended many, if any, Midway meetings in the recent past, the “we” reference was notable.

Anyone interested in listening to Wear’s advice can see it here on the meeting recording. Trying to recount it all here would require an effort and might not do it justice. Much of his discussion had to do with traffic issues it seemed.

When he concluded his remarks, Anyiwo thanked him and said Midway welcomed all input, including from other areas. That remark was in stark contrast to how Anyiwo responded when Tom Mullaney tried to offer some advice about considering park land in the redevelopment at the November 2022 meeting. As recounted here in The Rag, Anyiwo, rather rudely, said Midway did not need anyone else’s advice.

The question remains about whose interests Wear is representing.

Agenda Item 5. Information and Discussion Items

The agenda set aside 60 minutes to discuss what the group needs to do regarding changes to Council Policy 600-24, the document that has historically more or less governed planning groups. One of the requirements of the changes is that every planning group in the city must resubmit its existing by-laws by December of 2023.

It is not clear to anyone, not just Midway, what specific changes planning groups need to make to existing by-laws because of the 600-24 revisions. Anyiwo expressed the valid concern that the city needs to let the planning groups know what they need to change not only to be in conformance with the new policy but to efficiently use their own time.

Anyiwo said he invited the city to the February monthly meeting to provide some guidance. The city had yet to confirm as of this meeting date. He also said the group needed to look at its by-laws in the meantime to see if there are changes anyone wants to suggest before they are officially resubmitted and reapproved next year. During the discussion, a few changes were floated.

One suggestion was to have a by-law requiring the 12-member group be made up of four residents, four businesses, and four property owners.  Midway has always suffered from not having enough participation by residents because the resident population is very small. The area is dominated by commercial and industrial businesses. This is one of several things that calls into question whether or not this is really a community planning group, if there is no community.

There was a long discussion about changing the meeting time to the evening or even the weekend to increase public participation, something the Midway group sorely lacks. Many other planning groups meet in the evening, including the Peninsula Community Planning Board and the Ocean Beach Planning Board. The time is set that way to make it convenient for the public to attend.

It was never clear why the Midway group met at 3:00 in the afternoon until former chair Cathy Kenton explained it. The reasoning just added to the question of whether or not this is really community planning group.

Kenton explained that the group has historically been made up, and is today, largely of property or business owners in the Midway area. The meeting time was set at 3:00 because it was most convenient for them as they were in the area during business hours. Kenton is a property owner in the area. She was opposed to changing the meeting time and said:

“I’m up in North County, I will be there if we go back to in-person during the work day but I’m not gonna come down to Midway at 7:00 at night.”

As if that response was not astonishing enough, Kenton later offered another reason for keeping the 3:00 meeting time that also ran counter to what planning boards are for. She said they got a much better attendance record from the various government representatives at that time because it was during their work day.

Government reports are important to this group because they help fill up the usually sparse agendas. The group rarely has any action items to discuss. The agenda lists the following 13 items under government reports:

a. Mayor’s Office – Kohta Zaiser
b. D2 Council Office – Randy Reyes
c. Planning Department – Nathan Causman
d. Police Department – Officer David Surwilo
e. Housing Commission – Lisa Jones
f. Regional Airport Authority – TBD
g. County Supervisor District 3 Office – Rebecca Smith
h. State Senator Toni Atkins Office – Cole Reed
i. Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath – Margaret Doyle
j. Congressman Scott Peters Office – Samantha Keosoukanh
k. SANDAG – Mara Cunningham
l. Naval Base Point Loma – Muska Laiq
m. MCRD – Jim Gruny

It is rare that all of these representatives show up — only six spoke at this meeting. The reports are often just intended to heap praise on whoever is represented. For example, the mayor’s representative gave a recap of the state of the city speech that listed all of the mayor’s great accomplishments and grand plans for this year. All of which was in the news and much of which is questionable.

But, to recap, the 3:00 p.m. meeting time was set up to accommodate property and business owners who don’t live in the area and this list of political representatives. This does not resemble who planning groups are supposed to be for, the regular people in the community. This is not a community.

There was another discussion regarding subcommittees. Unlike all other planning groups and boards, the Midway group has no subcommittees. Subcommittees do the advance work on things like traffic issues or project reviews. Midway does not even have a project review subcommittee.

The main responsibility of planning boards has always been to advise the city on land use. Projects are reviewed in subcommittee and recommendations are forwarded to the full boards for voting. This method is used so that not every member of every planning board has to review project documents in depth and to visit project sites. It also allows for public participation.

One of the reasons why Midway doesn’t have a project review subcommittee was articulated by Anyiwo when he said Midway hardly ever has a project to review. This writer can attest to that as a true statement calling into question, again, the reason for the Midway group’s existence.

It appears that the only work the group actually does is hold one monthly meeting for ten months of each year.

One board member suggested the group have quarterly community meeting. This seemed like an odd idea considering the monthly meetings are community meetings.

Election Irregularities?

The discussion of the by-laws illustrated problems with the Midway group, and there are more. For example, when the meeting opened, the group voted to approve previous meeting minutes. For the third meeting in a row, only six board members were present. This is considered a quorum because there are only nine board members.

The group originally consisted of 15 members but this was reduced in recent years to 12 members because the group was never able to fill those 15 seats. The group has had no more success in filling the 12 seats than it did trying to fill 15 seats.

Just before the by-law discussion, Anyiwo said the missing three board members had shown up, one of whom was Kenton. This was puzzling. Kenton termed out last year after nine years in the group. Anyiwo said “She was able to sort of roll over on a one-year basis.” This did not sound like a very formal process.

This came as a surprise to this writer, who has been covering these meetings for years, because there was no recollection of any process to put Kenton back in the group. An email was sent to Anyiwo who responded with a copy of the March 2022 meeting minutes and the agenda that only magnified the problems with this group.

One of the biggest problems with the Midway group is a lack of any information. No meeting minutes can be found publicly anywhere. Minutes can be posted on the city’s Planning Department website but none can be found there beyond August 2020.

The March 2022 minutes were very interesting. They contained the following:

6. Action Items

a. CPG Elections and Board Seats:

i. Dike made motion to appoint Karen Anderson-Thatcher to a vacant board seat. Jason seconded, unanimous board approval.

ii. It was discussed Dike and Jason’s seats were to be extended 3 more years to 2024. Judy and Amy’s seats to be extended 3 more years to 2025. Cathy’s seat to be extended 1 more year to 2023. Board discussed with Nancy on how to properly vote and if needed. Nancy suggested voting on each of the 5 board members 1 by 1 which board agreed and proceeded to do. All board members were unanimously voted back on to the board for said terms.

The problem is that, during the February meeting, the group decided to postpone the election for several months, as recounted here in The Rag story about that meeting.  There was no indication anything like this would happen in March.

Another problem is that the meeting agenda did not reflect what actually occurred. Here is the agenda item:

6. Action Items – 30 minutes

a. CPG Elections

i. Appoint Karen Anderson-Thatcher

ii. Adopt resolution for re-election of officers for 2022 – Jason Viera

iii. Elect MPHCPG officers

Because the March agenda was so sparse and there was to be no election, The Rag did not report on that meeting. Had we reported on it, we would have pointed out then how contrary to the agenda and the group’s by-laws this action was.

Elections are supposed to be advertised and publicly held. There is nothing legitimate about the way this was handled, the public had no idea what was to happen and no way to know what did happen. Even more disturbing was that Planning Department staff, in the person of Nancy Graham, attended the meeting and said nothing about this massive irregularity.

Because Kenton was termed out, she was not eligible to run again for one year, according to the group’s by-laws, unless no one from the public stepped forward to seek the appointment. Because of the way this was handled, no one from the public had a chance to seek the appointment because the group did not advertise the position.

Even more disturbing is that a new member was appointed to a seat, Karen Anderson-Thatcher. How Anderson-Thatcher knew there was a seat open to appointment, with no public advertisement, is very puzzling. All this was done in March 2022 when all the planning groups and boards, including Midway, hold elections. The appointment process is only intended to fill vacancies between elections, if one occurs.

Kenton was not appointed, her term was “extended” for a year. There is nothing in the by-laws covering elections that allows this action for a termed-out member. At this point, everyone who had terms extended at the March meeting is sitting on this CPG illegally.

Other Problems

The Midway meetings are held using the Zoom format and the videos are posted on You Tube. The problem is that the Zoom chat feature, where various information and links are posted during the meetings, does not show up on a You Tube video. That information is lost.

The video for this January meeting was set in the format that only showed the face of whoever was talking. It was not possible to see all the people attending the meeting. You Tube also does not allow for multiple screens showing all participants. Only the first Zoom screen shows up, when the format is used properly, showing the people who fit on the one screen.

The Midway group has a website but it contains very little.  To find out about meetings, a visitor has to hit the “Events” tab. The tab title is misleading, regular monthly meetings are not usually referred to as “events.” There are no links to any documents and no list of group members. There is actually nowhere to go to see who the group members are. There is only one contact on the site and it is a site form to fill out; there is no email for the group posted.

By contrast, both the PCPB and the OBPB have robust websites, and have for years, showing board members, multiple contact information, project documents, and meeting minutes.

The March 2022 minutes also showed the cozy relationship between Midway and Councilmember Campbell. Apparently, she spoke at length at the beginning of the meeting giving an “update” for her office. This was under the Non-Agenda Public Comment section of the meeting. Her comments were heard out of place and no one knew she would be there. There is a Government Office Reports section where District 2 and all the other political representatives give updates. Campbell was given special very treatment.

Other News

  • No Action Items on the agenda.
  • The Midway Rising Group, the entity selected to redevelop the Sports Arena, will be having a public outreach meeting Wednesday Feb 8h from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the EF International Language Campuses – 3455 Kenyon Street, apparently with food.
  • There will be an election in March to fill three vacancies. No mention was made about board members with expiring terms, which was very odd.
  • The mayor’s representative, Kohta Zaiser announced that new No Parking signs will be going up in the Midway area in places where numbers of vehicles belonging to the homeless population have been congregating. It was pointed out that these areas already have no parking signs, which seemed to surprise the mayor’s representative.
  • The homeless shelter at the old Pier One building, euphemistically referred to as the “Harm Reduction Shelter” has all 44 beds occupied.  The new facility on Rosecrans at the County Health and Human Services complex is 98% full, 147 of 150 beds occupied. Of this figure 70% of the occupants are from Midway area. A total of 329 Midway residents entered shelters since they opened. A total of 10 people went into permanent housing and 85 people exited the shelters back to street.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie January 25, 2023 at 11:32 am

This is an exhaustive indictment by Geoff of the Midway Planning group.


Don liddell January 26, 2023 at 6:44 am

Worthy of a follow-up article on public comment received on this one.


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