In a unanimous vote by the San Diego City Council on July 29, Ocean Beach was allowed to maintain its community plan that it has been working on and revising for the past 12 years.
At its May 29 hearing, the Planning Commission undermined the intent of the Ocean Beach Community Plan, according to locals. The change removed the established floor-area ratio references that have been adhered to for over 30 years; many people say this guideline has been crucial to maintaining O.B.’s small-scale character. Floor area ratio is a limit on the allowed square footage of development on a lot.
Variances to the floor-area ratio were the core issue here. Some homeowners had asked for more leeway on issues such as extended footage for parking on their lot.
The O.B. Planners were trying to prevent the town from becoming another Mission Beach. Homes and condos there are up to three stories tall. The planners explained this is what happens when there is no community plan.
Over 100 OBceans showed up at San Diego City Council chambers wearing blue T-shirts that read, “Keep the OBcean attitude." Many got up and gave emotional speeches about how long they had lived there and don't want to see the gentrification of O.B.
O.B. Town Council president Gretchen Kinney Newsom encouraged each O.B. organization that was in attendance and supported the plan to stand up in solidarity. After the shout-out, almost everyone in the room was standing.
Craig Klein, a local home and business owner told how he bought a commercial building that sits on Newport in 1996, "and I could have made it into a much larger building by adding on to it, but I didn't want to do that, I wanted to maintain the community character."
Mindy Pellissier said, "the planning commission keeps giving variances in 1976, '83, '88, '99, 2010, and now in 2014."
Several home and business owners were there in favor of variances. David Stebbins, who owns one of the relatively huge multistory structures in the 5000 block of West Point Loma Boulevard, said the plan "discriminates and targets our block and would cause inverse condemnations."
OBcean, lifeguard sergeant, and now city councilman Ed Harris started off a motion in support of keeping the plan by telling the audience that, "my wife and I bought many properties in O.B. and fixed them up for rentals and never thought of putting in a variance on any of them." He believes "the planning board got it wrong by allowing them, and we need to make this right today."
President pro tem Sherri Lightner said, "Everyone was so well behaved!" Council president Todd Gloria supported Harris’s motion and the rest of the councilmembers voted to support the plan, which drew loud applause.