Thwarted by a developer's success at bypassing a full neighborhood-level review of the plan for 63 new homes on land where the Mission Beach Elementary School once stood, the Mission Beach Precise Planning Board voted Tuesday (February 16) to send competing documents to the city council before it votes on the development.
While the board is not optimistic that the developer's plan will be hindered by their proposed amendment to the Planned District Ordinance for Mission Beach (which includes the history of how Mission Beach was planned and developed), the board is concerned that the developer's version of the document excludes the neighborhood's story of being created and designed under the watchful eye of John Spreckels.
"It gives them no advantage to delete the history, but they did," says planning-board member Dennis Lynch. "The historical narrative is the foundation of Mission Beach and how we plan our community."
McKellar-Ashbrook LLC plans to build the residences in 30-foot tall buildings on the 2.3-acre lot purchased from the San Diego Unified School District for $18.5 million two years ago. Without finishing the planning-board process, the developer took the project to the city’s planning commission and won approval on January 21.
The planning board says the developer asked the city to remove its staffer, who had been in charge of providing material, guidance, and plans to them. Then, the city didn't assign anyone else to support and communicate with the group. The alleged bureaucratic screw-up led to the planning board not getting communications and documents from the city.
"The developer said we weren't responding to them in a timely fashion and just took the project straight to the planning commission, where they got it approved," Lynch said.
The local planning board had two big issues with the project, both of which came down to what they saw as mathematical manipulations. By counting the alleys and sidewalks as part of the living area, the developer was able to add hundreds of square feet to each unit, boardmembers said; and, by splitting the single property into two pieces, the developer was able to reduce how much of the 2.2 acres had to be used for a public park from more than a third of an acre to about one fifth of an acre.
The residents and the board plan to appeal the project and to oppose it when it goes to the city council, but they find they are left with trying to maintain the history in the planning ordinance.
"The developer moved forward on the project faster than we could act on it," board chair Debbie Watkins said before the unanimous vote.
Note: Before the property was split, the project included 51 homes; now, 51 homes will be built on the north side of the parcel and 12 on the south, for a total of 63.