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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.

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Herkimer Feb. 19, 2016 @ 5:13 p.m.

I now live on Mt. Helix in La Mesa...In the '80s, when Belmont Park was turned over to the developers I resided on Island Ct in Mission Beach. A close friend of mine was the chairman of the Mission Beach town council. Any development at Belmont Park was supposed to be pre-approved by the Mission Beach Town Council before even submitting it to the San Diego City Council for approval. That never happened...The developers tried twice and were soundly rejected by the Mission Beach Town Council...The APPOINTED mayor at the time "backdoored" the proposal and the City Council passed the proposal. Turns out the developers were old buddies of the PREVIOUS (and disgraced) mayor. Against strong local opposition the project went ahead anyway before the locals could stop it...The results...Over 30 years of failing ventures on what has to be one of the most prime locations in all the city. Now the future development of the Mission Beach School property is being ramrodded down the locals throats in much the same fashion....There's no surprise at all...What a crock! Money talks...BS walks!


AlexClarke Feb. 20, 2016 @ 11:20 a.m.

Developers and their political lackeys find citizen planning groups an annoyance and do everything they can to get around "town councils" or any other group that represents the citizens. Politicians are bought and paid for and if they are no they don't last long. Citizens United proves that money talks and those with no money have no say.


eastlaker Feb. 20, 2016 @ 7:48 a.m.

Sure hope the community can band together and stop this railroading.


William50 Feb. 21, 2016 @ 9:17 a.m.

"Then, the city didn't assign anyone else to support and communicate with the group."

I am not sticking up for the developer, but it appears to be common negligence by government employees more than anything else.

The city planning board needs to wake up and do their job.


eastlaker Feb. 21, 2016 @ 9:40 a.m.

One wonders if they have been given encouragement to avoid doing certain things.


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