The fourth story is gone from the Emerson/Evergreen structure — but is it lowered to 30 feet?
  • The fourth story is gone from the Emerson/Evergreen structure — but is it lowered to 30 feet?
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Elisa Brent has been organizing the community ever since the morning of June 17, 2016, when the neighborhood woke to find a fourth story added to the condos at the corner of Emerson and Evergreen streets in the Roseville section of Point Loma. Brent started a Facebook page and alongside Babita Souza and Jon Linney (chair of the Peninsula Community Planning Board) organized a protest, a town-hall meeting, and collected funds for a possible lawsuit.

The community uprising appeared to work because the city issued a stop-work order on June 28 while mayor Kevin Faulconer and Development Services Department director Robert Vacchi promised to find a solution to make sure this kind of thing never happened again; and in October, the fourth floor came down and the city council voted to pass the solution, aka: the footnote.

While Brent said that Linney has claimed the footnote as a great victory for the community, residents directly affected by the project have told her they’re not happy with the city or the outcome.

“What was the great victory? What are the residents winning with this project? We haven’t won anything,” said Brent.

“This was Jon Linney’s political win, not the community’s. He wanted to be the face of the whole movement; he wanted to be the hero. He’s not the hero in this situation. He undermined the residences and pulled a fast one behind closed doors. He dropped the ball. He should not be on the planning board.”

With the funds collected from the community still in hand, Brent said a lawsuit is still on the table. Hiring a lobbyist is also on the table, as she noted this tactic seemed to have helped the city take the community’s concerns more seriously with the proposed condo project on Kellogg Beach in the La Playa area of Point Loma.

“We’re not going with anyone that is connected to the city,” said Brent. “We did that with Byron Wear [former deputy mayor and city councilperson]. He referred us to our last attorney and it didn’t work out very well. Everything just fizzled out after Linney met with the mayor’s office behind closed doors. He got some sort of political win and that was that….

“If we let this be swept under the rug, developers will take over and ruin the whole neighborhood. We still have leverage since the footnote amendment hasn’t gone to the [state] coastal commission yet. We can lobby them. Also, it seems as if the city was aiding and abetting the contractor; we should probably sue the city.”

When recently visiting the Emerson/Evergreen project, it looked to still be near 40 feet. I asked Brent about this. “They raised the roof before they put the railing in for the roof deck. The roof of the third floor is taller than when they took the fourth story down. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was 37 feet.”

The Garrison/Evergreen developer built up the grade in July 2016 shortly after demolition was complete.

The Garrison/Evergreen developer built up the grade in July 2016 shortly after demolition was complete.

The construction project one block down on Garrison and Evergreen seemed about as tall. Brent said, “They intentionally went high. Thirty-seven feet seems to be the magical number. Apparently, that extra seven feet is a gray area since some see it as closer to 30 feet instead of 40 feet, which is ridiculous.”

Robert Tripp Jackson, a lifelong resident of Point Loma and boardmember of the Point Loma Association, said, “Once projects like this go up, it makes it tougher for the city to say no to another developer that wants to do the same thing….

“Lots where large Portuguese families were allowed to build granny flats are becoming a target for developers. The lots may be zoned for four units, but what developers are doing now is blowing the scale way bigger than they’ve been doing over the last few decades. The intentions adopted in 1987 by locals are being twisted and tuned and regroomed. We never wanted a bunch of high structures — that was always discussed….

“The first project that pushed the envelope was on the corner of Avenida de Portugal and Locust. They went up too high and there was a big to-do about it. It was called a big misunderstanding about finished grading and it was let go.”

There are currently seven projects within a half-mile radius that have applied to build at least three stories; the majority have subterranean garages planned.

There are currently seven projects within a half-mile radius that have applied to build at least three stories; the majority have subterranean garages planned.

Jackson learned after meeting with councilmember Lorie Zapf and Vacchi that the builder and architect involved with the Emerson/Evergreen project was also the same one who pushed the envelope on the Avenida de Portugal project circa 2013.

I asked the city if they would be willing to talk about lessons learned from the Emerson/Evergreen brouhaha but they weren’t interested. The city did say that the Emerson/Evergreen developer is required to conform to the 30-foot height limit. But when I asked if the exact height of Emerson/Evergreen was known, I was told they would provide a verified measurement this week and that the project is legally allowed to be up to 40 feet tall.

Excavation of the subterranean garages has begun at the Garrison/Locust site.

Excavation of the subterranean garages has begun at the Garrison/Locust site.

Thirty-seven feet? (Garrison/Evergreen)

Thirty-seven feet? (Garrison/Evergreen)

I also asked the city about the proposed height for the project on Garrison and Locust. The link I included in a previous article showed a permit application that mentioned four stories. This same document has been edited of any mention of intended stories. I was able to find one permit issued in July 2016 that still has four stories mentioned. As of publication, I have no clarification on this from the city.

There are currently seven projects within a half-mile radius in Roseville. Besides those already mentioned (Emerson/Evergreen, Garrison/Evergreen and Garrison/Locust), there are construction projects on Jarvis (between Rosecrans and Locust), Fenelon (between Rosecrans and Locust), Jarvis (between Rosecrans and Scott), and Hugo (between Evergreen and Locust). All have applied to build at least three stories with the majority of them also mentioning subterranean garages. It’s unclear with a couple projects if four stories are planned or not and with all of them as to how they plan to measure height.

According to the city, the footnote amendment took effect outside of Point Loma’s coastal overlay zone on December 16, 2016. The coastal commission is expected to consider the footnote within the Point Loma’s coastal overlay zone in May. Brent said she hopes to prepare a statement for the upcoming coastal commission meeting about what has happened in Roseville.

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laplayaheritage Feb. 25, 2017 @ 1:29 p.m.

Peninsula Community Planning Board (PCBP) Chair Jon Linney has shown great leadership. Many decades old issues are being addressed publicly. Which is always good news. Plus forcing the City to spend the long hoarded Point Loma Developer Impact Fees (DIF) on a new City park on Canon Street is a great win.

The problem is a lack of leadership from our elected Strong Mayor Kevin Faulconer, our new City Attorney Mara Elliot, and our City Council. All elected officials should make it clear to attorney Robert Vacchi of Development Services Department (DSD) that his purposeful misinterpretation of our Municipal Code, and Construction Permit Approvals does not give any developer, any rights under law.

The solution is to let 40 foot high Developers sue the City of San Diego, then have the City counter sue to make the legal issue clear. DSD's purposeful misinterpretations and issuing of Building Permits do not magically give developers legal rights they never had.

Similar to the Sunroad mess when DSD violated the Municipal Code and Master Plan. Sunroad lost their $40 million lawsuit against City Staff issuing an illegal Development Permit.

Also Agree with Elisa Brent that the change to the footnote in the Municipal Code (MC) should be challenged at the Coastal Commission as part of the Local Coastal Program (LCP) Amendment. The footnote change gives the impression that some Developers have been Grandfathered in and legally allowed to build 40 foot Coastal buildings, and the Municipal Code change only applies to future developers.


AlexClarke Feb. 27, 2017 @ 6:13 a.m.

Builders and developers have owned and operated the City Council for decades.


jnojr Feb. 27, 2017 @ 9:28 a.m.

Ahh, the old San Diego story... "This area is under-utilized, we need progress and development, we need affordable housing!" It's built, someone moves in... "We must stop all development! I can't lose my views and neighborhood character! Greedy developers are trying to make money off of MY house value!"

If we stop building, only the very wealthy will be able to afford to live here. If we don't, we're going to wind up with everything paved over and everyone living in 100 story mega-complexes.


Julie Stalmer Feb. 27, 2017 @ 1:20 p.m.

This isn't affordable housing, it's $1M condos.


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