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Mission Beach's last big chunk

Coastal commission okays development on former school site

The developer was made to enlarge the original park size by 59 percent — now it's one-third of an acre.
The developer was made to enlarge the original park size by 59 percent — now it's one-third of an acre.

Mission Beach will see the former Mission Beach Elementary School site developed into 59 homes with the California Coastal Commission’s unanimous approval on Thursday (October 12th). The commission was the last stop in the project’s permitting process for the tract of land east of Mission Boulevard between Kennebeck Court (to the north) and Santa Barbara Place (to the south).

Project area

Developer McKellar McGowan’s chief executive officer, Chris McKellar, said the company is looking forward to an end in project delays.

“This was the major approval,” McKellar said. “Mission Beach really needs this — what’s there now is a disgrace. It’s dilapidated and fenced so there’s no access or views for blocks.”

Disappointed Mission Beach residents didn’t want to comment after the hearing except to reiterate their argument that the proposed plan isn’t consistent with the community. During the hearing, they spoke passionately about protecting the character of the area, once a community of small houses on small lots, with view corridors prominent and plentiful.

For more than two years, the area’s Precise Planning Board has been fighting the project because, they say, it’s bigger and out of character with the area that was precisely planned by John Spreckels in 1914.

Mission Beach was created on a sandbar purchased by Spreckels. He designed a neighborhood squeezed between the ocean and Mission Bay on 30-foot by 80-foot lots, with larger buildings on the corners. Its elementary school was built on a cluster of those lots and operated until 1987, when the San Diego Unified School District closed it. It was sold for $18.5 million in 2013, over the objections of then-mayor Bob Filner, who wanted it to remain public land.

The 2.3-acre lot is the last of the big land parcels in the community. The city council approved the project in April 2016, after Mission Beach planners challenged a Planning Commission decision that the project could go forward. From there, the project headed to the coastal commission for the final approval.

By the time they arrived at the city hearing, local developers had split the 2.3-acre parcel into two projects, one north of Santa Barbara Place with 51 condominiums in 15 buildings, and the other south of Santa Barbara Place, with 12 homes in four buildings — including the only freestanding single-family home in the project.

The split, Mission Beach planners argued, reduced the size of public park developers had to create. By May, they had filed a CEQA lawsuit against the city and the development.

Coastal commission staff reviewed the plan in May and decided to treat it as a single project, though it came in as two, according to the staff report. The staff asked for fewer units and more park than city planners approved. The developers complied, eliminating four living units from the north part's original 51 and increasing the park size by 59 percent to about a third of an acre. At the commission’s bidding, they reshaped the park from a long triangular strip along Mission Beach Boulevard to a rectangle that will look like a courtyard to project residents on three sides.

The commission also required the park to be dedicated as a city park forever; and they required a traffic study done during high tourist season (the city accepted one done in winter months, which found far less traffic). But they rejected the planners’ technical arguments that developers had used public right-of-way in the calculations for how big each unit could be; the commission also disagreed with arguments that the three-story buildings will be bulky and look out-of-place.

Commissioner Steve Padilla, a Chula Vista city councilman and the only San Diego County representative on the commission, said he supported the revised project. “The staff’s analysis is supported by the facts,” Padilla said. “As far as the dispute over how the calculations were made and how many extra units they might produce…it doesn’t in my mind violate the rules about bulk and scale.”

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The developer was made to enlarge the original park size by 59 percent — now it's one-third of an acre.
The developer was made to enlarge the original park size by 59 percent — now it's one-third of an acre.

Mission Beach will see the former Mission Beach Elementary School site developed into 59 homes with the California Coastal Commission’s unanimous approval on Thursday (October 12th). The commission was the last stop in the project’s permitting process for the tract of land east of Mission Boulevard between Kennebeck Court (to the north) and Santa Barbara Place (to the south).

Project area

Developer McKellar McGowan’s chief executive officer, Chris McKellar, said the company is looking forward to an end in project delays.

“This was the major approval,” McKellar said. “Mission Beach really needs this — what’s there now is a disgrace. It’s dilapidated and fenced so there’s no access or views for blocks.”

Disappointed Mission Beach residents didn’t want to comment after the hearing except to reiterate their argument that the proposed plan isn’t consistent with the community. During the hearing, they spoke passionately about protecting the character of the area, once a community of small houses on small lots, with view corridors prominent and plentiful.

For more than two years, the area’s Precise Planning Board has been fighting the project because, they say, it’s bigger and out of character with the area that was precisely planned by John Spreckels in 1914.

Mission Beach was created on a sandbar purchased by Spreckels. He designed a neighborhood squeezed between the ocean and Mission Bay on 30-foot by 80-foot lots, with larger buildings on the corners. Its elementary school was built on a cluster of those lots and operated until 1987, when the San Diego Unified School District closed it. It was sold for $18.5 million in 2013, over the objections of then-mayor Bob Filner, who wanted it to remain public land.

The 2.3-acre lot is the last of the big land parcels in the community. The city council approved the project in April 2016, after Mission Beach planners challenged a Planning Commission decision that the project could go forward. From there, the project headed to the coastal commission for the final approval.

By the time they arrived at the city hearing, local developers had split the 2.3-acre parcel into two projects, one north of Santa Barbara Place with 51 condominiums in 15 buildings, and the other south of Santa Barbara Place, with 12 homes in four buildings — including the only freestanding single-family home in the project.

The split, Mission Beach planners argued, reduced the size of public park developers had to create. By May, they had filed a CEQA lawsuit against the city and the development.

Coastal commission staff reviewed the plan in May and decided to treat it as a single project, though it came in as two, according to the staff report. The staff asked for fewer units and more park than city planners approved. The developers complied, eliminating four living units from the north part's original 51 and increasing the park size by 59 percent to about a third of an acre. At the commission’s bidding, they reshaped the park from a long triangular strip along Mission Beach Boulevard to a rectangle that will look like a courtyard to project residents on three sides.

The commission also required the park to be dedicated as a city park forever; and they required a traffic study done during high tourist season (the city accepted one done in winter months, which found far less traffic). But they rejected the planners’ technical arguments that developers had used public right-of-way in the calculations for how big each unit could be; the commission also disagreed with arguments that the three-story buildings will be bulky and look out-of-place.

Commissioner Steve Padilla, a Chula Vista city councilman and the only San Diego County representative on the commission, said he supported the revised project. “The staff’s analysis is supported by the facts,” Padilla said. “As far as the dispute over how the calculations were made and how many extra units they might produce…it doesn’t in my mind violate the rules about bulk and scale.”

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Comments
21

Marcela Escobar-Icky scores another kill in her vendetta against all of San Diego for being punished doing Sanders' dirty work.

Oct. 13, 2017

Coastal Commissioners often vote with the local Commission Representative on issues they do not perceive as statewide policy issues. In this case, Chula Vista's interest in Mission Beach is minimal, and the Mission Beach locals certainly don't vote in City Council elections. It all came together for a developer, once again. How many, how many? How many three story condos can you fit under a 30 foot height limit?

Oct. 14, 2017

This is what "infilling" means. If the county is to add another million residents (mas o menos) in the coming two or three decades, they will have to be accommodated somewhere. There is little more space on the edges of the county for that. In fact for too long already, much of the job growth has resulted in commuters from southern Riverside County heading south on I-15 to their jobs. Prime spots like Mission Beach will be made progressively more densely populated. Keeping an area like Mission Beach close to its original design and intent, a concept more than a century old, will be nearly impossible. I don't celebrate this growth, and I'm sympathetic with those who want to keep that beach area like it has been in recent times. The increasing traffic congestion and long commute times will worsen. Is there any relief on the horizon? Not that I can see.

Oct. 14, 2017

"Mission Beach was created on a sandbar purchased by Spreckels. He designed a neighborhood squeezed between the ocean and Mission Bay on 30-foot by 80-foot lots, with larger buildings on the corners. Its elementary school was built on a cluster of those lots and operated until 1987, when the San Diego Unified School District closed it. It was sold for $18.5 million in 2013, over the objections of then-mayor Bob Filner, who wanted it to remain public land."

Miss Bob yet?

Oct. 15, 2017

No one misses him, especially all the women he harassed while he held the power as our mayor. Considering current events involving Harvey Weinstein and his boorish behavior over the years, I have no doubt Filner had many other victims who made a conscious choice not to relive the pain he caused.

Oct. 15, 2017

Only the those duped by local developers or their lackeys could compare the Filner accusations to Weinstein. Filner did nothing in comparison to our current President, and subsequent to the incident, prevailed at civil trial against the accuser the District Attorney claimed was felony kidnapped in front of a crowd. The Filner case was public frenzy whipped up by developers enraged when he accused them of bribing the City Council. Imaginary victims don't justify this. I'm tired of those who don't doubt complete fabrication. How can anyone defend themselves against unnamed accusers? You disgrace real victims of sexual predation, that aren't married to political enemies, that don't sue for thousands over nothing, that exist.

Oct. 16, 2017

I miss Filner always. He also got rid of those expensive Stasi-state red light cameras.

Oct. 16, 2017

This was more than "infilling." It isn't about density. This was a sale of a unique and irreplaceable piece of public land which could have benefitted all of the people of San Diego. It could have been dedicated as a public park. Affordable housing? I don't think so.

Oct. 15, 2017

The slobberin' school district sat on that site for decades with no plan for its reuse or re-purposing. The district sat on many other parcels of real estate, although that one was the most valuable, with no plans or other intentions. Only when the district really had a screaming need for funds did it finally break loose. And its answer was, of course, to sell it off for the highest price it could get. That was rational from a pure financial standpoint. The city could have been moving along with a plan to acquire the lot and make it into something really nice, but then we must remember that it is the slobberin' city. Two ineptly run entities failed massively to make use of the property as an asset to the city, and now it is lost and set for redevelopment as overpriced housing.

Oct. 15, 2017

What does that mean, "something really nice"? The "city's" batting record for developing "something really nice" is nonexistent with two exceptions, Mission Bay and Balboa Parks. But even after creating them, both are in need of millions of dollars of what the city euphemistically refers to as "deferred maintenance". What it really is, is total mismanagement and deliberate neglect. Since the property was for all intents and purposes abandoned, and professional school administrators saw no need/use as an educational facility it was in surplus. Disposing of assets, at fair market value, and using the proceeds to support other educational needs sounds reasonable. Adding housing in an area where people want to live also sounds like a reasonable result. Creating more park space, as some suggest, is a ridiculous when one of the city's largest single parks is less that 200 feet away and miles of public beaches and boardwalks are literally across the street.

Oct. 17, 2017

Oh come on. This parcel is less than 200 feet from one of the largest public parks in San Diego. Ya know, Mission Bay Park. We need housing, all types of housing. If these are expensive ones all the better, they’ll generate tax and development revenue for the city and county.

Oct. 15, 2017

I betcha they also employee a slew of locals to build them, with many earning good wages to boot. And just think, about all the other economic activity generated by this project. Real estate professional will earn commissions. Materials will be sold. Homes built. Neighborhood businesses may also benefit during construction and into the future as new families move in. All very positive for what has been for all purposes an abandoned property which was tax exempt.

Oct. 15, 2017

This city has too few parks and that land would have made a beauty, especially in that congested neighborhood. But these days densification is in the official plan.

Oct. 16, 2017

Fifty nine units, even more densely packed than the rest of that pricey slum. Even the slavish lackeys cheering this development know it's a disgraceful crime. Our parents fought for years to pass the building codes that made this illegal. Outside money bought the School Board and City Council, that cheerfully break those laws through loopholes. We see scores of new construction sites rape our City with criminally overbuilt travesties. This City must be developed, but public land should be used for public purposes, construction should follow the spirit of the law, and the wholesale legal bribery of our politicians by developers must be confronted.

Oct. 16, 2017

"Public land should be used for public purposes," and construction should follow the LETTER of the law.

Oct. 16, 2017

Let's hope that the City or the Coastal Commission will pass an ordinance preventing the ocean from wiping out Mission Beach. Or maybe we can pray that global warming is negated for the California coast. Already some islands in the Pacific ocean are being abandoned and Florida planners are worrying as the sea rises.

It's likely that flood insurance will not be available at any price for these new homes. Of course this won't hurt developer McKellar McGowan; they will have taken their profits and run. Current elected and appointed officials will have moved on. Nobody will be responsible for poor planning. But the naive new homeowners may live to regret their investment.

Oct. 16, 2017

If Al Gore dire predictions come true Mission Beach will be returned to the sand bar from which it came. And beach from property will have a whole new meaning.

Oct. 16, 2017

The rules for sale of public property are complex. Local developers understand them well. Schools used to run in cycles - young families move in, children go to school, they grow up, parents age in place. Eventually, the homes are sold and the cycle renews. Some school districts plan for cyclical use; some don't. Mission Beach will never have this cycle again. AirBnB has replaced housing in this area. How many of these new units will be vacation rentals? Not part of the equation.

Oct. 17, 2017

Now that is a true👍🏻statement. More simply put...Things change.

Oct. 17, 2017

It would be nice if it could be a park. But that area has more open space than other areas of San Diego. The beaches, Mission Bay park, Fiesta Island, a big park in Ocean Beach. So if they built a nice park, what would be the draw? With beaches and watersports all around, the “park” would probably be invaded by homeless and derelicts. The city would have to spend more money on improvements, maintenance and security. Any parking lot would fill with motorhomes and such, so the only way parking would work is to have meters. The city can’t manage the gang-bangers and riff-raff at Mission Beach (around Belmont Park), where there is already a lot of grassy parkland.

As Just Wondering said, “things change.” We old timers might not like the changes, but progress is often more beneficial than we reactionaries may believe. A park is a simple idea and sounds good, but I am comfortable believing that it would not really be a great amenity for the locals or visitors. And if they wind up being AirBNB’s, that’s life. HOA’s, if their owners really wanted to preserve their communities, could change their CC&R’s to forbid certain short-term rentals. But then of course that would become a property rights issue and the investors would probably prevail. AirBNB is just a symptom of the class divide; property owners versus those who have no property trying to control or discourage the investor class from expanding or profiting from their real estate activities. Just like rent control.

Oct. 17, 2017

The property rights here are not between owners and renters; they have to do with the government's right to sell property owned by the people. You are arguing a different question. There are rules designed to make this a fair process; but deals between government agencies are complex. the property was simply too valuable to be used for its intended purpose - a public resource for children. Instead, the property could be monetized. And it was.

Oct. 20, 2017

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