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Last gasp for Famosa Slough

Cheap housing backers point to Bill Cleator Park across the street

For over 20 years it has served as an informal playground for kids on bikes, dog walkers, a shortcut to somewhere.
For over 20 years it has served as an informal playground for kids on bikes, dog walkers, a shortcut to somewhere.

A favorite splash of open space in Point Loma is still being fought over. Every step towards creating affordable rental housing on the five-acre lot on the southeast corner of Nimitz and Famosa Boulevards has met with protest by residents, biking groups, and Peninsula planners.

Time after time, they win. Before losing again.

The community fought back with plans for a bike park, and the city seemed interested.

The city has approved a $910,000 predevelopment loan to Bridge Housing Corp. to continue vetting the hilly site for its suitability for rental units. But since the sale hinges on further analysis, it's not over yet.

"Selling one of the last parcels of open space land in Point Loma hurts the community," wrote Susie Murphy, who represents the San Diego Mountain Biking Association.

For over 20 years it has served as an informal playground for kids on bikes, dog walkers, a shortcut to somewhere.

The triangular lot was supposed to be a park. Acquired by the city in 1874, it was designated as a park in 1909, when an additional 1.5 acres was gifted by DC Collier, who wanted it to become a children's park. But in 1956 the park designation was rescinded, ratified by a public vote for ballot measure L, according to a city report.

Loma Portal currently lacks the required amount of land dedicated to open space (The city's parks standard is 2.8 acres for every 1,000 people).

The city sold the land to the Housing Authority in 1981, specifying it be used to build at least 78 low-income rental apartments. But all that was ever built was a neighborhood pump track for bikes and dirt trails through the weeds.

The planning board criticized the feasibility study, the need to drain a coastal wetland, and loss of eucalyptus trees.

In 2012, after city landscapers cleared the bamboo, the stumps made for even better mounds for kids to ride over, according to residents – but not for long. Workers returned to dismantle the tracks and trails.

The community fought back with plans for a bike park, and the city seemed interested. Discussions were held between the Housing Commission and the Park and Recreation Department about a long-term lease. It went nowhere.

When the city sent one last bobcat in 2018 to demolish the paths and jumps, citing liability issues, neighbors got wind and parents staged a sit-in until they left.

The victory was short-lived. In 2019, further land-use studies confirmed the potential for multifamily housing, and opposition re-heated. In August, after receiving nearly 200 letters objecting to development of Famosa Canyon, the Peninsula Community Planning Board voted to oppose any housing on the site. They criticized the feasibility study, the need to drain a coastal wetland, and loss of eucalyptus trees for monarch butterfly habitat.

The current proposal includes a potential 87 units with a mix of affordability. Bridge says an environmental analysis will be done before any further commitment to the project.

While supporters of the affordable housing point to Bill Cleator Park right across the street, residents say it's overtaken by organized sports.

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For over 20 years it has served as an informal playground for kids on bikes, dog walkers, a shortcut to somewhere.
For over 20 years it has served as an informal playground for kids on bikes, dog walkers, a shortcut to somewhere.

A favorite splash of open space in Point Loma is still being fought over. Every step towards creating affordable rental housing on the five-acre lot on the southeast corner of Nimitz and Famosa Boulevards has met with protest by residents, biking groups, and Peninsula planners.

Time after time, they win. Before losing again.

The community fought back with plans for a bike park, and the city seemed interested.

The city has approved a $910,000 predevelopment loan to Bridge Housing Corp. to continue vetting the hilly site for its suitability for rental units. But since the sale hinges on further analysis, it's not over yet.

"Selling one of the last parcels of open space land in Point Loma hurts the community," wrote Susie Murphy, who represents the San Diego Mountain Biking Association.

For over 20 years it has served as an informal playground for kids on bikes, dog walkers, a shortcut to somewhere.

The triangular lot was supposed to be a park. Acquired by the city in 1874, it was designated as a park in 1909, when an additional 1.5 acres was gifted by DC Collier, who wanted it to become a children's park. But in 1956 the park designation was rescinded, ratified by a public vote for ballot measure L, according to a city report.

Loma Portal currently lacks the required amount of land dedicated to open space (The city's parks standard is 2.8 acres for every 1,000 people).

The city sold the land to the Housing Authority in 1981, specifying it be used to build at least 78 low-income rental apartments. But all that was ever built was a neighborhood pump track for bikes and dirt trails through the weeds.

The planning board criticized the feasibility study, the need to drain a coastal wetland, and loss of eucalyptus trees.

In 2012, after city landscapers cleared the bamboo, the stumps made for even better mounds for kids to ride over, according to residents – but not for long. Workers returned to dismantle the tracks and trails.

The community fought back with plans for a bike park, and the city seemed interested. Discussions were held between the Housing Commission and the Park and Recreation Department about a long-term lease. It went nowhere.

When the city sent one last bobcat in 2018 to demolish the paths and jumps, citing liability issues, neighbors got wind and parents staged a sit-in until they left.

The victory was short-lived. In 2019, further land-use studies confirmed the potential for multifamily housing, and opposition re-heated. In August, after receiving nearly 200 letters objecting to development of Famosa Canyon, the Peninsula Community Planning Board voted to oppose any housing on the site. They criticized the feasibility study, the need to drain a coastal wetland, and loss of eucalyptus trees for monarch butterfly habitat.

The current proposal includes a potential 87 units with a mix of affordability. Bridge says an environmental analysis will be done before any further commitment to the project.

While supporters of the affordable housing point to Bill Cleator Park right across the street, residents say it's overtaken by organized sports.

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