3 p.m., July 17
OB Residents Unhappy with Increased Density
A group of about 30 local residents gathered at the Ocean Beach Recreation Center for a public meeting concerning the Ocean Beach Community Planning Update Project. The meeting was hosted by Jeffrey Szymanski, an associate planner with the city’s Development Services department. Its purpose was to gather public comments on the report following a brief presentation by Tony Kempton, identified as a “long range planner” for Ocean Beach.
Participants immediately lined up to complain about a perceived lack of notice regarding the meeting and difficulty in receiving a copy of the plan to review and offer comments on. Many speakers cited an article by Dorian Hargrove or a more recent reference to that article by the community-oriented OB Rag as their only notification about the meeting. Frank Gormlie of the Rag later read aloud a list of authorities provided a copy of the plan and meeting notice in advance, “38 city employees got it, 19 Indian tribes, 13 State of California departments or agencies, 17 community groups [not associated with Ocean Beach], four individuals outside the community, and three organizations within Ocean Beach.”
Those who did comment on the plan mostly addressed their opposition to increased density in the community. The plan update calls for up to 1,399 additional residential units to be built, largely by changing allowable building density from nine units per acre to fifteen.
“It seems like it’s going against the whole point of what our Precise Plan is about,” said Pat James, a longtime resident. This Plan, adopted in 1975, was the first community planning document established in the city. Per the city’s website, “The Ocean Beach Precise Plan land use plan designates the majority of Ocean Beach for low and medium density residential development . . .”
In 1972, the community adopted a 30 foot limit on building height through a citywide vote. “A lot of us get tired of coming back every five years to remind the city of our 30 foot height limit,” said Kathleen Blavatt of the Ocean Beach Historical Society.
Bill Riley, also with the Historical Society, expressed concern for the fate of classic craftsman and California bungalow style architecture, numerous examples of which remain standing around the community. “If people can increase density, they’re going to bulldoze places that have historical significance.”
Parking and traffic were also addressed as issues. Due to the landscape of the Point Loma peninsula, limited routes for traffic in and out of the community exist. Current traffic on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, the two-lane main artery feeding Ocean Beach from the Interstate 8 terminus, was cited at 32,000 cars per day by Sunshine, a resident of the street. “I’m outraged at the proposal to add traffic and people,” she said.
Several speakers projected that a 1,400 unit increase in density would bring an estimated 2,800 additional cars into the community, which already struggles with parking issues. Underground parking is not considered a viable option in many parts of the community due to existing flooding problems during rainstorms near the beach.
Quality and availability of services for the community’s current residents were also addressed. The local library already faces budget and scheduling cutbacks. Ocean Beach Elementary has operated for years with the use of several temporary buildings for classrooms. A public restroom is needed at the beach to replace the one demolished by the city two years ago. We reported last year that the new building was scheduled to be installed before the beginning of summer, but at present the building is still in the planning stages.
Landry Watson, speaking as an individual, expressed concerns with water quality and the ability to maintain suitable pollution levels with an influx of residents, given current treatment facilities. “If people don’t come to our beach, they don’t spend money in our businesses . . . closed beaches equals no people coming to them.” Watson is also a member of the Ocean Beach Planning Board, but stressed that the board did not have an opportunity to review the proposal and offer official comment.
Seth Connolly, also a member of the Planning Board but speaking as an individual, was one of the few at the meeting who appeared to have reviewed the proposal in its entirety, and he expressed support. “I think that generally it is a very good visionary document.” Connolly said he supports “slow growth” over what he views as an unattainable “no growth.”
Residents present at the meeting were asked to provide contact information and were promised that they would get a copy of the proposal and advance notice of future meetings.