2018 Peninsula Beacon Year in Review: Nati’s and Liberty Station sold, Sunset Cliffs improvement project, Target Express, North Chapel, and a mermaid
A blue-haired mermaid mannequin named Marina suddenly appeared astride the 50-foot-high Ross Rock at Sunset Cliffs, and quickly became an OB icon. / Photo by Thomas Melville
Hot-button issues dominated the landscape in 2018 as Peninsula residents grappled with short-term vacation rentals and the proliferation of dockless bikes and scooters. Battles were also waged over a recycling center, and an affordable housing site some wanted rezoned as parkland/open space.
• In late December 2017, the second of three temporary bridge shelters was opened by Veterans Village of San Diego in the Midway District. The new shelter provided homeless relief from the streets, while connecting them to permanent housing.
• Five student-athletes from Point Loma High received All-CIF honors following the fall sports season. Honored Pointers were Charlie Ekstrom, JL Skinner, Mathew Fa'alele, and Davey Folsom. Pointer freshman Loren Gomez won the CIF individual golf tournament and was named CIF Player of the Year.
• A new study titled “Part 150” was green lighted to evaluate flight-path improvements and noise reductions in and around San Diego International Airport.
• Maximizing online presence was the main topic at Ocean Beach MainStreet Association’s annual marketing breakfast Jan. 9 at Wonderland.
• The Peninsula Community Planning Board unanimously endorsed a developer’s plan to convert The Dolphin Motel into boutique Monsaraz Hotel. The old Dolphin Motel’s four existing buildings were to be demolished and replaced by a new 49,150-square-foot, 92-unit, three-story hotel.
• Ocean Beach MainStreet Association (OBMA) honored members for their contributions to the Ocean Beach community at its annual Awards Celebration Jan. 25.
• Dockless electric scooters and bikes debuted in the beach communities causing consternation for some locals.
• San Diego Lifeguard Lt. Rick Romero speculated social media was the cause of mushrooming crowds at beach attractions like jumping off The Arch at Sunset Cliffs. “It used to be just locals doing it,” said Romero. “But now, everyone knows about it.”
• Ocean Beach People’s Organic Food Market added a new vegetarian café, OB Garden Café, formerly Tiny’s Tavern, to its growing mix at at 4741 Voltaire St.
• A cliff collapse near Ladera Street stairs reported on Feb. 13 caused the stairs leading down to Garbage Beach to be closed for an extended period for repairs.
• A public protest was held Feb. 10 at Stump’s Family Marketplace to attempt to compel Prince Recycling Center to move from 3770 Voltaire St. in the parking lot. The rally drew attention to alleged crime-related issues associated with homeless utilizing the purportedly problematic recycler.
• It was announced that Nati’s iconic Ocean Beach Mexican restaurant, which opened in 1960, was being sold.
• Diminutive Gianni Buonomo Vintners on Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach was awarded a double gold medal at the prestigious San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The winery competed against the biggest names in the U.S. wine industry at the largest competition of American wines in the world.
• The Point Loma High girls water polo team accomplished what no Pointer team had before when they defeated No. 3 seeded Mt. Carmel 6- 3 to win the CIF Div. III championship.
• A decade-plus effort to secure a long-desired public pool at Liberty Station gained traction, as the City asked for federal approval of a joint-use agreement between it and San Diego Unified School District to build and operate a future aquatics complex at the former Naval Training Center.
• Phase II of the Hillside Improvements Project, which included native habitat restoration and new trails, was implemented in the 50-acre hillside section of Sunset Cliffs Natural Park.
• A Beacon article explored the dynamic renaissance of commercial and residential redevelopment gradually transforming upper Voltaire Street in Point Loma.
• Point Loman Ginny Davenport turned 100 on April 8 and celebrated with a champagne toast: Not surprising given it was Winston Churchill who gave her her first taste of the bubbly.
• It was announced that Target Express will replace the 18,000-square-foot Antique Center on Newport Avenue.
• The City and the San Diego Housing Commission told cyclists their makeshift track across the street from Bill Cleator Park had to be closed because of liability issues, and because of plans to develop the site for 78 affordable housing units.
• Native Point Loma Realtor Robert Tripp Jackson moved from Pacific Sotheby's to join friend and colleague Paul Vadnais at Catalina Realty at 909 Catalina Blvd. in the Jensen’s shopping center.
• On April 24, at Veterans Plaza in Ocean Beach, Councilmember Lorie Zapf and San Diego Police Department’s Western Division kicked off a Peninsula bait bike program. Bait bikes have a GPS device which police can track in real time to apprehend criminals.
• The number of homeless people in San Diego County dropped by 6 percent from the previous year, according to the 2018 Point-in-Time Count. Conducted every year by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, the 2018 count showed that 8,576 men, women and children are living on the street or in shelters, compared to the 9,116 counted in 2017.
• Developers of the former Midway Post Office has a new name for it – The Post – and a new design concept – envelope. The long-dormant 16-acre site is at 2535 Midway Drive.
• Spirited debate filled the Peninsula Community Planning Board’s May meeting as residents turned out to protest a plan to convert the North Chapel in Liberty Station into a restaurant.
• A blue-haired mermaid mannequin suddenly appeared astride the 50-foot-high Ross Rock at Sunset Cliffs, and quickly became an OB icon.
• On June 4, Point Loma High School students unveiled a student-produced public service announcement on gun violence and school security titled, “If You See Something, Say Something,” which aired publicly on mass media throughout the month.
• A day dreaded by thousands of its patrons finally arrived as Nati's Mexican Restaurant closed its doors June 7.
• A public ceremony observing a century-old catastrophe in OB, during which 11 soldiers and sailors lost their lives from rip currents, was held May 23 at Ocean Beach Lifeguard Station. MC’d by Byron Wear, former lifeguard and council member, the event included a host of speakers and political dignitaries.
• The mermaid at Sunset Cliffs disappeared from her perch just as mysteriously as she had appeared earlier in the year.
• Former Major League Baseball star and PLHS alum David Wells resigned as head coach of the Point Loma High baseball team to devote more time to other pursuits. During his four years, his teams compiled an overall record of 67-54, for a winning percentage of .554.
• The Pacific Beach Pipeline South Replacement Project, replacing approximately 7.6 miles of water main and approximately 1.6 miles of sewer main in the Midway/Pacific Highway Corridor and Mission Bay areas, caused major traffic dislocation.
• Amid community pressure, Prince Recycling Center on Voltaire Street closed.
• On July 12 through the early morning hours of July 13, a total of 12 arson fires were set in the Ocean Beach area. The fires damaged or destroyed at least six vehicles, several large trash cans, a fence and other items.
• On July 16, San Diego City Council nixed Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s short-term vacation rental proposal by a 6-3 tally, then voted 6-3 for a more-restrictive proposal favoring residents and allowing primary-residence-only rentals with a six-month maximum. The landmark counterproposal was co-authored by Council members Barbara Bry of District 1 and Lorie Zapf of District 2, whose coastal districts have the most short-term rentals.
• A public workshop July 26 vetted redevelopment of a park project on Saratoga Street dedicated in honor of noted historian, teacher and volunteer Ruth Varney Held. The park’s current design includes 4,362 square feet of children’s playground, 1,746 square feet of fitness area and 5,137 square feet of perimeter flood control.
• North Chapel in Liberty Station, which was to have closed June 30, was granted a reprieve until the end of the year.
• Firefighters from Ocean Beach's Station 15 at 4711 Voltaire St., slept in a Liberty Station hotel while their station was undergoing remodeling, expansion and upgrades.
• Airport expansion headlined the July agenda of Peninsula Community Planning Board, as an official spoke on plans to replace San Diego International Airport’s Terminal 1. A long-term project was underway to replace the 51-year-old Terminal. Plans included a new on-airport entry, with a dual-level roadway and curb front.
• The Rock Church acquired The Body Shop strip club at 3776 Riley St. in Point Loma. Rock Church senior pastor Miles McPherson said, “When it became available, and we learned that other adult entertainment operators were trying to buy it to reopen it as a strip club, we thought we should get involved and provide something more beneficial to Point Loma.”
• A group of OBecians launched an effort to replace the beach community’s missing mermaid mascot.
• At Liberty Station, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced a grant for new resources to help service members transition into civilian jobs at an Aug. 27 press conference.
• On Aug. 6, the City Council allocated $1.8 million in Regional Park Improvement Funds for the Ladera Street Beach Access Stairway Emergency Project. That stairway had been closed and chained-off since a Feb. 13 cliff landslide impaired access to the beach below.
• At a Sept. 10 special meeting, the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group tightened language on Navy-owned property in their community plan update before final City Council review of the long-term project Sept. 17. The City Council later unanimously approved a Midway Community Plan update, which will guide development during the next 20 years.
• Growing increasingly disenchanted with the City’s land-use policies and restrictions on how advisory group’s review development projects, Peninsula Community Planning Board rejected two map waiver requests on apartments being converted into condos.
• A Beacon feature profiled successful Midway restaurateur and published poet-author Ibrahim AlNashashibi, owner of Fairouz Cafe & Gallery.
• For the first time, Ocean Beach breweries teamed to create a unique collaboration brew to celebrate Oktoberfest: OB Session.
• The 14th annual Ocean Beach Oktoberfest on Oct. 12-13, Southern California’s only Oktoberfest party at the beach, featured live music, a beer garden, contests, an Oktoberfest beer tasting, and a $500 guaranteed Sausage Toss winner.
• Due largely to rising costs attributed to tariffs on Chinese goods, Dog Beach Dog Wash, which had provided pet pickup bags gratis in stainless-steel containers at Dog Beach, ceased doing so.
• On Oct. 24, Michael Winn, visited Peninsula Community Planning Board to pitch the idea of creation of a Point Loma Town Council.
• The NTC Foundation commissioned Jean Isaacs and the San Diego Dance Theater to create a walking tour of the North Promenade at Arts District Liberty Station to view six new site-specific dances inspired by existing or newly created visual art installations.
• The City Council voted 8-1 Oct. 22 to rescind a short-term vacation rental ordinance it passed by a 6-3 vote in July. The Council’s re-vote on the contentious short-term rental ordinance was forced by a successful drive by a vacation-rental coalition.
• Mayor Kevin Faulconer proposed new regulations for motorized scooters to address safety concerns while allowing the dockless transportation to continue operating in San Diego.
• OB Brewery’s brewer Jim Millea got the call that his B. Right On Pale Ale had won first place at the Great American Beer Festival. There were 170 entrants in the American-style pale ale category.
• Steven Torres, founder of the Pop Pie Company in University Heights, confirmed the expansion of his eatery into Ocean Beach replacing Nati’s at Bacon and Niagara streets.
• The Brigantine Inc.’s two newest concepts – Ketch Grill & Taps and Portside Gelato & Coffee, debuted at 2614 Shelter Island Drive.
• There was quite a buzz when the famed Blue Angels planes flew over the Peninsula, as captured in a front-page photo. Scenes from the sequel to “Top Gun” were being shot locally with actor Tom Cruise reprising his role as a Naval aviator.
• Police were continuing an investigation into a Halloween-eve tagging that left two swastikas scrawled on a Point Loma elementary school parking lot wall.
• Emergency bluff repairs next to the Ladera Street stairs in Sunset Cliffs were completed.
• Minnesota-based Target revealed one of its express outlets would open on Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach in 2019.
• A new Economic Impact Study completed for San Diego International Airport quantified the airport’s total economic contributions to the region at nearly $12 billion annually.
• Jamie Hampton, founder of Mixte Communications Inc. public relations, was named a “Top 40 Under 40 Business Leader,” as well as being declared a “Top 50 Business Influencer.” Her PR firm, Mixte, is named for a bicycle frame.
• Thirteen-year-old Ethan Mayes of Point Loma became the first person to earn the title of Master Ocean Angler from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) California Fishing Passport program by catching at least 50 different species of saltwater game fish.
• Democrat Dr. Jennifer Campbell defeated Republican incumbent Lorie Zapf by a wide margin in the Nov. 6 election, flipping District 2 from Republican to Democrat. That gave the nine-member San Diego City Council a veto-proof 6-3 majority for Dems.
• Congressman Scott Peters (D-52) and historic preservationists Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO), joined the battle to preserve North Chapel in Liberty Station, formally requesting an investigation by the City Attorney into a commercial lease for the historic church.
• Much of Liberty Station, including the North Chapel, was sold for nearly $159 million to Pendulum Property Partners, a Southern California-based real estate firm, in partnership with The Seligman Group, at the 361-acre former Naval Training Center.
• The annual hot chocolate fundraiser hosted by the Ybarras of Point Loma ended, but the neighborhood Garrison Street holiday light show continued on.
• Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group grappled with what to leave in – and take out – of a prioritized list of projects to be funded in the future by a Midway developer impact fee study.
• Mayor Faulconer sanctioned forming a new joint-powers entity to purchase electrical power to achieve 100 percent renewable energy citywide by 2035.
• The Lee Trepanier Gymnasium at Point Loma High School underwent a facelift with the main floor bleachers being replaced.