Peninsula Beacon's 2016 Year in Review: Pier turns 50, plane routes, school stadium lights and dead parrots
The Ocean Beach Pier celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016. / PHOTO BY JIM GRANT
It was the year of the pier in 2016, and Obecians and Point Lomans alike had a lot to celebrate in the Peninsula. Newswise, it was a busy time all year long.
The following is a month-by-month account of what transpired on the news front throughout the Peninsula:
• This year marked the 50th anniversary of Ocean Beach Municipal Pier, and the community celebrated year-long. Ocean Beach MainStreet Association (OBMA), the beach community's Business Improvement District (BID), had a “Pierbook” where people shared their enduring memories of the iconic structure.
“July was the 50th anniversary of the pier, which opened the weekend of July 2-4 in 1966,” said Isabel Clark, OBMA's program director. “People have gotten married on the pier, had their first kiss there or been parents sharing special moments with their children or grandchildren there. It's just a special, awesome place.”
• It came down to a question of having a mom-and-pop, or a corporate shop?
Given that choice, most Peninsulans preferred an independent grocer over a CVS Pharmacy at the former Fresh & Easy at 955 Catalina Blvd. When some Point Lomans heard the new tenants in the mall were likely to be a high-profile corporation — they balked.
An online petition drive followed on change.org. It began with just a single signature, and garnered 1,218 supporters in just a couple of weeks. Neighbors got their wish as a Jensen's boutique grocery opened in December in time for Christmas.
• It was a very good year for taking care of old issues, like the “perpetual remodel” half-finished mansion that had been under construction on Plum Street for more than seven years.
A judge was finally satisfied that the recent sale of a “perpetual remodel” at 1676 Plum Street fulfilled conditions set for the property's owner to tear it down, sell it — or go to jail. Though neighbors questioned the home's sale price, $275,000 versus its previous sales price of $875,000 in 2005.
Judge Rubin made it clear to property owner Francisco Mendiola's camp that “if indications of a sale to a related party (of Mendiola) surfaced, things would go south in a hurry.”
• The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority held a ribbon-cutting for the $316 million consolidated Rental Car Center Jan. 15 in anticipation of the Jan. 20 grand opening.
• If you don't think heavy rains cause major problems in Ocean Beach … Ocean Beach Main Street Association's (OBMA's) office on Bacon Street was completely flooded by a January deluge and had to be closed for repairs.
• Huge waves crashed onto the Ocean Beach Pier due to wind and rain during a winter storm. Photographer Jim Grant shot an image published in The Beacon before SDPD and lifeguards closed the pier after a massive wave knocked down and injured a young woman who was walking on the pier.
• Peninsula Community Planning Board (PCPB) played to a packed house when the community was updated on the status of a controversial issue, the so-called NextGen Metroplex plan, proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration. That proposal could have allowed deviations from the LOWMA Waypoint navigational marker that for some 20 years has minimized plane flights over the Peninsula.
• It turns out Sunset Cliffs was on (a) crack. So much so that part of the Ocean Beach landform, which developed a sizable split beneath Point Loma Nazarene University, later in the year came tumbling down.
• A wildlife rescue service, SoCal Parrot of Jamul, sought donations to fund a $3,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the killing of Ocean Beach parrots.
Several parrots had been killed, possibly by adolescents with a pellet gun, in the first quarter of the year.
The animal-welfare group said it would pursue felony animal cruelty charges against anyone caught shooting the exotic birds.
• Following heavy El Niño rains in January and recent pounding surf, yet another portion of Sunset Cliffs yielded to nature, sending tons of sandstone and debris hurtling to the beach below. No injuries were reported after a portion of the famed bluffs at 1303 Sunset Cliffs Blvd. gave way.
• Point Loma had a new sign gracing the entryway into the community from San Diego Airport.
The North Harbor Drive gateway sign was originally installed by the PLA in 1980, and has served as a geographical landmark for millions of visitors and neighbors for more than 35 years.
• SeaWorld San Diego announced it will unveil a new attraction in 2017, Ocean Explorer, which will be combining multiple aquariums, rides and digital technologies to engage park guests in an experience centered on exploration and adventure.
• Roseville in Point Loma, one of the city's oldest neighborhoods, will have a new pocket park thanks to a March 8 unanimous vote by the San Diego City Council.
The council action committed a total of $840,000 from Peninsula developer impact fees for design and construction of a new pocket park on a two-thirds of an acre lot on Avenida de Portugal above Cañon Street.
• Also in March, SeaWorld, the financial fortunes of which have been waning since the controversial documentary “Blackfish” debuted, announced a “sea change” in its business philosophy.
SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby announced March 17 that the company will halt killer whale breeding, end its theatrical orca shows and double down on conservation and rescue efforts.
• The new Point Loma Lighthouse celebrated its 125th anniversary on March 23 with Patricia Dudley Goulart and Joan Dudley Eayrs, the daughters of the original lighthouse keeper James Elliot Dudley. The sisters lived in the area for the first 19 and 20 years of their lives, as James Dudley was a lighthouse keeper for 24 years.
Nowadays, the daughters don’t have so many opportunities to visit their first home, because it is on government property. However, the lighthouse still feels like coming back home to where they belong.
• Also in March, Midway Community Planning Group’s longtime chair Melanie Nickel stepped down.
• The battle over a controversial lot split proposed on a Point Loma historic property proved to be far from over, as a grass-roots group supported the City Council's decision to appeal a judge's reversal of its previous vote denying the subdivision project. San Diego City Council voted 6-3 on Feb. 9, 2015 to deny the Point Loma Summit project. The project is a subdivision proposal that calls for splitting the old Joseph Jessop Estate at 414 La Crescentia Drive into four lots, including the Tudor-styled home built in 1926 by Joseph and Mabel Jessop.
• Scattered reports continued of wild parrots being shot to death by pellets by an unknown assailant in Ocean Beach. Reward money being offered for information leading to prosecution of the culprit(s) was also upped to $7,000.
• Jon Linney was elected to lead Peninsula Community Planning Board, which advises the city on important land-use matters.
• In April, Midway Community Planning Group approved an expansion for an existing medical marijuana dispensary and got an update from city officials on Sports Arena Boulevard leases.
• There was a changing of the guard at Point Loma Association's (PLA's) annual town hall forum and election May 24 at the Portuguese Hall at 2818 Avenida de Portugal.
Outgoing PLA president Robert (Tripp) Jackson passed the gavel to Clark Anthony Burlingame (known as Clark Anthony).
• A quiet street straddling Point Loma and Ocean Beach planning areas became a battleground over a developer's plans to build two homes on a split lot some neighbors consider to be undersized for the project.
The city planning commission heard an appeal May 26 of the city Development Services Department's approval of a Coastal Development Permit to demolish a single-family home at 2257 Froude St. and replace it with two new 1,814 square-foot homes each over a 1,073 square-foot basement/two-car garage on two legal lots.
• Shrugging off the implied threat of a lawsuit, San Diego Unified School District Board May 24 voted 5-0 in favor of an environmental impact report for campus and athletic facilities upgrades at Point Loma High School (PLHS), including a controversial proposal adding new stadium lights. The school board's vote followed nearly two hours of public testimony for and against a multi-phase, master-planned modernization of PLHS campus and its athletic facilities. Founded in 1925, PLHS' stadium was built in 1950.
A grass-roots group of neighbors surrounding the stadium had lobbied for months against the EIR's stadium lights component. They argued it would be a community-character buster creating more traffic, parking, noise and trash problems in an already overcrowded area.
• An ongoing battle over a billboard between a Point Loma motel owner and a local nonprofit heated up.
The Point Loma Association (PLA) May 27 filed a lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court against father-son owners of the Dolphin Motel at 2912 Garrison St. The suit alleges breach of contract over a purported 2013 agreement between the parties.
• Overriding neighbors' and planners' concerns, the city planning commission May 26 voted 5-1 to deny an appeal of developer's plans to build two homes on a split lot some Ocean Beach neighbors consider undersized for the project.
• The environmental group Heal the Bay’s 26th annual Beach Report Card landed Shoreline Beach Park on the “Beach Bummers” list because 14 of 31 water samples exceeded state bacterial standards. The beach in front of several Shelter Island hotels hadn’t received lower than a “B” grade since 2003, according to the report.
Heal the Bay said that of the 72 monitoring locations on beaches in San Diego County, 62 received an “A” and eight were given a “B.”
Shoreline Beach Park was given an “F” and a spot on Mission Bay labeled the Comfort Station received a “D.”
• Point Loma Residents protested the new condo building that was under construction in the Roseville neighborhood because they believe it violates the 30-foot rule for property height.
• The Navy was working hard to minimize traffic disruption caused by the ongoing realignment of a 4.5-mile segment of its existing fuel pipeline from the coast onto Rosecrans Street, a project on schedule for summer 2017 completion. The original 17.3-mile pipeline, built in 1954 with a 30-year design life, provides fuel for Navy ships and aircraft. Work on relocating 3.5 miles of pipeline from the La Playa area to Lytton Street to Rosecrans Street right-of-way, with segments along Talbot, Scott and Keats streets, began in February 2016.
• With the goal of enhancing and preserving San Diego’s regional parks for generations to come, on July 12 the City Council unanimously approved Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer’s plan for a grand restoration of the city’s major parks that would make available hundreds of millions of more dollars for Mission Bay Park and regional parks, including Balboa Park.
The measure for the November 2016 ballot, which eventually passed, extends 2008’s Proposition C – co-authored by then-Councilmember Faulconer – to direct a portion of Mission Bay lease revenue toward capital investment in Mission Bay Park and regional parks for an additional 30 years.
This will result in continued annual revenue for Mission Bay Park and regional parks, including funds that can be used to revitalize historic buildings and structures in Balboa Park. The measure also expedites high-priority infrastructure projects for Mission Bay Park, such as lighting, bicycle trails, public restrooms and playgrounds. Opponents were critical of a provision that allows contiguous properties to be “annexed” to public parks, arguing this could open the door to more commercialization, perhaps even a new hotel.
• Friday Night Lights drew one step closer to fruition after San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) Board voted 5-0 on July 12 in favor of a master-planned, Whole Site Modernization and Athletic Facilities Upgrades Project that includes a controversial proposal to add stadium lights at Point Loma High School.
SDUSD Board's vote came after about an hour's worth of testimony by more than 30 neighbors of the high school, who pleaded with the district to reconsider its May 24 approval of the EIR for the lighting portion of the project.
Addressing the board, PLHS neighbors’ attorney Robert P. Ottilie noted he represented 17 individuals who've filed a lawsuit against SDUSD alleging illegal conduct in its handling of the stadium lights issue.
• In July, Midway Community Planning Group discussed homelessness, as well as forming a subcommittee to explore creating a Maintenance Assessment District/Business Improvement District, while continuing dialogue on its ongoing community plan update.
Community planners also reiterated their staunch opposition to a state-mandated proposal to have the Midway District designated as a potential site for an emergency homeless shelter.
State law now requires cities to identify an area within their jurisdictions where an emergency homeless shelter could be erected without substantial additional planning review.
The city of San Diego noted Midway was a prime spot for such an emergency shelter given its largely industrial/commercial character.
• The long-awaited installation of 10 night vision-capable police security cameras from the Ocean Beach Pier to Dog Beach became a fait accompli.
Supporters claimed the cameras were essential for solving and preventing crime. Others argued they were intrusive. On July 21, the city of San Diego held a press conference at the intersection of Newport Avenue and Abbott Street in Ocean Beach to officially dedicate the new security system.
The request for the new cameras was made by the San Diego Police Department with the blessing of Ocean Beach Town Council.
• Despite a similar state measure on the November ballot, San Diego City Council voted 6-3 on July 19 to approve a Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance. San Diego's new plastic bag reduction ordinance includes a ban on all single-use carryout plastic bags at select point-of-sale retail locations and a 10-cent charge for paper bags. The ordinance has exemptions for restaurants, newspaper delivery and bags for transporting produce, meat, poultry and dry-cleaning or laundry.
“San Diego can now take a leadership role in limiting plastic bag use and reducing plastic pollution,” said Sherri Lightner, First District Council person and council president who proposed the measure. “As we can see from other cities, the benefits are real.”
• Authorities investigated a serious gas leak that didn't harm anyone, but caused a couple of hundred people in Ocean Beach to be evacuated overnight on Aug. 22. About 200 residents were subsequently evacuated.
• It was announced in September that Point Lomans want to create a Little Portugal on the Peninsula.
The United Portuguese SES Inc. (UPSES) announced it was officially pursuing creation of a Little Portugal Community Benefit District (CBD) in the heart of the Peninsula along Avenida de Portugal.
“However, we can’t do it without your support,” said Daniel Silva, UPSES president.
Silva noted CBDs “strive to improve the overall quality of life in targeted commercial districts and mixed-use neighborhoods through partnership between the city and local communities.”
CBD's require local property owners to be levied a special assessment to fund improvements to their neighborhood. They work to attract businesses in vacant buildings, improve signage, dispose of trash, trim trees, enhance street lighting, act as a public forum and city liaison, and coordinate programming like street fairs and farmers markets.
Jon Linney, chair of Peninsula Community Planning Board, noted formation of a new geographically centered historical district is a worthwhile suggestion.
“Avenida de Portugal has been the heart of the Portuguese community in Point Loma since the 1880s,” Linney said. “This CBD will tie so much of the culture and the history together into one walkable street. This street includes the social hall, acclaimed chapel nominated for historical registry status, historical museum, church, parish center and, coming soon, a pocket park celebrating the neighborhood’s culture and history.”
• Emotions ran high with many OB residents after they learned one of the oldest Torrey pines in the community was cut down on Aug. 22.
The 73-foot-tall tree on the 4600 block of Saratoga Ave. was nearly a century old. For several weeks, the Torrey pine had been the center of a conflict between residents of OB and the City of San Diego.
The City said the tree posed a public safety hazard and was not healthy enough to be saved. The Friends of Peninsula Trees group disagreed and then agreed, and then splintered on the decision to remove the massive pine.
• A “visioning workshop” held in September for Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach had local residents talking community priorities and problems. The workshop focused on examining the challenges and opportunities for Newport Avenue. Following a brief analysis of existing conditions, attendees submitted suggestions for improvement involving infrastructure, circulation, land-use, environment and community.
Denny Knox, executive director of Ocean Beach MainStreet Association BID, said, “We’ve thought of a lighted sign over Newport Avenue like they have in other small communities. We’re working on consolidating all the signs in the business district so we have fewer individual signs all up and down each pole. We’d like that to be done sometime soon. If we win the lottery … we would really like to redo the sidewalks and curbs – but that seems highly unlikely.”
The workshop's suggestions will be collected and summarized, and the findings will be compiled into a report, said John Ambert, an architect and chair of the Ocean Beach Community Planning Board who's guiding the workshop discussion.
•A high-profile protest by Peninsulans over a condo development under construction at the corner of Emerson and Evergreen streets gradually morphed into a referendum on needed reform on city planning procedures to guarantee observance of the 30-foot coastal height limit.
Following a community protest on the site of the development, as well as an impromptu town hall-style meeting attended by 200-plus residents at UPSES Social Hall in June, work on the project was temporarily halted.
At issue was Emerson Street Duplexes at 3144 Emerson St., a project involving construction of two, three-story duplexes with garages beneath a total of four dwelling units. Zoning on the property allows up to 19 dwelling units on a single, or consolidated lot.
Nearby neighbors, however, were convinced the project exceeds the coastal 30-foot height limit and went into a full-court press to block it.
• The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) changed course backing down on its proposed SoCal Metroplex project to tighten the eastern route south of Point Loma, which some believed would have brought more flyovers, noise and pollution to the Peninsula.
Casey Schnoor, point person for opposition to the FAA's SoCal Metroplex proposal, said that “replacing the LOWMA waypoint (latitude-longitude navigational guide) with a new waypoint 1.8 miles south of LOWMA was a very significant victory for San Diego's treasured assets on the Point, and for residents on the Peninsula. We prevailed on our goal of 'LOWMA or better,' (meaning) Peninsula flyovers will not increase by 45,000 flights per year.”
• A familiar face to many students was selected for an open vice principal position at Point Loma High School. Eric Brown, who has been teaching mathematics at nearby Correia Middle School, took the post of former vice principal Kevin Gormly, who died from brain cancer in June.
Brown has also taught and been an administrator at Mt. Empire School District in East County. He is currently a Ph.D candidate at USD.
A graduate of La Jolla High School, Brown played football at both West Point and USD.
• A former “perpetual remodel” on Plum Street in Point Loma was finally completed – and sold – but machinations of the new owner had some neighbors worried and questioning the veracity of the sale.
Under construction for more than seven years, the huge, contemporary-style dwelling at 1676 Plum St. was sold to a local dentist following court action against the structure's builder and previous owner, Francisco Mendiola. In December 2015, the court gave Mendiola a Jan. 7 deadline to either complete his mansion, dispose of the property or go to jail.
• SeaWorld San Diego broke ground on a multmillion-dollar attraction to take visitors on an exploration of Earth's seven seas. Ocean Explorer is scheduled to open in late spring 2017 on the southeast end of the theme park.
• Also in September, users of Dusty Rhodes Dog Park in Ocean Beach complained about it being, well, too dusty. “It basically looks like a rodeo ground,” said Mike Ryan, former vice chair of Peninsula Community Planning Board, who is a frequent user, along with dog Maggie. “Many of us who use the park are fed up with the lack of watering. The city says the watering was cut back due to the drought. Funny thing is, San Diego is always in a drought.”
The bottom line, in Ryan's view, is that, “We already have a sandy dog beach. We need a grassy dog park.”
• Midway Community Planning Group in September got updates on a renewed effort to re-establish a business improvement district (BID), as well as agreeing to support closure of Moore Street at a troublesome intersection.
• Peninsula Community Planning Board adopted a preferred alternative for bicycle improvements on Wabaska Drive, as well as getting an update on San Diego International Airport redevelopment.
• Construction on the Terminal 2 Parking Plaza building began as nearly 100 elected officials, Airport Authority board members, business and community leaders, and members of the construction team celebrated the groundbreaking.
• The Ocean Beach Library celebrated its 100th birthday on Sept. 10 with a party at the library itself. The fun included a disc jockey playing oldies, beer and wine, and light refreshments. Various OB organizations and businesses had tables in the library proper, educating party goers on their history as well as their current activities.
• Continuing the Conversation (CTC), a Peninsula group formed in 2013 whose vision is “a racism-free society through transformed hearts and minds,” held a series of “Talk Race Forums” at Point Loma Community Presbyterian Church.
• Construction began on the long-awaited and controversial stadium lights at Point Loma High School. Crews located trailers and other equipment on the school grounds as the first phase of a three-phase stadium upgrade project that addresses only the lighting and public address systems with other upgrades to come in future years.
• Opponents of Point Loma High School's newly-approved stadium lights changed legal representation while preparation is apparently under way to install those lights.
• A judge set a double murder trial for Jan. 31, 2017 for a Point Loma man accused of killing his parents in 2014. Peter Haynes, 24, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the Nov. 28, 2014, deaths of his parents, David and Lissa Haynes, who were shot to death around 3 a.m., a few hours after Thanksgiving Day.
• Point Loma Association’s (PLA's) 2016 Visions of Point Loma event Oct. 6 delivered on its promise of continued community improvement while raising close to $35,000 for future neighborhood projects.
The event drew more than 300 friends, neighbors and Peninsula supporters to chat, drink and eat.
• In what's become an annual tradition, The Wine Pub in Point Loma awarded Peninsulans for their public service labeling them “homegrown community heroes.” The awards:
Obecian Devon Lantry, for trailblazing a web of community gardens where he works and lives. Obecian Nicole Burgess, for her commitment to making the community a bike and pedestrian haven. Obecian Stasi McAteer, for opening her home and building relationships with everyone around her. Point Loman Tony Jeffreys, for dedicating his life to keeping Point Loma safe, having spent decades working for the San Diego Fire Department in Point Loma at Station 22.
• A motion by City Council President Sherri Lightner, which some feel would have largely banned short-term vacation rentals in single-family neighborhoods, was defeated by a 7-2 vote Nov. 1.
An alternative motion brought by Councilmember Todd Gloria was then passed by the same 7-2 margin. Lightner of Council District 1 and Lorie Zapf of Council District 2 cast the dissenting votes on both motions.
• Formerly known as the San Diego Sports Arena and the iPayOne Center, the iconic Valley View Center San Diego is poised to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its opening.
Located on Sports Arena Boulevard in the Midway District, the indoor arena has hosted many of the top names in the worlds of sports and entertainment including the first bout between Muhammad Ali and former Marine and San Diego resident Ken Norton on March 1, 1973. In that fight, Norton won a 12-round split decision, and broke Ali’s jaw to become the North American Boxing Federation heavyweight champion.
• Relief was on the way in the form of an InSync traffic optimization system being installed on signals along Rosecrans, one of San Diego's busiest and most congested thoroughfares.
“Rosecrans in Midway is among the heaviest-volume roads (in the city), not just Rosecrans, but all the crossing arterials,” said Duncan Hughes, a city senior traffic engineer.
• A proposal to have the former Midway Post Office designated historical because of its architectural style was defeated by a 3-3-1 vote of the city's Historical Resources Board on Nov. 17.