OB planners endorse condo project — with reservations
by Tony De Garate
Published - 11/16/11 - 04:05 PM | 5299 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Some members of the Ocean Beach Planning Board (OBPB) seemed to be saying recently there was something decidedly un-Obecian about a proposal to build a three-story, 29-foot-high, 10-unit condo at the corner of Saratoga Avenue and Abbott Street.

In the group’s regular session on

Nov. 2, planning board member Seth Connolly said the design viewed from the Abbott Street sidewalk smacked of a “fortress.”

Planner Nancy Taylor said the site would be better off as a park.

Member Scott Therkalsen said it would seem “set off from the rest of the community.”

Planner Landry Watson said, “If you’re going trick-or-treating in this location, it kind of says, ‘Stay away,’ not ‘Come on in and check it out.’”

But in the end, most of the planners decided they had no basis to vote against the project, finding the applicant had made some changes in response to the board’s feedback. The vote was 9-2 in favor of the project known as Ocean Park Villas. Taylor and fellow planner Tom Gawronski cast the dissenting votes.

The proposal involves demolishing the existing four buildings on a 20,154-square-foot lot on the north side of the lifeguard tower parking lot. Three of the buildings are apartments with a total of 15 units. The fourth building, a shack-like structure whose most recent tenant was Dempsey’s At Ocean Beach, has been boarded up for several years. It was also the original location of Hodad’s restaurant.

The proposal includes a novel way of complying with Ocean Beach’s controversial and somewhat complicated zoning requirements, which are more restrictive than in most San Diego neighborhoods. Throughout much of Ocean Beach, a developer must limit the total square footage to seven-tenths of the lot size, 25 percent of which must be allocated to enclosed parking unless underground parking is provided.

To achieve underground parking status for three spaces on the Abbott Street side, the architect lowered the floor 3½ feet and enclosed it by adding a four-foot wall on the east side, connecting the wall to the building with a trellis that extends five feet into the sideyard setback.

The top will be seeded with turf and serve as a play area for the residents, said Claude Anthony Marengo of Marengo Morton Architects.

Marengo said the encroachment is permitted under San Diego building codes. He said a planning review specialist at the city’s Development Services Department had verified its compliance.

Eric Stevens of the San Diego Coastal District Office of the California Coastal Commission said his office received an email from the city vouching for the project’s compliance.

Gawronski said he was not convinced.

“It’s a wild interpretation of the code solely for the purpose, as far as I can see, of allowing this building to be built,” he said.

In previous drawings, the parking spaces along Abbott Street were at-grade and visible from the sidewalk. Marengo said it was designed that way to allow a smaller structure.

“The big beef is that we didn’t want cars visible from the street. That’s been solved,” said board member Craig Klein. “I’ve always regarded this as a difficult site that was going to require creative solutions.”

Board member Bill Bushe agreed, calling the project a “trend” for beachfront structures.

“I don’t think they should be penalized for clever architecture,” Bushe said. “This is not a bad deal.”

Just getting a chance to vet the project was a hard-fought battle for the board. Last month, three board members attended a California Coastal Commission meeting in Huntington Beach and won a two-month continuance.

“I think this planning board can take pride in voting tonight knowing they got involved and improved it,” said Brian Driesse, development executive for the San Diego office of Clark Realty Capital, a Virginia-based company that bought the site in June of last year.

The California Coastal Commission will consider the project next month in San Francisco. If approved, the owner will apply for building document permits from the city, Marengo said.

In other planning board news:

• Two board vacancies have resulted from the recent resignations of Catherine Cappelluci (District 6) and Secretary Brittany Taylor (District 5). Information for citizens interested in filling the remainder of the terms is available at www.oceanbeachpb.com. Klein has been selected as the new secretary.

• It’s haircut time for more than five dozen trees on Newport Avenue. The tree trimming should begin soon and will be paid for using $4,875 in discretionary funds from District 1 City Councilman Kevin Faulconer’s office, according to Faulconer aide Michael Patton.

• A proposal to replace a one-story duplex at 5170 W. Point Loma Blvd. with a three-story, single-family residence will be heard at the board’s next meeting Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. at the Ocean Beach Recreation Center, 4726 Santa Monica Ave. The owner is asking for a variance that would allow the square footage required for a garage to instead be allocated for living space. The variance would be the third of its kind on the block, and the board opposed the previous two.

The board’s Project Review Committee was scheduled to debate the matter Nov. 16 and make a recommendation to the full board.
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