Planning board votes against ‘Miami-zation’ of Mission Beach
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 09/24/15 - 06:45 AM | 5365 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In September, Mission Beach Precise Planning Board voted 8-0-2 against turning the former Mission Beach Elementary School property into residences due to perceived violations of the Planned District Ordinance, the beach community’s development blueprint. Some claim that development is the largest – and most character-changing – proposal in Mission Beach in the last 50 years.

Developers McKellar McGowan purchased the old Mission Bay Elementary School property, at 818 Santa Barbara Place, from the San Diego Unified School District.

McKellar McGowan plans to raze school structures and build a total of 51 residences on the site, which is proposed to be redeveloped into 18 buildings, including one single-family home, two duplexes, four fourplexes and 10 triplexes totaling 178 bedrooms. There are 102 total proposed project parking spaces.

The project also proposes a population-based, linear neighborhood pocket park along Mission Boulevard. The viability of that park plan has been questioned by some, who contend it’s too narrow and will become a homeless hang rather than a community hub.

In rendering its initial decision against the project, the board alleged developers have been “tinkering” with project lot sizes, reconfiguring them from established community norms in order to build larger dwellings than would ordinarily be allowed.

“I’ve been around for 36 years,” argued board member Dennis Lynch, “and existing parcels in Mission Beach are all limited to 30-foot by 80-foot lot sizes, the way (San Diego pioneer John D.) Spreckels laid them out. This prevents the Miami-zation of Mission Beach. We can’t slice and dice Mission Beach. It violates our PDO.”

From the audience, attorney Mike Duckor argued that lot dimensions set by Spreckels more than a century ago don’t necessarily apply to conditions and needs of the community today.

Lynch added the ordinance does not allow deviations McKellar McGowan is requesting.

“We are a unique community in so many ways, not just in our personality but especially in our (geographic) layout,” Lynch said.

Board member Mike Meyer concurred with Lynch, pointing out some proposed project parcels are larger than the 30-by-80 dimensions allowed, which he noted has been accomplished by measuring distances outside lot boundaries to include alleyways and courts.

“Nobody in the whole city would be allowed to do what they’re proposing,” said Meyer. “They’re setting a precedent that anybody in Mission Beach could follow. We will fight this to the end.”

McKellar McGowan responded that they are merely following the guidelines set by the city, noting the parcel was once a school grounds and therefore is unique and doesn’t conform with typical standard measures that apply elsewhere in Mission Beach.

Board member Peggy Bradshaw drew attention to the fact that there are 178 bedrooms in the project and only 102 parking spaces.

“They’re just doing this to have bigger houses,” she said, adding half-jokingly that if this is allowed, she ought to be able to extend her property line beyond its present boundaries.

“Not everyone will have a car,” responded developers to the question about parking.

Project architect Chris Barlow said during a slideshow presentation that project home sizes would vary from about 1,200 to 1,500 square feet. He said each unit would have “two parking spaces in private garages loading off private drives.”

“The architectural style of the project will be casual California coastal,” said Barlow, adding the project is to have picket fences and trash enclosures and utilize fireproof building materials, including small amounts of stone masonry.

A centerpiece of project design is to be a “private pedestrian court that would have an easement for public use,” Barlow said.

The meeting ran long, and votes on other items associated with the project will be taken at the group’s next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m. in the Belmont Park Community Room.

“There are three more issues on the project that need to be discussed and voted on – vacation of two sewer easements, vesting a tentative Map to convert to condos and amendments to the Mission Beach Precise Plan,” said board chair Debbie Watkins.

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