A lawsuit brought by a group known as Mission Beach Citizens for Responsible Development seeks to overturn the City Council’s 6-2 vote in 2016 approving developer McKellar McGowan’s plans to build three-story buildings, with a total of 59 units, split between two development areas on both the south and north sides of Santa Barbara Place in Mission Beach.
In approving the condo project, the Coastal Commission demanded concessions from McKellar McGowan, which included reducing the number of units from 63 to 59, and relocating, re-shaping and enlarging the project’s public park fronting Mission Boulevard. Some beach residents had derided that public park as more of a “median than public-recreation space.”
Excerpts from the Sept. 4 court ruling read:
“Petitioner has failed to establish that the [Coastal] Commission proceeded without or in excess of its jurisdiction, provided an unfair trial, or committed a prejudicial abuse of discretion… The updated traffic study analyzed summer traffic and found that the effects of the projects would be appropriately mitigated by the installation of a traffic light.
“The school site also presents a prime location to convert vacant, obsolete development into a newer, more relevant use, concentrating development in an already disturbed area that is in a pedestrian-oriented community along a major alternate transit corridor. By increasing the supply of dwelling units in close proximity to recreational destinations, the proposed development will help address housing shortages while encouraging alternate means of transit and a decrease in vehicle miles traveled.”
“Winning was never in doubt; the opposition has no case and they know it,” reacted developer Chris McKellar.
Mission Beach residents were split on the merits of McKellar-McGowan’s project.
“This school site has been an eyesore for decades, and it pains me to see the community sandbag this development because it simply isn’t the way they would have done it,” said Matt Gardner, a Mission Beach small-business owner. “They have went way above and beyond in an effort to appease the public.”
Mission Beach resident Brian McCarthy disagreed.
“The MBE condo conversion will bring many more occupants – too many,” he said, adding, “MB is already the most densely populated neighborhood in the city.”
The added occupants will reduce parking and vehicle mobility in an area with one main road.
“Where the number of residences devoted to short-term rentals already accounts for 40 percent of the total in Mission Beach (most in the city), it is clear that a goodly number, if not all, of the new condos will be short-term vacation rentals,” McCarthy said. “That means more parties, less care for the area, and a general degradation of the quality of life in the community.”
Community planners previously turned thumbs down on the McKellar-McGowan Project, arguing it takes liberties with lot sizes, which have remained unchanged since Mission Beach was laid out by San Diego developer and sugar heir John Spreckels in the early 20th century.
Closed in 1996 because of declining attendance, the former Mission Beach Elementary and its 2.23 acres were sold at auction by San Diego Unified School District for $18.5 million in May 2013 to McKellar-McGowan.