Famosa Canyon, a five-acre bowl at Famosa Boulevard, next to Nimitz Boulevard but with no access, is where the Housing Authority plans to build affordable housing. On Jan. 26, community activist Margaret Virissimo and other residents held a protest rally calling for preserving the last open space in Point Loma.
It is a battle of a community versus the Housing Authority, Virissimo said.
“They want to build 78 low-income apartments. But questions from the community go unanswered, under the guise of ‘We have no plan yet,'"she said.
“We have turned the corner,” said event organizer Jon Linney, a community advocate, former chair of the Peninsula Planning Board and former vice chair for an umbrella group representing all of the city’s 42 planning boards.
“The community is aware of the issue now, people are coming forward to sign our petitions,” Linney said. “Traffic comes to a crawl in Point Loma with few ways off the peninsula. Residents are angry as politicians allow over-development on a peninsula that has no practical mass transit solution. Even the token bus service has been reduced.”
D.C. Collier gave 60 acres of land to the city in 1909 to be used for parks. The land has been whittled away, often for other uses, and this five-acre site is all that remains untouched. Original records from 1909 cannot be located and title to the land appears to be clouded, showing up under other names, including the Faulconer family – apparently no relation to the current mayor.
The Housing Authority acquired control of the land a few decades back but has done nothing. Opponents of housing on the site question the legality of using gasoline tax money years ago to buy land ostensibly for subsidized housing.
“After decades of inaction, why is the Housing Authority stepping forward now,” Linney asks. “Questions from the community are being dodged. Some fear the authority will sell the land to private developers. The difficulty of building on the site probably would lead to twice as many units going at luxury prices to recoup the investment.”
The deep bowl with access on only one side (Nimitz Boulevard), is beneath power lines from a nearby SDG&E substation and is environmentally sensitive, draining into the Famosa Slough preserve. Catalina/Famosa boulevards are the main artery serving Correia Middle School.
Virissimo said eight organizers have helped galvanize the community. Save Famosa Canyon proponents are reaching out to mayoral candidates Cory Briggs, attorney and Point Loma resident, Council Member Barbara Bry, Assemblyman Todd Gloria and Mayor Kevin Faulconer who recently advocated removing building height limits and cutting parking requirements in a push for density. “This must be an issue in the coming mayor’s race.”
“We believe affordable housing has a place,” Linney said, “on less costly land farther inland that is near transit corridors and closer to employment centers.”