Plans for pier replacement and library expansion are progressing, Ocean Beach Town Council is told
The board also gets updates about San Diego ordinances on short-term rentals, street vendors and vehicle habitation.
From long-awaited local legislation regulating street vendors and short-term vacation rentals to plans for replacing the Ocean Beach Pier and expanding the OB Library, progress was the theme at the May meeting of the Ocean Beach Town Council.
The group’s first in-person gathering since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic more than two years ago was greeted with smiles at the Masonic Center. The meeting also had a simultaneous Zoom component.
“There’s no replacement for being in a room with people,” said OBTC President Corey Bruins. “When you gather, it’s sacramental. It’s representative of something bigger. The nuts and bolts of the meeting, these conversations, are maybe easier to simply have online. But the idea of gathering matters.”
Ocean Beach Pier
Design and construction of a replacement for the Ocean Beach Pier is one of the top priorities of a new unit in the city of San Diego’s Engineering & Capital Projects Department named Strategic Capital Projects, which was formed recently to handle major public developments, according to Kohta Zaiser, Mayor Todd Gloria’s representative for City Council District 2, which includes Ocean Beach and Point Loma.
In conjunction, a working group of residents is being created to convey the community’s desires for the pier during planning that starts in the fall. Zaiser asked OBTC to recommend candidates.
“Our game plan here is we’re going to start small, and as we get an idea of what we want, we’re going to expand, expand, expand,” Zaiser said. “We need to make sure that we’re getting community input at every single stage, because if we mess this up, we’re going to be looking at an ugly pier for the next 60 years. We don’t want that.”
An evaluation report completed in 2019 and released in April 2021 said the pier has “reached the end of its service life.” The inspection found cracked pilings and erosion, particularly at the junction where the downward-sloping pier from the land meets the slightly upward-sloping section heading out above the water.
The original rebar reinforcements, which were standard materials at the time of the pier’s construction in 1966, are made of an uncoated steel that has deteriorated over time, leaving the foundation’s concrete pillars at risk of falling apart, according to the report by advisory firm Moffatt & Nichol.
The 55-year-old pier has significant deterioration that could cost the city of San Diego millions to rehabilitate, according to the newly released report.
Of the three options for the pier offered in the report — repairing existing damage (about $8 million), rehabilitating the pier (up to $50 million) or tearing it down and building a new one (about $60 million) — OB community leaders have expressed preference for the latter, saying a new, modern pier will last longer (75 years or more) and would be more cost-effective than a major overhaul.
The price tag for a new pier is likely to be higher than the original estimate because of shortages and inflation wracking the economy. Last year, the state appropriated $8.4 million toward the pier, of which $5 million would go for a “shovel-ready” project that includes a final design and environmental review, Zaiser said.
The rest of the funds needed are not secured, but Zaiser said the city will start knocking on doors “as we move through this process and we have a design [and] ... more tangible details of what we’re proposing.”
“We can then fish and go out there and hustle for the dollars at the federal level, state level, private sector, all the various grants,” Zaiser said.
Ocean Beach Library
After 20 years of local advocacy for an expansion of the Ocean Beach Library, money is being raised to try to bring it to fruition.
Cairo Williams, an aide to U.S. Rep. Scott Peters (D-La Jolla), whose district includes OB and Point Loma, said Peters submitted a request for $4 million for the project to the House Appropriations Committee at the end of April. That would go with an anonymous $3 million private donation last fall.
“The OB Library expansion was at the top of our list of requests,” Williams said. “So now that proposal is just in committee waiting to be passed.”
The estimated $8.5 million plan would expand OB’s San Diego Public Library branch by more than 80 percent with a new community meeting room, a teen area, an outdoor gathering space, office space, an expanded book collection area, new restrooms, new landscaping and more.
San Diego’s project manager agrees to work toward having another community meeting soon to discuss the design.
Bruins noted that approval of the federal funds would help cover costs as the city finalizes designs for the expansion.
“I’m so excited by the library funds because ... if [the federal money] comes through and the $3 million donation comes through, we’re basically there in terms of raising money to get this project through,” he said.
The library, at 4801 Santa Monica Ave., is open from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays and 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The City Council’s passage last year of an ordinance to regulate short-term rentals will limit the number of whole-home STRs available for more than 20 days in a year to 1 percent of the city’s housing stock, or about 5,400. The ordinance was ratified in May with amendments from the California Coastal Commission and will go into effect in early 2023.
With a lottery system to award permits to operators under the new law, the commission stipulated that the allocation of permits must be proportional to the amount of applications received from each community planning area in the city.
“For example, let’s say Ocean Beach [has] 100 applicants and another community group had 200 applicants, then that other community would get about twice as many permits allocated to them,” said Linus Smith, the Ocean Beach representative for District 2 Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell.
Overall, Smith said, the ordinance will lead to a 48 percent reduction in the STRs in operation citywide.
“It’s not ... going to all go away,” he said. But even if, for example, “90 percent of all the short-term rentals are on the coast, then that still means that roughly half of them will be eliminated once the ordinance goes into effect.”
The city estimates that nearly 40 percent of the short-term rentals citywide are in the coastal zone. Of those, more than 90 percent are whole-home rentals accommodating an average capacity of 5.8 renters, according to a survey conducted last year.
The street vending ordinance that the City Council approved March 1 is scheduled to go into effect in most of the city Wednesday, June 22. But the Coastal Commission must review it for its impact in coastal communities. Because of that, many provisions of the new law that center largely on where vendors can operate will be suspended in the coastal zone until the commission gives its approval, which could take months, Smith said.
However, requirements for vendors that include health- and safety-related measures, trash receptacles and displaying a city permit will become effective right away, he said.
Though the city of San Diego has rolled out new regulations on sidewalk vending effective June 22, residents of Ocean Beach, Point Loma and other coastal areas will need to wait longer — probably through the summer — to see more than two dozen rules take effect for their parks and streets.
With many street vendors operating in parks such as Ocean Beach’s Veterans Plaza, enforcement of the ordinance will fall to park rangers where applicable and to city code enforcement. Smith said the city will be hiring at least 14 more rangers as well as 11 additional groundskeepers for maintenance and trash removal.
Facing pressure from immigrants rights groups and advocates for racial equity, San Diego slashed from $230 to $38 the annual permit fee that street vendors must pay under a new ordinance that takes effect in most of the city in mid-June.
Some at the Town Council meeting bemoaned that the Police Department will not be heavily involved in the ordinance’s enforcement. But Community Relations Officer David Surwilo asserted that the mere enactment of the street vendor ordinance will solve much of the current problem. Ocean Beach residents have complained about crowds of vendors, many from outside the community, ruining the grounds at Veterans Plaza, often hindering access to the beach and selling products such as marijuana cigarettes or Jell-O shots laced with alcohol.
“Once a law is on the books, no matter what it is, people become educated,” Surwilo said. “Then they realize, ‘Hey, I can and can’t do this.’ Most people don’t want to fight the system. ... I think that that is going to significantly right itself with more education than enforcement.”
In response to a question from Town Council board member Tracy Dezenzo, Surwilo confirmed that the police have halted enforcement of the ordinance prohibiting vehicle habitation due to pending litigation. However, he assured that police can address part of the problem by enforcing alternative regulations, such as the oversize-vehicle ordinance.
“That is something that is still enforceable and always has been,” Surwilo said. “We have other things that we can enforce when it goes to oversize vehicles and trailers.”
Other Town Council news
Bruins described a recent retreat in which all 15 board members gathered to discuss ways to revamp and recharge the organization’s mission in the community and draw greater participation.
The board catalogued its extensive and divergent volunteer work into four categories, around which four committees will be formed to begin meeting monthly by late summer or fall. The categories are events, improvements, engagement and advocacy. Bruins said the scope of each committee will be determined within the next month.
“The goal would be that we have a way for you all to engage that may be a little bit lower commitment level than full-on joining the board,” Bruins said. “We’re kind of famous for burning people out a little bit and I think we scare folks away from joining our board for that reason. So we want to give you all a lower-hanging-fruit way to invest and spend time working on things in OB that are specific to what you want to do.”