Friday, October 16, 2009

September 9, 2009 Minutes


September 9, 2009

Meeting held at Balboa Park Golf Course Clubhouse – Golf Course Drive

Call to order at 6:34 pm by Chair C. Blatt. Agenda had been posted in accordance with Brown Act.

Members present: Laurie Burgett, Maureen Burke, Chris Blatt, Carole Caffey, Dave Caldwell, Scott Glazebrook, Anita Margolis, Frederick Ruffell, David Skillman, Marie Skillman. Richard Santini arrived later. Members absent: Ruchell Alvarez, Richard Baldwin, Angela Vasconcellos

Treasurer’s Report: balance remains around $75

Community Police Officer: Officer John Graham reported that local crime stats are good. There have been several theft incidents at Zoo parking lot; surveillance has not gotten results yet. The new Captain for the area is Mark Jones. He will be introduced at the Captain’s meeting on 9/22 at 5:30 pm at 25th & Imperial. New Lt. for our area is Sean Murphy. Caffey asked about increased police activity at the 25th St. Park, Graham was not aware of anything specific.

City Council District 3: Anthony Bernal. Arrived late. Reported that there will be a public hearing on 11/17 regarding an increase in water rates. MWD and SDCWA, major water suppliers to the City, have raised their rates and the City is proposing to pass those increases on. In response to a question about continued new development within the city, Bernal noted that we are in a Level 2 emergency now; only when Level 3 is reached is a building moratorium required. The Level 2 measures have resulted in a 19% reduction in water usage.

City Council District 8 - Diana Jurado-Sainz. Was not present. She asked Bernal to report that she had a ride-along with Code Compliance and will report at the next meeting.

53rd Congressional District - Katherine Fortner: Rep. Davis was busy with local meetings during August, including one on health care that had over 1,000 attendees. 85,000 constituents have participated in telephone town halls. Davis has written to the Postmaster General and is also talking to the local postmaster, hoping to keep George Washington Station open.

Alexandra Montezuma, a community resident: spoke about the Post Office issue. She mentioned that the official mailing from the Post Office about public comment arrived on or after the end of the comment period, and was not bilingual. Several committee members concurred about late arrival of the mailing.

Mayor; 76th Assembly District: no reports

Approval of Minutes: Approved minutes of 8/12/09 meeting (motion Margolis, second Glazebrook) all in favor. (Burgett, Burke abstained, as they were not at the meeting)

Public Comment.

Joyce Summer, CCDC: A special City Council meeting will be held on Monday, 9/14 at 6 pm to discuss the site for the Winter Shelter for homeless. 2 proposed sites are 13th& J Street and the parking lot North of Interstate 5 on Pershing. City Council formed a Medical Marijuana task force. Report on permanent shelter for homeless will be read at City Council on 10/22. The North Embarcadero Plan is on hold due to lawsuits. A task force recommended Convention Center expansion but there is not a financing plan. CCDC upcoming events: 9/19 free movie Field of Dreams at Park in the Park; 10/1 CCDC coffee at Horton Plaza. Left copies of Economic Gain from Redevelopment statistics.

Jerry Ray: Reported that her calls to Pedro Anaya at CDC had not been returned. She has paid more than her annual MAD fee to have damages to her parkway repaired. Reported that Urban Corps had only reluctantly done sweeping in front of her property. Caffey recommended that she call Alex Ibarra, the MAD program manager.

Tershia D’Elgin: Proposed Closure of George Washington Post Office: Urged GGHPC to apply pressure to keep the Post Office open and to extend the period for public comment due to the late notice of proposed closure given in English only. She noted that the building is deteriorating and there seems to be a push to combine with newer facility in Encanto. She was told that the Post Office was looking into opening a storefront facility in the neighborhood. Bernal reported that Council members Gloria and Hueso had both written to Davis office, protesting the closure. Fortner is going to find out what are the most effective place and method of delivering comments on the issue. She believes contacting local offices of federal officials would be best. Ruffell asked what service does the PO give that cannot be gotten elsewhere. Examples given: Post Office boxes, since many residents feel that home delivery is not secure; community aspect of seeing and meeting people when at PO.

Catherine McNeil: Requested that GGHPC send a letter regarding 2900 E Street. Landowner is putting in a retaining wall (possibly stepped up 8 ft. or one 30 ft.) and has already allowed graffiti murals in the area. Feels the City did not completely disclose the scope of the project when it was proposed and approved.


Chairs Report/Mail. Nothing to report.

Clean, Green and Safe (MAD) Oversight Committee. D. Skillman reported that a hearing before a judge is scheduled on 9/18 for the lawsuits pending about the MAD.

Demolition Policies on Golden Hill: Janet O’Dea: O’Dea is vice chair of the Uptown Planners. Issues: Remodel or demolition permits for homes over 45 years old must be subjected to historical review by City Staff and must be noticed to local planning committees. People are doing more than their permit indicates, or doing demolitions without permits. Sometimes false consultant reports are filed making it appear that the home has no historic relevance. Uptown Planners wrote a memo (copy at end of these minutes) listing the issues in detail, and possible solutions. The idea will be discussed at City Council Land Use and Housing Committee on “History Day” on 9/23. They would like GGHPC to endorse the memo. Discussion: D. Skillman asked for clarification of the current 45 yr process. O’Dea: Remodel or demolition permits for homes over 45 years old must be subjected to historical review by City Staff and must be noticed to local planning committees. Caldwell: Is this hoping to create an automatic trigger point? O’Dea: Preliminary Review can bypass the review process. Glazebrook: Preliminary Review is a City process issue, not statutory. Our endorsement should reflect that statutory process is not being followed, not that there is a regulatory issue. Burke: is this a problem in our neighborhood? Turgeon: are these people circumventing the system at DSD and Historic Review? O’Dea: YES. Margolis: Is there a penalty for work outside the scope of permits being done? O’Dea: so far, NO. Margolis: Could there be a requirement for scope of permit to be posted at site so public can patrol? Caldwell: City of Carlsbad has such a requirement. D. Skillman: hopes GGHPC gets behind this. Burgett: What are the next steps? O’Dea: City staff report will come out 9/16; hopefully it will include some of these ideas. Requests that GGHPC review and support the memo. An Action Item will be placed on next month’s agenda. M. Skillman will locate and email O’Dea’s proposed response to committee members in advance of that meeting.

Land Use:

#189080 - 1159 24th Street Map Waiver. Representative appeared as information only. Discussion: background on standard comments on condominium conversions.

2693 C Street: no one appeared at Land Use meeting. A demolition permit was applied for on 8/27.


Community Plan Update Advisory Committee (CPUAC) Bernie Turgeon:

A lottery was held at 6:15 pm for the Non Resident Property Owner seat on the CPUAC. Beri Varol was selected. After some discussion, the committee approved amending the Selection Criteria by changing the At Large Business seat to a second Non Resident Property Owner. (motion Glazebrook, second Burke, all in favor). Applicant Jon Stamatopoulos is qualified to fill that seat. M. Skillman will fill the Historic seat. Outreach for a qualified applicant for the remaining Business seat is to continue until the next meeting on 10/14. Burgett questioned why some of the original non-member applicants were not listed on the latest reports. Turgeon said his staff had sent an email and then a follow-up email asking all original applicants to complete the revised application form (with categories). Those one the current list are the ones who complied with the request. Turgeon agreed to try one more contact with those who did not respond. Since none of the 3 communities that will be working together on the Update (GGH, North Park, Uptown) have their CPUAC in place, the kickoff will be delayed until the end of October.


Membership and Elections, Historic: Vasconcellos was absent.

Transportation: nothing to report

Airport Noise: did not meet last month

Balboa Park: did not meet last month

Meeting adjourned at 8:05 pm. (motion Blatt, second D. Skillman, all in favor)


Land Use and Housing Demolition Policy Concerns

& Proposed Solutions

Recently, there has been considerable effort by City Staff and neighborhood groups to support historic review of applicant projects in the older areas of San Diego. The most successful results of the process have been with applicants who are working in good faith. However, lax enforcement and some processes that obscure public involvement have pointed to a variety of process issues. The results have been shocking because those who seemingly intend to bypass the system or use political influence to bend the rules in favor of their own interests and are granted demolition permits. Examples of abuses in the system continue and much can be achieved by correcting deficiencies in these systems through often-simple process changes, by adjusting regulations and adjusting policies. When the system supports more transparency it seems that it will be easier to identify those who do not intend to comply to regulations before there is actual demolition.

Results of the changes to the current codes, regulations and policies would have the overall positives effects:

  • Preserving San Diego’s historic architecture and cultural heritage
  • Providing applicants a clear path to navigate the process
  • Decreasing landfill waste and discarding quality materials such as old growth lumber
  • Enable more cost effective reinvestment into the established communities and maintaining the rhythm and scale of the streetscape, which invites aesthetic upgrades and staves off blight.
  • Complying with CEQA and reducing the city’s liability exposure.

Specific actions that Land Use & Housing can take to address the issues concerning demolitions are listed as proposed solutions in the below table.

Open Issues


Proposed Solutions


Communication with Stakeholders


  1. Community Member/Stakeholders are not given timely or accurate notice of pending demolition permits, which inhibits action at the time an actual permit is issued.

  1. Community Stakeholders have trouble verifying when permitted work or unpermitted work is being done and often only have access to information after the fact. Permits are not on buildings and building addresses are not required to be visible during construction/demolition

  1. Permits are issued for properties but notices are delayed and verification is difficult.

  1. Permit notices are inconsistent and don’t provide the planning area or current zoning. Also permits don’t list all of the properties involved in the project. Demolition permits don’t provide information connecting it to current or future projects.

  1. The Code Monitoring Team and the Technical Advisory Team have not undertaken these issues. Yet un-permitted work goes on all of the time and is pervasive in our older communities. The unpermitted work eliminates the ability for the process to work as it was intended and ultimately affects our quality of life.

· Provide on-line notices of pending and issued permits in real time, or delay granting the applicants permit until the actual notice is published and available to the public.

· An option immediately available for implementation is to process demolitions and upcoming controversial projects or those sites with buildings 45 years or older through the community-planning groups since they may be in a better position to understand the cumulative impacts.

· Require permit notices and addresses to be posted and visible on any construction/demolition site.

· Permits provide consistent information regarding all of the addresses/parcels involved in the application, the planning area and zoning information on the permit notice.

· Put forward language for these proposals to coincide with the next Land Development Manual “LDM”) or Code or otherwise request staff to make policy and regulation changes effective immediately. Additionally, include community member oversight of the legislative process and changes in the LDM or LDC as they affect demolition policies and historic preservation.

Results: Opens up the process to the stakeholders in the community and makes the process more transparent. Also makes code enforcement easier.


Legal Issues


A. The City’s process of taking permit applications out of the Ministerial process to review it for the 45-Year analysis should in and of itself require it to be moved into a Discretionary process. Ministerial projects are for straightforward projects that don’t require intervention/evaluation by staff. Once pulled out of the Ministerial track the project is inherently Discretionary. The city does not abide by this and routinely pulls and reinserts applications returning them back on the Ministerial track. This opens the city to unnecessary liability.

B. Buildings must be considered historic under CEQA if there is a fair argument that they are eligible for the California register even if they are not already designated. If there is simply a fair argument that the structure is eligible the impacts must be assessed and an environmental document is required. Also the current and foreseeable new project needs analysis because of the cumulative impacts. Demolitions are granted for historic buildings when a fair argument has been made but the CEQA analysis is not provided for both the proposed new project/demolition. Therefore demolitions occur without full and complete analysis or mitigation.

Effects: These practices allow for substantial loss of historic buildings in our established communities and may put the City in a position of liability exposure.

· Request an evaluation and opinion from the City Attorney on current practices for project applications that are presented as Ministerial but require extra handling during processing. Including how the current handling of applications conforms/does not conform with CEQA and the LDC, and practical recommendations in processing applications to reduce liability.

· Arrange SOHO and City Attorney co-sponsored training for DSD Staff on interpretation of CEQA law.

· Adhere to the environmental review and analysis required by CEQA when buildings are over 45 years old and analyze the foreseeable future projects cumulative impacts when stakeholders, consultants and/or City Staff raise concerns about historical resources (CEQA fair argument). Compliance with CEQA is not optional.

· When a disagreement occurs pertaining to the historic status of a building between staff and/or community stakeholders this triggers the fair argument standard of CEQA and the application should then follow a Discretionary process.

· Provide a database system to ensure that cumulative impacts are properly monitored including air quality, water quality and waste.

Results: Enforcement of the CEQA, laws and regulations, increased staff and community input. Analysis of potential environmental impacts and alternatives and mitigation to the community through the process or by review of environmental documents (NMD, ND or EIR) when necessary.


Community Plan Historic Surveys and EIR

A. It is widely accepted that a reconnaissance windshield survey cannot reveal all of the character defining features or historic references related to a given property. The change in the 45-year review process is an example of what can be found while looking at properties more closely. In 2006, the draft Uptown Survey was submitted but not adopted. Concerns were raised at that time because of the potential elimination of further investigation on over half of the properties in Uptown. City Staff now plans to adhere to the State status codes and is working towards adoption of new Surveys in preparation of Community Plan Updates.

The older communities become vulnerable if a more in-depth analysis for the oldest properties in our established San Diego communities is not required before demolition permits are issued.

B. An EIR was not conducted before adoption of the General Plan but must be done as part of the Community Plan updates for North Park, Golden Hill and Uptown because these affect some of our oldest communities.

Not all properties can be given intensive study but further investigation should be warranted for the oldest properties, as has been the case citywide with the current 45-year process.

· City staff should require more intense investigation such as when properties are 65 years or older after reconnaissance surveys are adopted.

· Make survey data available on-line within City departments and to the public.

· EIRs should be conducted during the Community Plan updates.

Results: Research of the oldest resources in San Diego’s older communities relate to the historic context of the community and contribute to the story of San Diego’s history. These older properties should be given more in-depth analysis before demolition permits are issued.

An EIR for each community plan update will include alternatives and mitigation as part of the discussion and offer opportunities for substantive dialogue and consideration pertaining to the quality of life factors in our communities.


Permit Process Aberrations

A. The Preliminary Review process bypasses the 45-year review (a 10 day review by the community) that also results in issuance of demolition permits. It is a loophole that results in land use decisions without adequate analysis or review. This process was used issuing one permit to demolish six houses on Centre Street and the resulting development of the site should not be Ministerial bypassing community input but because its scope should have triggered a CEQA review and Discretionary process.

B. When inadequate research is presented by the applicant and there is not enough time for a community response then bad decisions are made simply because the time is up. Once the resource is demolished, the report, if inaccurate, is the only documentation left behind and it does not adequately represent the history or legacy.

C. Those who profit from demolishing historic properties pay consultants who leave out facts or misinterpret analysis with apparent intent to bypass CEQA.

D. Demolition by neglect is accepted as a persuasive argument to demolish historic buildings instead of promoting adaptive reuse.

Effects: Demolition of historic properties and changes to the historic context of our communities and the Preliminary Review process sidesteps the 45 year review and other community input processes. Often investors neglect or don’t maintain the building or property to attempt to make a case that the building is not significant because they have not kept it up. Paid consultants with an agenda to suit their clients submit inadequate, and biased reports pertaining to applicants’ projects and cause a loss of confidence and integrity in the process because there is little City supervision or adjustment to mitigate the faulty or inadequate reports. Permits processed for the sake of a bonus instead of quality of the review perpetuates these problems and leads to unjustified demolition of historic properties.

· Review of all demolition permits by staff meeting the Secretary of Interior Standards qualifications.

· Preliminary Review should not bypass securing community input so instead it should be part of the Community Planning Group meeting process.

· Abide by CEQA and provide a mechanism to take projects out of the Ministerial or Preliminary Review process when they require more community input– Such as potentially historic properties, controversial projects or large projects such as the application to demolish six old houses on Centre Street.

· City staff should provide better oversight of historic reports including reference and data checking with conclusions based on evidence or supportive documentation.

· Provide community members and City Staff with a feedback mechanism to remove consultants from the city’s consultant list when reports repeatedly leave out facts or conclusions are unjustified.

· When consultant reports leave out facts or conclusions are unjustified consider community input under CEQA fair argument standards and require environmental documents as the next step, before any demolition permits are issued.

· Promote adaptive reuse and enforce code compliance issues since it encourages improving communities.

Results: Reduce rushed demolitions of properties that are historic in nature, less vacant lots and reduced losses of the historic integrity of the community. Beautify and improve the built environment. Improve integrity of the historic review process. Also provide incentives for quality historic research reports by enabling City Staff to raise the standards for submitted reports which may be the only documentation pertaining to the resource. Enforces CEQA and codes while protecting historic assets from reckless demolitions



CEQA and Mitigation for Non-Compliance

  1. Permits are issued after demolition takes effect.

  1. Demolition permits are separated from the foreseeable project and there is no analysis of the cumulative impacts.

  1. Simple permits are issued but are not relevant to the work being completed. (Permit for a water heater does not pertain to siding being removed/installed).

  1. Penalties are too low to discourage un-permitted demolitions.

  1. Errors in processing applications by staff or mis-information by applicants resulting in demolition of significant properties.


Cumulative impacts are not addressed and are out of CEQA compliance

· Projects including demolitions on a particular site should not be partitioned. Thus permits for a demolition would not be issued as a bureaucratic process but in context with the proposed new project, zoning, site, planning area and all affected parcels.

· Posted addresses and permits during notice and all phases of construction will help inspectors and community members verify the work that is being done matches the issued permit.

· DSD should maintain and make a database available to the public that shows the cumulative impacts related to built, planned and future projects (per zoning) for better analysis as projects come forward.

· Substantially increasing enforcement and meaningful fines are in the work plan and need to be completed. A substantial and punitive interim penalty should be established until all the details of the fine in the work plan are fully approved.

Results: Projects include the plan for the demolition so that it can be viewed thoughtfully and comprehensively in accordance with CEQA analysis of the whole record. Fines will deter those who wish to circumvent the system and could provide mitigation to the community by funding other preservation projects. Issues with projects would be discovered earlier when enforcement actions are more meaningful.


Other Policy Issues and Impacts to Older Undesignated Structures

  1. Remodels and demolitions differ and need to be permitted differently. Demolitions disguised as remodels cheat the community out of input as well as review of parking requirements. Coastal Commission requirements are clear and could be the model for city codes.

  1. Applicants obtain legitimate permits for a minor item or partial permit but exceed and cheat the permit resulting in major demolition/losses. (i.e. kitchen remodel permit results in tear down)

  1. Zoning creates pressure on commercial historic resources in high-density zones and Conservation Areas need to be implemented. There is currently no mechanism to do so.

  1. Ministerial projects bypass the goals set out in the community plan and erode the unique character of San Diego communities over time.

  1. Spot planning by frequent community plan amendments undermines the community planning process.

· Revise the definition of a remodel so it is limited to 25% or less of the building and include language in requirements effecting remodels mirror the provisions enforced by the Coastal Commission.

· An ongoing inspection at various thresholds to ensure that demolition of existing resources is not excessive.

· Issue fines and provide mitigation measures for projects that exceed permitted actions.

· LDC & Procedures for Design Guidelines is missing from General Plan Actions – Implementation of Conservation Areas need to be established for older areas now because they are undergoing plan updates.

· Ministerial projects need to show conformance and be subject to the Community Plan.

· Limit the number of introductions/adoptions of Community Plan updates each year.

Results: The public would be clear on the project permitted when remodels and demolitions are clearly distinct. Conservation Areas with complementary zoning that recognizes the benefits of historic commercial areas reduces pressure to radically alter the established character of these areas.

Ministerial projects that adhere to the community plan will appear complementary to the established streetscape.

Thank you for taking the time to address these topics. In order to make these proposals actionable we request that a motion is made to support proposals as presented including changes to the land development code, regulations and policies.