No wonder they went after the bike tracks

City bureaucrats work on Pt. Loma opponents of low-income housing

The proposed housing site, where local youth come to ride their bikes, abuts the Park Point Loma townhomes (background)
  • The proposed housing site, where local youth come to ride their bikes, abuts the Park Point Loma townhomes (background)

A crowd of Point Loma residents gathered at Hervey Library on Thursday evening (June 14), offering vociferous opposition to a proposal that would place 83 units of low-income housing on a vacant city-owned parcel at the intersection of Nimitz and Famosa Boulevards.

A nearby affordable development at 4095 Valeta, where a neighbor complained that "the most prominent architectural feature is the dumpster"

A nearby affordable development at 4095 Valeta, where a neighbor complained that "the most prominent architectural feature is the dumpster"

The five-acre parcel in question, originally part of a large land grant from real estate developer David Collier intended for public park space, was transferred to the San Diego Housing Commission in 1982 with the intended purpose of expanding the city's portfolio of affordable housing.

June 14 meeting at Hervey Library

June 14 meeting at Hervey Library

For years, the land has sat mostly dormant, the last remaining undeveloped slice of Collier's original gift that now comprises three community parks, a middle school, a Seventh-day Adventist church, a YMCA branch, and numerous privately-held apartment units. Locals have long used the space as an area to exercise their dogs, and area youth for decades (full disclosure: including this author in the late 1990s) have fashioned bicycle tracks out of the lot's loamy soil.

Last June, the Peninsula Community Planning Board approved a letter to city councilmember Lorie Zapf's office encouraging the development of affordable housing for the area's workforce, specifically mentioning the Famosa site as a focus for development.

Responding to the invitation, the Housing Commission began to explore the site's development potential. Locals soon took notice, spurred first by an attempt to destroy the latest incarnation of bike trails as part of a feasibility study exploring the site's development potential.

After a standing-room-only crowd opposing the project effectively derailed a planning board meeting in May, citing objections including a lack of nearby open space and worsening traffic along an already-busy Nimitz Boulevard, a special meeting was scheduled with the stated goal of hosting a community workshop to solicit opinions on development options for the site.

"I'd really just like to put the brakes on this project now, and allow the community to come together and unify behind something great for the Famosa open space," opined Cameron, the first of dozens of local residents to speak in what would become a two-hour public comment session of nearly-unanimous opposition to any plan to build on the site. " We all know we don't have a lot of open space left on the peninsula, and we've got to come together to protect what we have."

Housing Commission representative Mike Pavco began by explaining the concept of "low income" housing, a term which technically refers to a family of four making as much as $77,000 annually — the looser "affordable" housing definition covers units that a family with a $115,000 income (80% and 120% of the region's median income, respectively) could qualify for. He went on to highlight several newer developments Commission partners have built to blend into upscale areas such as Scripps Ranch or Carmel Valley.

The crowd, including a significant number of homeowners in the Park Point Loma and Sea Colony townhome complexes adjacent to the site, wasted no time in making clear they weren't interested in any affordable housing for families, though a few conceded that a senior living facility might be acceptable. Objections included fears of declining home values and poor maintenance following construction in addition to the traffic and open space concerns addressed previously.

"You're making things look beautiful in your presentation," boardmember Margaret Virissimo told Pavco, "but the low-income housing I've seen are run down, they look like homeless encampments. People who can't afford the rent can't afford to keep up their gardens, their balconies — over time it gets let go."

Others were more blunt in expressing their opinion of low-income tenants.

"There are certain things I can't say because of the law, what I do and what I represent, but I can tell you from experience that there are going to be a lot of problems coming from low-income housing," said Ken Strickland, who identified himself as a sheriff's deputy. "I'm all for trying to give somebody a place to live, but we chose our place to live here to be secure, to not have any problems.

"Park Point Loma is a nice family place."

Residents expressed repeated frustration with Pavco and Commission general counsel Chuck Christensen's inability to discuss specifics as to what they planned for the site. The pair frequently reminded the audience that no site plan would be developed until a host of feasibility studies were completed.

Commission representatives say that once they finish their studies a planning phase, including a public comment period, will take between 18 and 24 months before any construction begins. In the meantime, the planning board is considering rescinding their recommendation to build on the site, language several members said was inserted by Zapf's office after the letter endorsing affordable housing was drafted and before it was signed by former board chair Jon Linney.

As the crowd dwindled near the meeting's close, boardmember David Dick offered one of the few comments indicating an openness to accepting affordable housing development.

"I think that our responsibility, in addition to preserving our community, is that we have to recognize reality. And the reality is that people are going to move here, those people are going to have children, and those children are going to want to stay here if they can. Everyone needs a place to live. We can't bury our heads in the sand and pretend that's not going to happen."

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Sounds familiar....David Dick grew up in Point Loma, and according to public records, owns a massive 4200 sqft home just a few blocks from the High School. There is NO CHANCE WHATSOEVER of any low income housing being built nextdoor to his house. Is there, Mr. Dick?

Dick was actually more receptive than most to the idea of cooperating with the Housing Commission, asking its representatives to arrange a tour of other affordable developments in upscale areas to gauge how they fit with the community.

That said, he was among others also open to rescinding the board's recommendation letter, as many seem to have been caught off guard by the specific site recommendation.

Just what the hell is "affordable housing"? Are we talking about Section 8 housing? Or an apartment building that charges a couple hundred dollars less than market rate for "low income" residents? I have no idea where all the retail, restaurant and hotel people live. They all can't live in TJ or with their parents. Two people living together making minimum wage can not afford to live in San Diego.

"affordable" is in the eye ( and pocket book) of the developers. the bar is constantly being raised depending on what incentives are offered ($$)

"Low-income" housing is that which would eat 30% of the annual pay of a family earning 80% of the area's median income - for a family of four, that's $77,850, or about $1950/mo for rent.

"Affordable" housing includes anything under 120% of area median - for the same family of four that's $116,775, with a corresponding monthly rental budget of $2920.

Thank you. Proof that there is nothing affordable about affordable housing. Where do those who work in the Walmart economy live? Slums are created by slumlords renting apartments to multiple people.

Some "low-income" housing IS affordable." An example (it's fully rented, of course) is Atmosphere at 4th & Beech downtown. Rents are $500 (studio) to $1,215. SD needs at least 20 more buildings like it.

It would be a dream for many of us to only have to spend 30% of our income on housing.

Mr. Collier sure has been disrespected after his generosity to his community. They stole the name of the middle school named after him, and now, this land he specifically left to be open space or a park is being stolen by the city to bring in tax revenue.

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