Beachgoers used their feet to spell out ‘Love’ in the sand on No Surf beach at Sunset Cliffs before the beaches were closed by the City in April. THOMAS MELVILLE/PENINSULA BEACON
It was a hardscrabble year in 2020 as residents and businesses struggled to hold their own during the pandemic, finding ways to adapt to a constantly shifting business landscape where uncertainty ruled
Turning the corner in 2021, with an approved outlook as the first COVID vaccines were being distributed, the Peninsula Beacon takes a long look back at the unprecedented, unforgettable year that was in 2020.
Baseball legend and Point Loma High alumnus Don Larsen, 90, who threw a perfect game in 1956 with the New York Yankees taking only 97 pitches to complete the feat for the only World Series-history no-hitter, died New Year’s Day.
Plans by 828 Venue Management to turn the 8,777-square-foot North Chapel property in Liberty Station into an event center continued to run into stiff opposition from Point Lomans objecting to the historic Naval Training Center chapel built in 1942 being repurposed for uses other than worship. “We want to create a more inclusive space that’ll give more people the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of this historic building,” said Tim Wirick, 828’s CEO, “We simply want them to abide by the historical guidelines on the federal registry, which say, ‘You may not touch the interior (of the building),’” argued Ron Slayen, a former Liberty Station Arts District tenant leading the opposition to the chapel’s repurposing.
Legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom that took effect in 2020 addressed everything from the minimum wage to taxes on diapers and gun violence. Rent increases were limited to 5 percent per year plus inflation and never more than 10 percent total. The hourly minimum wage increased from $12 to $13. Diapers became tax-free. California became the first state to offer Medicaid coverage for low-income adults 19 to 25 years old regardless of immigration status under SB 104. Anyone prohibited from buying a firearm in another state was no longer allowed to purchase a firearm in California.
The Peninsula Family YMCA serving the Point Loma and surrounding areas for nearly 50 years was renamed the T. Claude and Gladys B. Ryan Family YMCA (affectionately referred to as the Ryan Family YMCA).
The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority Board certified the final environmental impact report for the Airport Development Plan, which envisions replacement of the 53-year-old Terminal 1 at San Diego International Airport. The Airport Development Plan would also include numerous roadway and transportation improvements enhancing airport access. A proposed on-airport entry road would remove an estimated 45,000 cars per day from Harbor Drive. Critics argued the project was much more than needed.
The volunteer street steward program, begun in Ocean Beach, spread out to include Pacific Beach and Point Loma. The program was started by Obecian Aaron Null who created a Facebook page asking residents to fill the gaps in beautifying OB by adopting a street/block to clean every week.
Management at Liberty Station’s historic golf venue The Loma Club changed hands, with new operators Laura Johnson and Luke Mahoney, co-founders of East Village’s You & Yours Distilling Co., replacing Good Time Design, which had operated the course since 2014. No immediate changes were made to the iconic Liberty Station nine-hole walking course and clubhouse.
Later starting times for local high schools gave growing teens more critical sleep time but created some new problems for athletic programs. Senate Bill 328 was signed into law mandating start times no earlier than 8:30 a.m. (high school) and 8 a.m. (middle schools). But that posed a definite problem for 800 students participating in athletic programs at Point Loma High School, which was already hard-pressed finding space and time for teams to fit in needed practice hours.
North Chapel Supported
In January, the Peninsula Community Planning Board voted to oppose altering the interior of North Chapel in Liberty Station to repurpose it as an event venue. Referring to the chapel as a “shrine,” PCPB board member David Dick noted chapel operators were asking for changes that he contended may violate terms of repurposing a historical building, as well as being unpalatable to some Peninsulans.
Peninsula Community Planning Board chair Robert Goldyn, and vice-chairman Scott Deschenes, resigned from the group citing ongoing dissension among the board’s 15 members over hot-button issues such as affordable housing proposed for Famosa Canyon versus leaving it as open/park space.
During its annual awards dinner on Jan. 23, Ocean Beach MainStreet Association was surprised by a $10,000 donation from entrepreneur Steve Yeng. Each year the OBMA committees award individuals and businesses for their contributions to public improvements, public safety, design, promotion, revitalization, and expansion within the community. “We are thrilled, to say the least,” said OBMA executive director Denny Knox of Yeng’s contribution. “Steve has always given generously to this community’s schools and various local organizations.”
OB Library Expansion
Years in the making and spearheaded by Friends of the Ocean Beach Library along with the support of District 2 Councilmember Dr. Jen Campbell, plans and fundraising were finally underway for Ocean Beach Library’s expansion. “We feel that concrete progress is being made,” said Friends’ Expansion Committee in a joint release. “The expansion will be from the existing historical part of the library onto the adjacent property next door at 4817 Santa Monica Ave.”
Sports Arena RFP
The City issued a request for proposals from qualified firms and interested parties to redevelop, rehabilitate, operate, maintain and manage a 48-acre site comprised of six contiguous parcels of land, commonly known as the Sports Arena. Being sought for the aging sports center was extensive revitalization turning it into a leading commercial center with diverse retail and affordable housing opportunities.
Point Loma Hervey Library was among three City libraries refitted to achieve zero net energy-generating as much renewable energy onsite as they use annually. California law now calls for 50% of existing commercial buildings to be retrofitted to ZNE by 2030. “As one of the first City buildings to be converted to ZNE, we’re excited to be a model for sustainability and the move toward 100% renewable energy,” said Christine Gonzalez, library branch manager.
Forward-thinking Ocean Beach MainStreet Association’s annual breakfast Feb. 4 focused on promoting successful marketing strategies with a “Vision 2020” theme. “It was a fun and informative event,” noted OBMA executive director Denny Knox. “It dealt with all the platforms where people derive their information and disseminate their marketing efforts.”
Pizzerias serving up every imaginable style of pie from New York-style thin to Chicago-inspired deep-dish were profiled by the Beacon. Featured eateries included Mr. Moto, Ulivo, Pizza Port, Newport Pizza & Ale House, Officine Buona Forchetta, Landini’s, Alfredo’s, and Old Venice.
Sports Complex Dedicated
After a lengthy delay, the Correia Middle School Sports Complex was finally substantially completed. The field was dedicated Feb. 15 with the introduction of 2020 teams along with a second alumni game. Also on hand was the Peckham family who donated the previous on-campus softball field, as well as people who played a role in the vision and construction of the new field.
Airport Expansion Vetted
In February, the Peninsula Community Planning Board debated the environmental impacts of San Diego International Airport’s Terminal 1 expansion. PCPB board member Fred Kosmo on a PCPB airport committee said Terminal 1’s expansion “will lead to 38% more flights over Point Loma and environs in the next five years, adding to a significant amount of increased noise and pollution negatively impacting the quality of people’s lives and their health.” Kosmo noted a lawsuit has been filed by an ad hoc group of community activists, known as Quiet Skies San Diego, challenging the adequacy of environmental documents out for a public review on the airport’s planned terminal expansion.
Longtime Obecian Betty Morse turned 100 on Feb. 20. As part of the birthday occasion, Mayor Kevin Faulconer dropped by with a special gift and proclaimed the date as “Betty Morse Day” in the City of San Diego. The mayor was joined by over a dozen members of Betty’s family and friends.
Local youth unveiled original artwork in San Diego International Airport’s Terminal 2. The new artwork was part of the Design AHEAD program, in which about 75 students from three different San Diego-based educational institutions participated. Student conceptual projects ranged from inventive monument signs welcoming travelers to SAN to imaginative architectural models for a new terminal.
The Point Loma High Girls Basketball Team celebrated its Div. IV CIF championship victory after a thrilling 56-55 overtime win against Madison High.
Ballot Height Limit
Councilmember Dr. Jen Campbell and colleague Chris Cate advocated for a November election ballot initiative to remove the Midway District and Pechanga Arena area from the 30-foot coastal height limit building restriction. That voter-sanctioned limit had been in effect north of downtown and west of Interstate 5 in the Midway, Pacific Highway, and sports arena communities since 1972. In a memo, both council members argued maintaining Midway’s 30-foot height-limit would impede ongoing plans to redevelop the city-owned former sports arena complex, built in 1966.
Both the City and County of San Diego were moving to ultimately ban the use of weed-killers suspected of causing cancer in public parks in favor of using safer, organic alternatives. A case in point is glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Monsanto’s popular weed killer Roundup, which has been linked to liver disease in animals. In a February memo, City Parks and Recreation director Andrew Field announced a 150-day phase-out that began Sept. 1, 2019, was in effect in the parks department for use of Roundup and other glyphosate-based materials in all park locations, including Liberty Station.
San Diego Psychiatric Hospital in the Midway District became the first such institution in the County to co-locate mental-health and substance-abuse treatment, bucking standard industry trends. “We are taking bold action and changing how we operate to ensure better outcomes for the patients who visit our psychiatric hospital,” said County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. “By taking the unprecedented step of co-locating mental health and substance abuse treatment, we are better equipped to provide vital services to a hard-to-reach group, many of whom are experiencing chronic homelessness.”
Kaiserhof in Ocean Beach got a Food Network makeover, with a grand re-opening of the high-profile German restaurant on March 18. The makeover was done by “Restaurant: Impossible” hosted by chef Robert Irvine. “We are filming an episode at Kaiserhof in San Diego on March 17-18,” said “Restaurant: Impossible” producer Allyson Kircher. “One of the special aspects of our show is community involvement. We have written two press releases (two different scenes) inviting the local community to be a part of the episode.”
The NTC Foundation announced the second round of Arts District Collaborative Grants designed to encourage collaboration among the district’s 93 resident arts and culture groups. A total of $20,000 was awarded to four new projects to advance the work of the groups, engage the community, and continue the transformation of the historic 100-acre former Naval Training Center into a thriving arts and culture destination for the region.
The National Park Service planned to improve the Ballast View Rest Area, a site near the Visitor Center at Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma. The Rest Area provides views of Ballast Point, where Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo's expedition dropped anchor in 1542, becoming the first European expedition to sail to what is now California. This project will provide expanded accessibility for all people to the Rest Area and create an enhanced space for interpretive programs and demonstrations.
On March 23 Mayor Faulconer was joined by Police Chief David Nisleit, Fire-Rescue Chief Colin Stowell, and Lifeguard Division Chief James Gartland to announce the closure of City-run parks, beaches, trails, boardwalks, and bays to further limit public gatherings and slow the spread of the COVID pandemic.
“Open houses are going virtual because we’re not allowed to have an open house,” said Ocean Beach Realtor Catrina Russell. “So you’re going to be seeing different open-house virtual tours where people can actually log in, and we can walk them through the entire house answering questions.” Point Loma’s Rosamaria Acuna of Berkshire Hathaway, said her top priority was to “educate clients on what’s happening and how everyone involved needs to be safe. We give the buyers all the information up-front with photos, emails, and everything online before scheduling an appointment."
The Street Stewards, who were doing community beautification in Ocean and Pacific beaches, Point Loma and University City, were re-purposed during the pandemic crisis to aid homebound seniors. “Many of our neighbors are at-risk for coronavirus and must self-isolate at home, specifically seniors and immunocompromised individuals,” said Aaron Null, founder of the volunteer, nonprofit. “It's vitally important we check in on them to make sure their basic needs are getting met during this pandemic.”
On April 20 the City reopened some neighborhood and community parks the next day for passive individual use only. On April 21, residents ventured out to the open parks to enjoy the sunny-and-70 weather after being cooped up for a month. On the first day of a reopened Sunset Cliffs, where parking lots were still closed, hundreds of people walked, ran, and strolled the linear park.
In April, Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group unanimously endorsed a proposal from City Council members Dr. Jennifer Campbell and Chris Cate to place the eradication of the 30-foot height requirement for the Midway District and Pechanga Arena San Diego on the November general election ballot.
It started as a pact among seven Point Loma High School skateboarding enthusiasts: They were going to produce their own signature board. A generation later, it finally came to fruition. Josh Utley, an Ocean Beach web designer, graphic artist, and entrepreneur, teamed with high school chum Nick Coleman to release a model skateboard deck with custom artwork by renowned artist Steve Nazar.
Obecian A. Lee Brown, a retired professor emeritus, added something new to his portfolio: A World War II-era fictional novel titled “The Varsity: America’s Underage Warriors, from End Zones to Kill Zones During World War II.” “It’s such an outstanding story what all these kids went through and the travails they faced, even after they came home,” said Brown. “It was just a story that needed to be told.”
Motocross champion and Point Loma High School alumnus Marty Smith, 63, and his wife Nancy died in a rollover dune buggy accident in the Glamis sand dunes in Imperial County on April 27.
Bioluminescent waves washed the quarantine blues away in Ocean Beach. Bioluminescence expert Michael Latz of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego said the April red tide was due to aggregations of the dinoflagellate Lingulodinium polyedra, giving the ocean a reddish-brown tinge. On sunny days, the organisms swim toward the surface where they concentrate, resulting in the intensified “ red tide” water coloration. At night, when the phytoplankton are agitated by waves or other water movements, they emit a dazzling neon blue glow.
After reopening COVID-closed Sunset Cliffs Natural Park on April 27, neighbors claimed the park had become unmanageable and called upon the City to close the state park down and block access to it at night. “It has now been about 10 days since the city opened up Sunset Cliffs Natural Park for walking,” said neighbor Glen Volk. “Since then we. have seen enormous crowds that have never ever been seen here before. Please consider making an emergency order to temporarily close the Sunset Cliffs area after dark or place a curfew on the area.”
Husband-and-wife team Mary and Bobby Cooper, who opened Lucy’s on the corner of the crossroads at 4906 Voltaire St. in 1994, sold the tavern to local industry investors Todd Brown, Sean Green, Patrick Gallahue, and Ryan Dhu. The new owners were connected to Good Time Design (The Blind Burro, Moonshine Flats) restaurant group. The Coopers have since retired and moved to Las Vegas.
Covid-19 pressured healthcare workers like nurses, who continually engaged patients individually in hospitals and out in the field. The Peninsula Beacon caught up with four of them for a Q&A discussing how the battle on the frontlines against the pandemic was going. The impact on nurses was far-ranging -- from little or no impact to a great deal – and suddenly.
The 41st annual OB Street Fair & Chili Cook-Off, originally scheduled for June 27, was postponed until Saturday, June 26, 2021. “We had to make the call,” said Denny Knox, executive director of Ocean Beach MainStreet Association which sponsors the event. “We just couldn’t commit to signing a contract. The risk was too great.”
Life in the changed lane due to the pandemic made for some unusual choices, like with 2020 senior graduation at Point Loma High School. Pointers’ student body spoke out. “Based on consultations with the student body, we do not want a virtual graduation, so a lot of work has gone into alternative options to avoid that,” said Ila Jade Komasa, ASB president at PLHS. “We are not currently planning a virtual graduation.”
Principal Hans Becker left to accept a new position as principal of Rancho Bernardo High School in the Poway Unified School District, setting in motion a search for his replacement.
Reacting to Sunset Cliffs’ residents' continued complaints about increasingly large and unruly crowds leaving garbage, noise, and traffic behind, District 2 Councilmember Dr. Jennifer Campbell called for considering temporarily closing the park. “Since our parks and beaches have been opened San Diegans have, for the most part, done an excellent job following public health orders while returning to public spaces for passive use,” said Campbell. “Unfortunately, this has not been the case in Sunset Cliffs Natural Park or in the greater Sunset Cliffs community.”
Kobey’s Swap Meet, operating out of the parking lot of Pechanga Arena San Diego on Sports Arena Boulevard since 1980, reopened May 29-31 after being closed several weeks during the pandemic.
Following ongoing dialogue between City officials and community leaders, Mayor Faulconer was joined on June 1 by City Council President Georgette Gómez, Councilmember Monica Montgomery, Police Chief David Nisleit, and community leaders to announce the San Diego Police Department would stop using a carotid restraint as a use-of-force procedure effective immediately.
Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group vetted a large-scale proposed multi-family redo of Mariners Cove Apartments at 4392 W. Point Loma Blvd. “We want to take that complex with ’80s construction and build a brand new community increasing market-rate affordable housing stock in San Diego. The goal is to create a community that’s respectful to the OB and Midway community plans,” said Patti Shwayder of developer AIMCO.
As part of the Port of San Diego’s continued efforts to keep San Diego Bay a treasured destination, the Port will be replenishing sand at Kellogg Beach. Located along the southwestern shoreline of the Shelter Island Yacht Basin in the Point Loma area of northern San Diego Bay, approximately 2,000 cubic yards of natural sand were added to the beach. Replenishing the sand will enhance the experience for visitors and help protect the coastline from high levels of natural erosion.
After failed negotiations with their expiring lease, the operators of Mother’s Saloon in Ocean Beach, Colin and Shelby Wickersheim, bid adieu to the restaurant-bar industry. “We’ve closed after 10 years,” said Colin of the crossroads establishment at 2228 Bacon St. “It just didn’t pan out.”
The Wednesday OB Farmers Market, on hiatus due to the pandemic, returned June 10. “It’s going to look a little different and be smaller," said OBMA executive director Denny Knox of the market’s revival. "The entrance will be on Cable Street entering in the middle of Newport Avenue and we will be enforcing the need for 6 feet of space between customers. Everyone will need to wear a mask.”
A battle was brewing in Ocean Beach over the mayor’s “Complete Communities” plan, which some local planners were convinced is a density-enhancer and community-plan buster. “This does feel like, out of all the coastal communities, that OB is being targeted, even though we’re all zoned for medium- to low-density,” said OB Planning Board chair Andrea Schlageter. “This is a big deal and it's not getting the attention and scrutiny it deserves,” said Kevin Hastings, OB Plan Board vice-chair. “It’s amazing to me that people are not more aware of it: This is a massive change potentially.”
Point Loma Nazarene University economist Dr. Lynn Reaser predicted the economy would rebound, though slowly, because of the “deep hole” to be dug out from due to the pandemic lockdowns.
Members of the Point Loma High School Class of 2020 picked up their caps and gowns without knowing if they would ever get to wear them. But that opportunity came June 9 when graduates climbed into and atop cars and trucks to celebrate their achievements during a smile-filled parade along Shelter Island that stretched for two miles. Many parents suggested the parade become an annual event.
In June, Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group vetted a recurring and worsening problem: RV dwellers living out of their vehicles disposing of waste in the area. “People are not only living here, but they’re also dumping their emergency holding tanks and oil and cleaning agents into the street, even into Channel Way, a new street just redone, which is completely illegal,” said board member Tod Howarth. "It’s almost like a biohazard as well as a blight.”
The Beacon profiled urban gardening which has become a trend that an increasing number of San Diegans are pursuing, especially during the pandemic. And the City was helping out, debuting a new website, sandiego.gov/urban-farming, that provides information and assistance for those wishing to become successful urban farmers. The newspaper took a closer look at the urban gardens of Dr. Julie Cramer of Sunset Cliffs in OB and the Byron Wear family in Old Roseville in Point Loma.
After a thorough investigation by City forester Brian Widener, it was concluded that the Torrey pines at 4605 Saratoga Ave. in OB were dead. “This is an extremely sad day for the Ocean Beach community,” said District 2 Councilmember Jennifer Campbell. “The history of those trees, which were planted by residents during the Great Depression to add more cover and vibrancy to an arid landscape, is part of the history of this community. To the generations of Ocean Beach residents who have enjoyed their shade and beauty over the years, you have my deepest condolences.”
Quick actions from SDPD Police officer Jonathan Wiese helped save crash victims. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience against one-in-a-million odds. That’s how Wiese characterized his harrowing rescue on June 13 of a man who drove off Sunset Cliffs with his twin 2-year-old daughters inside his truck. All three miraculously survived thanks to Wiese’s quick thinking and herculean efforts. A father of two young children himself, Wiese said that gave him extra motivation to rappel down the cliffs to save the distraught man and his toddlers.
Mayor Faulconer announced on June 24 that the San Diego Police Department had created standalone policies to help officers reduce the use of force and increase community trust. The department’s new standalone de-escalation policy now requires officers to exercise techniques that seek to resolve situations through voluntary compliance or with lower levels of force. A second policy was added to require officers to intervene if another officer uses unreasonable force and reports the incident to a supervisor.
A statewide order on June 17 required Californians to wear face coverings in public spaces including while taking public transportation, seeking medical care, shopping, and in most work scenarios. Mandating masks proved to be one of the pandemic's more partisan issues which some objected to. There was even a bogus card circulating online claiming its holder was lawfully exempt from wearing a mask.
Mayor Faulconer signed an executive order on July 7 providing regulatory relief to restaurants and other establishments offering dining making it safer by encouraging outdoor operations. The order waived permitting and parking requirements for the use of sidewalks and private parking lots as outdoor dining venues. On July 14, San Diego City Council approved an ordinance to encourage eateries and retail to recover lost revenue by transforming into “streateries” and “streetail” by allowing businesses to expand into on-street parking spaces, sidewalks, and parking lots.
Following a lengthy round of applications and interviews, vice principal Kelly Lowry was selected to succeed Hans Becker as Point Loma High School's new principal. Lowry's first day on the job was July 1.
The City July 10-20 opened an online virtual open house tour showing the public competing for proposals on the area’s redevelopment and asking residents to weigh-in on them. “This is an opportunity to redevelop and reshape the Sports Arena area for the next generation, and we want to hear what San Diegans think of the proposals under consideration,” said Mayor Faulconer. “Revitalizing the Sports Arena is key to our future growth as a City and ensures that it remains one of San Diego’s most popular destinations for decades to come.”
While the Point Loma Cluster was designated to be online-only when school resumed Aug. 31, some cluster parents surveyed by The Peninsula Beacon preferred classroom instruction for their children over remote learning from home. And though parents agreed tutoring would be a viable option to supplement their children’s education, many thought the time and cost involved would be prohibitive.
Midway community planners and City Council members Dr. Jennifer Campbell and Chris Cate joined July 22 to launch a campaign to revitalize the community through a November ballot measure to remove the 30-foot height limit in the neighborhood. The press conference was held in a blighted area of the Midway District the day after the City Council’s 7-2 vote favoring placing removal of the 30-foot coastal height restriction on the Nov. 3 ballot,
The Grim Reaper, aka Michael, an Ocean Beach resident, handed out masks to the public at Veterans Plaza and the beach on Aug. 12. City officials and OB residents were increasingly concerned about the large gatherings at Veterans Plaza after the Farmers Market on Wednesday evenings where people did not wear masks or practiced social distancing.
Mother’s Saloon returned under new ownership and likely with a new name and other fine-tuning changes. Real estate agent Tom North joined with local bartenders Sabrina Sutphin and Jason Micozzi from Lucy’s to reopen the pub at 2228 Bacon St. Mother’s closed two months earlier after a lease extension between previous owners Colin and Shelby Wickersheim, who’d owned the pub for a decade, fell through.
At sunset each night Aug. 21-23 and Aug. 26, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse at Cabrillo National Monument was illuminated with purple and gold lights to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. The park was open each of those nights for visitors to enjoy the lights, learn about women’s history, and take photos.
The Peninsula Beacon caught up with 1990 Point Loma High School graduates Dale Rose, Ph.D., and Kari Sapsis, MPH, for a Q&A about their ongoing work battling the pandemic doing lab research for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Given that The Loma Club has plenty of outdoor, socially-distanced seating, the Liberty Station golf course extended an open invitation to help out San Diego restaurants allowing them to apply for upcoming “Community Popup” Sundays. Launching on Sunday, Aug. 30, this once-monthly, last-Sunday series welcomed restaurants to take over The Loma Club’s kitchen and well-appointed outdoor patio from noon to 6 p.m. at the golf course at 2960 Truxtun Road.
Ocean Beach resident, veterinarian, and San Diego Humane Society president/CEO Dr. Gary Weitzman authored two new children’s books on best practices for dog and cat training. The companion titles are “Fetch! A How to Speak Dog Training Guide” and “Pounce! A How To Speak Cat Training Guide” (National Geographic Kids Books, ages 8-12).
The Peninsula Beacon profiled Midway resident and professional rock musician Tod Howarth. The Point Loma High School alum was currently working on a string of eight solo albums, of which he’d completed five. During his 40-year performing career, Howarth has played and toured with such notable hard rockers as Ted Nugent, Cheap Trick (twice), 707, and Frehley’s Comet (led by Ace Frehley, formerly of Kiss).
A City selection committee chose Brookfield Properties and ASM Global for the monumental task of redeveloping the City-owned Sports Arena area property. Brookfield/ASM must now deliver on redeveloping, leasing, operating, and maintaining the 48-acre site, currently home to the Pechanga Arena, retail businesses, Kobey’s Swap Meet and a parking lot.
A.L. Jacobs and Sons, an 83-year-old family-owned Point Loma jewelry shop, held a liquidation sale. Third-generation jeweler Chris Jacobs, the last remaining family member in the jewelry line, decided to call it a career. “I am retiring and closing the business,” said Jacobs whose grandfather, Alocious Leo Jacobs, started the business in downtown San Diego in 1937.
OB Hostel with its iconic rooftop ’60s peace sign emerged from the pandemic pause under new ownership. “We were closed from the end of March up until the end of August, but are so happy to be able to open our doors safely to guests,” said new hostel general manager Julie Jamgochian with Samesun Ocean Beach, which now operates the facility at 4961 Newport Ave.
Peninsula home-improvement businesses large and small ended up faring better than most during the ongoing pandemic. That proved true for OB Hardware at 4871 Newport Ave., Dixieline Lumber and Home Centers at 3250 Sports Arena Blvd., and The Home Depot at 3555 Sports Arena Blvd.
Point Loma seniors were uniquely showcased in a photography display titled “Your Life Is a Work of Art: A Celebration of People in Their 80s and 90s,” during an August display at the Presbyterian Church at 2128 Chatsworth Blvd. The exhibition of bios and portrait photos of area seniors was compiled by Elaine Fotinos Burrell, director of senior adult ministry at the church. “I would hear their wonderful life stories and learned so much from them. I felt that their stories needed to be told, and their beauty celebrated through a portrait,” Fotinos Burrell said.
State officials on Sept. 22 stopped just short of ordering San Diego County back into the most restrictive “purple” tier for economic reopening. But state health secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly warned that escalating coronavirus numbers continued to keep San Diego on the brink of being moved out of the less-restrictive “red” tier.
Seat At The Table
In September Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group contended they deserve – and expect – a say in determining how the Sports Arena site is redeveloped, as well as input into the prospective conversion of Old Town into a central mobility hub.
With the live-event industry on life support due to COVID cancellations, Peninsula Beacon profiled three promoters: Laurel McFarlane who organizes annual Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day events downtown, Liberty Station Art Walk promoter Sandi Cottrell and Michelle Metter. All three joined a local movement, The San Diego Events Coalition, part of a national movement found at liveeventscoalition.org. They had a message to deliver: Live events in San Diego are barely alive, and won’t be for much longer without immediate governmental aid and federal financial assistance.
Unsheltered individuals David Hendon and Marc Gervais were voluntarily cleaning up Ocean Beach Pier parking lot in the wee hours every morning. The two friends, who met at the beach walking their dogs before becoming unsheltered, were on another mission: to change the public’s perception getting them to see the homeless as caring individuals.
Friends Of OB
A new “Friends of OB” campaign rolled out on Sept. 25 encouraging donations to continue to enhance the eclectic beach community. The initial goal was to raise $10,000 by the end of the year. Donations funded efforts for a cleaner, safer, and beautified Ocean Beach. “This campaign will serve as a catalyst to continue to revitalize our already vibrant community of Ocean Beach,” said Dave Martin, Ocean Beach MainStreet Association board member. “The new project will support beautification efforts in the area, and we hope many will contribute and become a ‘Friend of OB.’”
Then-Assemblymember Todd Gloria joined San Diego Association of Governments and a Navy spokesperson on Oct. 1 to announce Gov. Gavin Newsom had signed AB 2731 laying the groundwork for potential redevelopment of Naval Information Warfare Systems Command in the Midway District. Co-authored by Gloria and Senate president pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, the new legislation paved the way for collaboration on potential major redevelopment of the NAVWAR site straddling Old Town Transit Center. Being explored is the possibility of creating a central mobility hub connecting transit to the San Diego International Airport, along with the development of a newly modernized cybersecurity facility for the Navy plus new regional housing.
Point Loma/Hervey Library joined 11 others citywide in partially reopening at 25% capacity on Oct. 3. But Christine Gonzalez, branch manager of the library at 3701 Voltaire St., cautioned patrons to expect a few changes, including the children’s area on the lower level remaining temporarily closed. “We basically wiped every single book in this library,” said Gonzalez of the long pandemic closure since mid-March. “Our priority, first and foremost, is the safety of the public and our staff. We are following all the state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols.”
Following selection by the City of Brookfield Properties/ASM Global to redevelop the sports arena, a Community Advisory Board overseeing that was formed. That group is comprised of 19 members representing the business, transportation, neighborhood, climate action, military, and higher education communities. The group will actively provide input to help shape the future of the Sports Arena property. “Community participation is a key principle for all projects that we engage with,” said Zach Adams of Brookfield Properties. “We are excited to collaborate and work in close partnership with the Sports Arena Community Advisory Board throughout the entire process to re-imagine the current Sports Arena property into a special, mixed-use destination.”
Sunset Cliffs Tome
OB Historical Society board member and author Kathy Blavatt released her seventh book titled “San Diego’s Sunset Cliffs Park: A History,” in October. Her book was so heavily researched it could just as easily have been named “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About OB (But Were Afraid to Ask).
She has had five careers, speaks four languages, has a genius IQ, was a dancer, and was also a professional musician who performed in the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. She is witty, irreverent, and outspoken. She is Elithe Belofsky, 93, a feminist before her time who was featured in a Beacon profile.
In October, Peninsula Community Planning Board approved drafting a letter supporting enhancing safety and law enforcement at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. PCPB board member Mandy Havlik presented photos depicting ongoing problems including trash, illegal gathering, and noise disturbances at the popular oceanside park.
The City Planning Commission on Oct. 8 voted 4-3 to send a short-term rental compromise proposal by District 2 Councilmember Jennifer Campbell back for further review. In carrying the matter over, the seven-member commission presented a long list of questions to be answered. Those included a request for more details of the council member’s plan including information on fees and a lottery to include short-term rental operators under a proposed rental unit cap.
Growing COVID-19 cases on Point Loma Nazarene campus prompted the university to respond with a dorm lockdown and tightened health protocols for students, faculty, and staff.
New Apple Tree
Apple Tree Supermarket in Ocean Beach changed hands, giving way to Krisp Beverages + Natural Foods. But not to worry. The business was staying in the Hirmez family, which owns the building at 4976 Newport Ave. and has operated the market for many years since its previous location at 4949 Santa Monica Ave., now a CVS Pharmacy.
"Our relatives, our first cousins, have bought the business and we are retaining a percentage of the ownership,” said Apple Tree owner Saad Hirmez. “We’re retiring. It was time to scale back, so we took on partners. We’ve been in business for close to 55 years. It’s just time.”
The former Midway Post Office structure was demolished to be replaced by a mixed residential and commercial project known as The Post.
Dog Beach Fence
A project to enhance and extend existing beach fencing – separating humans and canines from environmentally sensitive areas – was proposed at Dog Beach. Known as the Ocean Beach Estuary Project, the idea was pitched by City park ranger Araceli Dominguez to Ocean Beach Town Council at the group’s October meeting.
The morning after the Nov. 3 General Election San Diego had the “blues,” with a Democrat elected mayor and five new faces on the nine-member City Council, all of whom turned out to be Democrats except for one Republican, board incumbent Chris Cate in District 6.
Port Master Revision
A revised draft for the Port Master Plan Update concentrated future hotel rooms on Harbor Island while preserving both La Playa piers and the Marlin Club sportfishing on Shelter Island. The Port’s objective for the PMPU is to create a thoughtful and balanced approach to future water and land uses on and around San Diego Bay for future generations.
One truly authentic Mexican eatery replaced another at the corner of Bacon Street and Niagara Avenue in Ocean Beach, as La Doña debuted in the space where Nati’s Mexican Restaurant was for nearly 60 years. Nati’s closed in June 2018. La Doña co-owners Brendan Huffman and Hoffman Leung are with the Social Syndicate, a San Diego-based restaurant development group founded in 2014. The business duo has teamed with chef and Tijuana native Gabby Lopez to bring homespun Mexican cuisine to 1852 Bacon St.
Given the ongoing pandemic, Ocean Beach’s Restaurant Walk 2020 featured a new twist last year: A take-out only edition. The fundraising event sponsored by the Ocean Beach Town Council with the assistance of Ocean Beach MainStreet Association took place Nov. 9-12.
Voter-approved Measure E, which removed the decades-old 30-foot height limit from the Midway District and Pechanga Arena, had another hurdle to clear: an environmental lawsuit. Ballot Measure E was an exception to Prop. D passed in 1972 to preserve coastal views and prevent the proliferation of high rises. An environmental challenge to Measure E was filed by Save Our Access, a nonprofit corporation opposing Measure E. Save Our Access claimed E was a thinly veiled attempt by developers to grab land and erode Prop. D height limit protections citywide.
Complete Communities Approved
The City Council on Nov. 9 voted overwhelmingly in favor of Complete Communities, a package of initiatives and planning strategies to provide incentives for housing development near transit while promoting and investing in active transportation as an alternative to cars. Complete Communities prioritizes the City’s resources channeling them to where the needs are greatest, in underrepresented lower-income neighborhoods referred to in the plan as “Communities of Concern.”
The San Diego Housing Commission’s board voted Nov. 13 to enter into exclusive negotiations with Bridge Housing Corporation to further study the proposed development of affordable housing on a five-acre parcel at Famosa and Nimitz boulevards. SDHC Board’s vote followed the reading of nearly 200 letters opposing the project. “We ask the City to reconsider the San Diego Housing Commission's sale of the Famosa Canyon parcel to an out-of-town organization for $800,000 and explore other options for the site,” wrote affordable housing project opponents in a Nov. 12 letter to the City. “We voted unanimously to request that the City negotiate the sale of the Famosa Canyon to Park and Recreation so that Famosa Canyon remains a passive park and open space.”
The “crooked” Christmas tree, as usual, was firmly planted in OB’s oceanfront sand. But social distancing required OB parade floats to be stationary in the Dog Beach parking lot, with families driving through the lot to check them out. Crooked Tree Holiday Ale was available at OB Brewery and the community’s food and toy drive took place too.
In a letter to families, San Diego Unified School District said, due to ongoing health concerns related to COVID-19 and the safety of its students, staff, and community, that the district had decided to continue with online learning for the majority of students through the first part of the new year. However, the district said appointment-based, in-person instruction would still be available on campus for students with the greatest needs through Phase 1.
Catch The Wave
What started as a way for Ocean Beach Elementary to connect with distance-learning students off-campus morphed into a full-fledged weekly broadcast series. Called Catch the Wave TV and named after the school’s motto, “Catch the Wave to Success,” the Friday broadcast spots replaced in-person morning assemblies on hiatus due to COVID-19. The broadcasts are all about ongoing attempts by the school to adapt during the epidemic by creating a shared experience for students, teachers, and families.
Liberty Station in Point Loma did something extraordinary for the year-end holidays, hosting a re-imagined, Gingerbread City on Dec. 12. Sponsored by The Epilepsy Foundation of San D Diego County, the drive-thru event showcased the theme “Holidays Around the World,” featuring more than 20 world-class gingerbread structures.
Point Loma Nazarene University debuted a new course, LIT/HIS4090 – Surfing History and Culture. The course was co-developed and co-taught by Drs. Ben Cater and James Wicks, both surfers, were stoked about the program’s future. “Surf culture and history is an established field that is as rich as any tradition,” noted Wicks, a Taiwanese native with a Ph.D. in literature.
A petition drive was begun to attempt to unseat District 2 Councilmember Dr. Jennifer Campbell. Campbell was to be served with a notice of intent to recall in early January 2021. Petition proponents will then have 99 days to collect a minimum of 13,553 signatures to qualify the recall effort for an election ballot.
Rental Plan Supported
The City Planning Commission Dec. 3 voted 7-0 for a proposed short-term rental ordinance calling for licensing short-term rentals, capping their numbers, and penalizing violators, while creating a City office to administer the new program and making it subject to annual review.
Christmas came early for bicycling enthusiasts as Santa, in the form of the City Council, gave them the gift they most wanted: reuse of Building 191 at Naval Training Center Park in Liberty Station. Cyclists intend to convert the long-vacant building with private funding, transforming it into a regional bicycling hub.