On June 14, I received an email from Frank Gormlie, publisher of the OB Rag, asking Ocean Beach residents to sign a petition because the city of San Diego has been allowing certain beachfront property owners to build larger houses than Ocean Beach permits.
I saw that email and thought, Bollocks on that! As a longtime Ocean Beach resident and property owner, I'm in love with the Ocean Beach mystique. And these large houses are blocking views of the beach and inconsistent with the OB aesthetic. Why on Earth would we want to turn this neighborhood into another Denny's- and Dominoes-dominated, Fartburger-franchising, one-hundred-and-eleven-7-Eleven-having, no-beach-seeing, mom-and-pop-shop massacre that is Pacific Beach?
About a week later, I received more bad news in a letter from Attorney David Stebbins.
"Recently during a community plan update a small group of individuals attempted to restrict your ability to rehab or rebuild your property by restricting or eliminating the variance process."
I saw that letter and thought, Bollocks on that! As a longtime Ocean Beach resident and property owner, I'm offended by any attempts to control what I can and can't do on or with my property, and this sort of big-government intrusion really gets my—. Oh, wait.
He's talking about the same thing. Well played, Mr. Stebbins. You manipulated me into thinking I was against my own position.
The issue at hand is complicated and tedious, so let me summarize in a way that everyone, including me, can understand. Basically, Satan and his conglomerate minions want to cornhole the little people of Ocean Beach.
OK, maybe that's an oversimplification. How about this?: Ocean Beach, like most boroughs, has what's called a community plan. Community plans outline what it is we property owners can and can't do with our land, such as, you know, converting my family's rental property into a free-range crocodile and pit viper petting zoo.
In the 1970s, in an effort to prevent developers from cornholing OB, our hippie forefathers instituted a restrictive floor-area ratio (FAR) into the community plan. In a nutshell, FAR is the ratio of the square footage of the building to the square footage of the lot. The smaller the FAR, the less of a monstrosity you're permitted to build, which is why we don't see those Pacific Beach-like multistory homes "essentially walling off the ocean," as Giovanni Ingolia, a member of the Ocean Beach Town Council Board of Directors, put it to me.
Long story short: Ocean Beach's beloved, people-friendly FAR is in danger of being weakened, and the battle is underway between the haves and the have-lots.
Now, the reason that Stebbins' pro-development letter was so effective on me is because of my LIMO sensibilities (Libertarian in Mind Only). I do believe in the power of a nearly free market and recognize that a nearly free market does have certain self-correcting characteristics. However, I also know that the sales pitch for a truly free market—as in, no regulation whatsoever—is the biggest lie ever uttered since Roger Daltrey said he hoped he'd die before he got old.
Anybody who has a brain in their head that hasn't been mangled in a General Motors faulty-ignition-switch collision knows that checks and balances are necessary to keep capitalism from cornholing society in the cornhole hole.
With unfettered capitalism, you get BP dumping a planet's worth of sludge into the Gulf of Mexico.
With unfettered capitalism you get all the media owned by a handful of conglomerates.
With unfettered capitalism, you get corporate, monoculture farm subsidies and Satan's minister of agriculture, Monsanto.
With unfettered capitalism, you get the obliteration of net neutrality (coming soon to a cornhole near you).
With unfettered capitalism, you get shadow banking, predatory lending, negligent mortgage bundling and the crash of 2008.
With unfettered capitalism, you get a military industrial complex, the horror of tort reform, a mysterious Federal Reserve System, colony-collapse disorder (I guarantee greed will be found as the cause) and towering hotels like giant cash registers protruding from the sands of Miami Beach.
With unfettered capitalism, you get Pacific Beach, with its vast stretches of strip-mall suckosity and all the character of a cat lady's yard sale.
Now, I'm not saying I'm against multinational corporate inclusion in the community. The truth is, unfettered liberalism isn't any better. If conservatives weren't around to keep liberals in check, all of our sodas would be served in a sieve, your yard guy would have tenure and the New York Giants would be called the New York Big Persons because gigantism is a serious disorder that shouldn't be demeaned.
So, yes, there should be, and is, some corporate growth in OB; just don't turn us into PB—which, you know, has all the character of a geriatric potato auditioning for the role of "floating space turd" in the upcoming sequel to Gravity.
Part of the charm of OB—the thing that makes us different—is our commitment, nay, ferocious devotion to our retro aura and attitude, historical buildings, mom-and-pop shops and all the funky, whacked-out residents and small-time property owners who may not own property at the ocean but sure have as much right as anyone else to see it.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Edwin Decker blogs at www.edwindecker.com. Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.
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