Do City Codes Prevent Investment in IB?

City Council candidates share their thoughts on whether or not city code makes Imperial Beach unattractive to businesses or investors.

Patch will ask IB City Council candidates one question a week until Election Day.

Last week's question:

This week's question comes from 2010 City Council candidate Tim O'Neal, and stems in part from a meeting held this summer in which developers encouraged the city to loosen its municipal code:

It has been suggested by developers that IB's codes are restrictive and should be loosened in order to stimulate development in the city. Do you agree with the developer's assessment?

Vying for two seats on council are Bobby Patton, Valerie Acevez and Erika Lowery, along with incumbents Jim King and Brian Pat Bilbray.

What kind of questions do you think council candidates should answer before Election Day? Share in comments.


Erika Lowery

 In a word, no.

The codes should not be loosened. We have the “restrictive” codes to maintain our community in the way that the city has deemed. It is our long term plan that our predecessors determined.

Should we revise all of the codes to appease developers that are interested in Seacoast growth? What would be next–Boulevard and Cherry at the end of the bay? 5th Street where it meets the estuary? More oversized buildings that encroach on the views that we all pay for?

Improvements can be made, that is a given. Every system has some inefficiency, and we can address those to help stimulate the economy. Expedited and streamlined processes, efficient systems in place–those are improvements that can be implemented at this time to welcome businesses to Imperial Beach; and not solely on Seacoast or Old Palm, but all of Imperial Beach.

We also have to take into account our neighbor, the Navy’s Ream field. We have helicopters flying overhead and we need to account for their safety also. These are heroes that are willing to put their lives on the line for our freedoms. We cannot jeopardize it at home by exceeding a safe ceiling for all.

It comes down to if we want to look like so many of the over-developed beach communities in Southern California, or do we want to maintain our own small beach community under our control?

I think the latter.

I truly believe that redevelopment should be spurred by the community’s vision of the city, not a developer that has only a short term, minimum stake in the community. Help me reclaim the city for our community.

I am willing to work with the Chamber, Pier South, and the community to market Imperial Beach on its own merits, not the merits that are determined by developers.


Valerie Acevez

I believe the developers are only looking at two areas of IB. Based on those two areas and what the developers are looking at would make it hard to put new commercial and residential housing in Imperial Beach.

There is a reason that the voters of Imperial Beach have kept the codes, especially for height restrictions. I am sure that if these codes and restrictions were not in place there would be less residential and more commercial building along the beach area.

I like the look of the beach with the different styles of residential buildings, and the commercial buildings that are currently there. It gives Imperial Beach its character. Do we need to clean up the street, and give some of these buildings a new facade?  

Yes we do.  

If you want to see what a person will see when they step out of this high-end hotel, the first time they stay here will say it all. Lets help the business in the area of Seacoast and Palm Avenue update their buildings to the scale of client we want to stay in Imperial Beach.

Drive Seacoast and Palm Avenue and see for yourself where we need improvement. We should be building to compliment what we have, not tear it all down. I believe that we need to use the resources available to Imperial Beach and finish the projects currently being built.

Provide incentives for businesses that could go to the vacant space at 9th and Palm, give incentives to current businesses that upgrade their current buildings, and bring in the revenue and jobs that are needed here in Imperial Beach. I believe that all of this can be accompllished with an open mind.  

Imperial Beach is a great place to live and, hopefully, in the near future, a great place to visit as well.


Brian Pat Bilbray

Reasonable economic oversight is the issue at hand. How do we balance our small town feel with what our city needs in revenue to keep from being taken over by San Diego?

How do we become more user-friendly to potential businesses who would like to come to Imperial Beach? We need to take into account that certain developments such as mixed-use commercial and hotels yield more revenue for the city than strictly large scale residential or multi-family residential, and our planning process should reflect that fact.

We need to work with potential investors, not against them, realizing the potential benefits that they bring to our city. Making our city as user-friendly as possible will benefit all of our citizens. We need to form public-private partnerships to work with businesses and investors to cut through the red tape and ensure that both sides are benefiting equally from the joint effort.

The fact is mixed-use and hotels differ substantially in their benefits to the city from high density residential and this should be considered in the planning process. In order for us to afford our parks and core public services, it is a must to attract these types of investments and businesses into our city.

There is always a fine balance of development in our city, but we cannot be afraid to do the right thing to guarantee that future generations may enjoy Imperial Beach as our own city and not as a colony of San Diego. Reasonable economic oversight is the key to our future in Imperial Beach.


Bobby Patton

The panel of developers at the July workshop were asked to share their opinions on what they believed were the biggest impediments to growth in Imperial Beach. 

Raising building height at the beach, relaxing building codes and removing regulatory roadblocks seemed to top the list of suggestions. Predictable and sensible–for a developer–whose business plan is to build projects in the least amount of time and at the lowest cost for the highest rate of return on their investment.

But good planning for a well-balanced community does not take place in a developer’s vacuum. Good planning is a balancing act–a process that involves our elected officials and Imperial Beach citizens.

Working together, we must consider all of the elements that are needed for a healthy and thriving community–shopping, jobs, tourism, recreation, parks and environment.  It’s critical that we work jointly to maintain a balance within our community that responds to our fiscal, economic and quality-of-life needs. It’s our community and we control our future through these crucial land-use and zoning decisions.

The panel did, however, share constructive suggestions that could certainly be incorporated into current economic development plans. Applied properly, many of the ideas could enhance our current efforts. Our own commercial zoning amendments, started over five years ago, are near implementation and there is renewed interest in empty commercial buildings.

Continuing to “set the table” for economic development with public infrastructure improvements, visually attractive areas and pedestrian-scale lighting are all essential to attract residents, visitors and investors alike. I would encourage the review of our permit fee schedules to determine where efficiencies could be incorporated and situations where deferred fee payments would be practicable. Marketing of our community is a wise investment to attract investors to help us create a community of choice.

Many of our decisions, if made hastily as “quick fixes” to bolster our revenues, could threaten our long-term quality of life. It will take strong leadership, experience and a balanced approach to make these tough decisions, and I believe I have the qualifications to meet the challenge.


Jim King

In particular, the discussion at the forum was in regard to commercial development opportunities and not residential zoning.

It does however, involve mixed-use zoned areas where residential uses are also present with commercial uses on the same property. There is no question that the fewer code restrictions, the greater the potential for developers to increase their return on investment. Also, increased design flexibility in terms of setbacks, densities, heights, parking, floor areas, to name a few, assist the developer in achieving maximum property potentials.

However, zoning and land use regulations play a vital role in protecting and promoting community goals and objectives. Having recognized the constraints and shortcomings of the existing commercial zoning ordinance, city staff and council have undertaken a comprehensive overhaul of the commercial zoning ordinance. This has been an ongoing process spanning the past four years and has resulted in significant increases in flexibility and simplification of the present ordinance.

The final draft has to be approved by the California Coastal Commission, followed by the drafting of a new code sections for adoption by the council. 

These changes in zoning, coupled with other improvement projects such as the hotel, which is already in progress, substantially increases proeprty values and will further stimulate developer investments in the unique character of Imperial Beach. One of the important functions of the zoning code is to also protect and build upon that uniqueness as an important and vital asset to the community's future. 

John Galt October 03, 2012 at 10:42 PM
YES Doing business in Imperial Beach should be very easy. A single page permit should be enough. Business type, location, anticipated traffic, and special needs. A fire department saftey inspection prior to opening. Everything else, including signage size and colors, inside and outside lighing, parking requirments (if any) should be hard written in the code so anyone could easily understand it. Planning does its job once. I will say we should limit the types of businesses. How many liquor stores do we need? How many bars? How many tattoo and nail places? How many pot shops? (No on "S"). We are what, four square miles; make it easy. Allow Leo into town, in fact, go get him.
Imperial Beach Resident October 04, 2012 at 07:09 AM
Ms Acevez....you got it going on. Let me expand on your "drive by" idea. Imagine spending $100 or more to stay at a HIGH END hotel only to find that the beach is closed due to "urban run~off" aka TJ toilets or grab your towels and head to the fly covered beach. IB can grow on the character of IB. The council and residents need to step up and capitalize on IB as IB. The city invested money in this hotel. We did not see the Sandcastles. COME ON FOLKS....WAKE UP. This big city growth is NOT going to be good for this community. We need to take back IB.
Shorebird October 04, 2012 at 02:39 PM
some of the business requirements have made it extremely difficult for new businesses to open doors here. They could modify a few issues. As far as "Big City" growth, there simply isnt room for it. I would like to see the city clean up a few of their boondoggles, like the apparently blighted 9th st dirt lot, and please give the northwest side of the city a real supermarket.
JK October 04, 2012 at 04:22 PM
I say let development move forward. IB needs to be cleaned up with new buildings, businesses, and restaurants. It is a joke to want to "stay the course" and "keep IB IB". It would be nice to develop, increase land values and have a clean city. Development=Progress.
Kay Kardian-Porter October 04, 2012 at 04:25 PM
The city has to have some restrictions, but the codes should be looked at and filter through to see what can be elimated before the runners decide on what is good for the city. Speaking about the hotel and what the visitors will see when walking outside, perhaps refacing the pizza place the liquor store, restaurants in front of the new hotel is curcial the sidewalk looks like a piece of filth it should be cleaned up, I feel that this is what visitors will see when staying at the hotel it has to be refaced and cleaned up also the vacant lot next to it along seacoast should be cleaned up also. I think if we fix what we already have without hiring officials to tell IB what is best it will work. Along Daisy and other streets there are no street lights..I ask about this one time and they said that the residents lights is sufficiant not!! These streets should have street lights it really dark at night time on these streets. I do not know how the codes are written we do need them but I think the officials have used them to their own advantage. I had new double pane windows installed a few years ago and now I understand that you need a permit why? Its an improvement and sometimes a necessity especially when the planes are flying above it does help with the noise. I believe this kind of permit should be removed.
Brian October 04, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Well Said. "Keep IB, IB" is to keep IB a crap hole, I've lived here 20 years I should know.
R Keen October 04, 2012 at 06:05 PM
I think City Codes are important. As far as development goes, we need to be careful, and not lose the small beach community experience we have or we could end up with high rise buildings along the waterfront and then it will be like Honolulu. Height restrictions are important and key. That's why the developers want to do away with these and build up for better ROI on their projects. We need push back on that.
John Galt October 04, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Why do I need a permit to replace windows if the stucco is not broken? Why do I need a permit to replace a worn out roof if I follow codes? Why do I need a permit to place, at my own expense, gravel in a alley? An onging problem in IB is the planning folks don't follow the code, and try to require a lot more than neccessary. A few years ago we added a room to the house. Simply we wanted to add a bathroom within the existing footprint of the house. IB Planning wanted to require us to have a property survey done first. Mark the property lines, costing thousands of dollars. We pushed back and said no. After weeks of agruments, and planning finally seeing we were not going to budge, we got our permit. The delays cost us money and time. We should have sued the city for the delays. It was at that time I decided that Holidays and Sundays were best to get work done in Imperial Beach. Since then I have replaced three roofs on my rental homes and my own home, also I have replaced at least twelve windows and doors. Codes are important - we need to know them and follow them for saftey and quality of construction. Codes are NOT permits. It is the jerks in IB planning who make it a lot worse. In the last twelve years planning has developed a total lack of customer skills or a willingness to help. If they worked for my company, they would all be former employees. If they are unhappy, leave please. To my critics: No, I don't think this is harsh enough.
Mike G October 04, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Permits for windows and roofs? Things that add value to the residence and enhance cosmetics? Require surveys for the existing footprint of a residence? Is anyone else wondering why so many parts of this city look like crap? Owners that want to make upgrades, even minor ones, have to spend more money clearing the red tape than the cost of the improvement! We need codes but the permitting process needs to be simplified and streamlined and some cases completely abolished!
Ed Sorrels October 04, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Well there Brian, I have lived here for 46 or so and just spent over 50 thousand bucks to improve my home and It sure rasied m taxes a bit, but this is my way of trying to help MY I.B. I also attend city council meeting's when my health allows and make myself aware of what is going on in our city, I like the New Hotel altho I will never be able to afford a nite there and think the building at the American Legion is an outstanding idea to offer low income vet's an affordable plase to live, We are making progress as a city council recently told me, "With all the regulation's and being under the jurisdiction of the coastal commission iot just takes time. Having said that When are we going to see some action at the 9th. St. mudhole ?
Ed Sorrels October 04, 2012 at 10:39 PM
An answer about part of the window thing, I have replaced all mine, But with the back and side windows there is a state law that mandates Sill height and if your windowsill's are to high you must re-frame so that the meet state requirement's which will require ripping out some stucco, This ain''t the city, it is the state. But if they meet the sill height requirements I see on reason that a simple tilt in should be such a project and hassel for the home owner. The city need's to simplify both the permitting and code's to make thing's simpler for the home owner and if they do they will see much more upgrading, No one want's their house to look like a dump,
Chico&The Man October 05, 2012 at 01:55 AM
We decided 2 years ago to head back to imperial beach and do our business were we grew up it belongs after all in IB. With a name like Boca Rio "screen printing". i knew from a business perspective that chula vista or any other industrial setting in any other city would not suit it it was an effortless & non restrictive move back got the location lightning quick and were up and running within 3 weeks..Founded in 2000 by myself and Rick alvarez its one of the most successfull business in the south bay & IB to this day. Our first location was the old Rathskellar spot were the yoga studio is..I owe alot of my motivation and drive to take what i learned in an R.O.P class at 17 years old to mr alan osbourne of palomar high i left mar vista to attend this class offered at palomar in 1986 as a saw IB in the future would need a business of this type .boy was i right . while were on the subject of codes you don't need any to do business wtih Boca Rio so come down and order those custom screened t's and whatever you need printed banners embroidery etc..Nice doing business in imperial beach killing it...!!!!
ellenhites October 05, 2012 at 12:21 PM
I have lived on seacoast in IB over a decade - struggling to make it as a sole proprietor here. The city requirements have forced me to shut down my business, and the farmers market here has given priority to vendors travelling well over 50 miles to get here.... I live on seacoast .5 miles away from the market and was shut out. we're moving to the east coast in 10 days. Enjoy your new hotel!
John Galt October 08, 2012 at 05:27 AM
Makes me wonder if any if the city staff reads this? If so, do they get it? Get the hell out of the way. Greg Wade, et al, I am calling you out! You are a problem. READ the above. Why is IB Planning such a disaster? Bumpouts at corners nobody wants? Business roadblocks nobody wants? You thrive on SCREWING people who make small improvement to their property for their quality of life. I'll answer that for you - it is because none of you working for the city every had to make a business work, meet a payroll, or be concerned about paying the mortgage. All because you suck off of the taxpayers of this city. You should be ashamed! I am thinking that all future hires on city staff must have at least twenty years working for a private business. Imperial Beach would benifit by having employees who understand reality, and not be looking through greed colored glasses.
John Galt October 08, 2012 at 05:28 AM
ellenhites: Good luck. Sorry it did not work out.
Ed Sorrels October 12, 2012 at 12:01 AM
Well said ! Especially the damn corner extrensions they are just plain stupid and their only effect is to slow up traffic even more and I don't know what they cost but if they are like the 4 way stop signs at 9th. and Calla at $1600.00 or $400.00 per sign I would suspect that our public work's dept. has problems.
Libi Uremovic October 12, 2012 at 01:01 AM
they read it, but the city officials have been getting away with corruption for so long they see no reason to change now...people tell me that greg wade won't give permits until he gets 'gratuity'.... here's your graffiti removal audit....it should break in the patch tomorrow... $200,000/yr budgeted for a department that never existed: http://libionline.net/rda-blog.html


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