By Ken Williams | Editor
North Park planners like county’s plans
San Diego County is currently soliciting bids to demolish the old probation office located at 3977 Ohio St. in North Park.
The outdated structure, which was built almost 50 years ago and is not historically significant to preservationists, was shuttered on June 8.
The county plans to spend $9.8 million to construct a new building on the site to house the probation office and intends to introduce a new method of rehabilitating San Diegans who have been placed in the probation program.
Chief Probation Officer Adolfo Gonzales briefed residents on the county’s plans at the North Park Planning Committee (NPPC) meeting on Aug. 15 at North Park Christian Fellowship.
Gonzales said the county wants to be “good neighbors” and is working with the planning committee and local business leaders, including North Park Main Street, to come up with a design that would best fit into the neighborhood.
Platt/Whitelaw Architects, located nearby at 4034 30th St., is now collecting public input before coming up with a design concept, Gonzales said.
The architectural firm has designed such places as the California Western School of Law, the Caltrans Transportation History Museum and the First Unitarian Universalist Church in San Diego.
Gonzales said the new building would be either one or two stories and that an underground parking garage is under consideration. Ideas advanced by neighbors and business leaders include utilizing the rooftop as a gathering space or a community garden, building a food pantry, co-work spaces and even public housing.
One thing that is all but certain will be the addition of a large meeting space that would be available to the North Park community after-hours.
About 100 probation office workers staffed the old probation office on Ohio Street, serving thousands of people each year, Gonzales said. “Some days, there were lines of people around the block,” he added.
Probation officers working at the new facility will be changing tactics, Gonzales said, as county officials are studying New York state’s program that has moved away from a traditional criminal justice system focusing on punishment as the primary goal. He said the progressive approach is now on a restorative justice system focusing on turning offenders into good citizens.
“We want to give people a second chance,” Gonzales said, drawing nods of agreement from many in attendance. “We are not going to arrest ourselves out of a problem.”
And speaking of arrests, Gonzales said there would be “no arrests or takedowns” made at the new building.
The new facility will feature an open concept, Gonzales said, unlike the old probation office that had put a physical barrier — bullet-resistant glass — between officers and the people on probation. Instead of treating them like offenders, the officers will consider them more like clients who need to learn new skills to re-enter the workforce.
“We want all our services under one roof,” he said. “One-stop shopping.”
Preliminary plans call for demolition by year’s end, and construction to start sometime in 2018.
The NPPC volunteer advisory committee voted 12-0-2 to support efforts to declare the Valle Vista Terrace neighborhood a historic district.
Valle Vista Terrace is north of Adams Avenue and west of Texas Street, along Panorama Drive and Cliff Street. This mini neighborhood is on the eastern side of University Heights and within the jurisdiction of the North Park Planning Committee.
A number of the houses in Valle Vista Terrace overlook Mission Valley. The subdivision has 86 houses on 89 parcels, including 10 that are deemed historically designated sites and 61 contributing buildings that were constructed between 1908 and 1942.
The city’s Historic Resource Board has said that Valle Vista Terrace qualifies as a historic district under Criterion A in the areas of historical and architectural development for its local significance. The so-called “streetcar subdivision” was built along a streetcar line on Adams Avenue, and features several different architectural styles from that period of time.
The planning committee went a little further than the Historical Resource Board and recommended adding to the historic district the bungalow court at 2206 Adams Ave. The committee also suggested extending the historical period from 1942 to 1950, as requested by a number of residents in the proposed historic district who have mid-century modern or ranch-style homes that were popular through the 1950 build-out of Valle Vista Terrace.
The Historical Resource Board will conduct its first hearing on the designation on Aug. 24 and the final hearing on Sept. 28.
At the NPPC meetin, a debate over community choice energy turned into a verbal slugfest between an official with the Climate Action Campaign and two men representing San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (SDGE) and Sempra Services Corp. (SSC), a lobbying group that claims not to be part of SDGE’s parent company but is funded by it.
The city of San Diego is considering joining 71 other California cities and nine counties in the Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program that permits authorized entities to purchase and/or generate clean energy for its customers. Individuals could keep their SDGE service or choose the CCA option to buy clean energy.
Nicole Capretz, executive director of the Climate Action Campaign, said the CCA dovetails completely with the city’s goal of reaching 100 percent clean energy.
But Peder Norby, a consultant with SSC, contended via a series of “doom and gloom” slides that San Diegans would be slapped with an “exit fee” exceeding $1 billion. His presentation left many in the audience as well as on the committee scratching their heads as they were overwhelmed with confusing information.
After a long discussion, NPPC members got their turn to speak. Among the highlights, Dionné Carlson lectured the two men for speaking out of both sides of their mouth, on one hand saying that SDGE was in favor of CCA and at the same time painting the program in the worst possible light.
Kate Callen scolded the two men for the lack of civil discourse and said it was symptomatic of what’s going on in the nation these days.
In the end, the committee voted to postpone making a possible recommendation to the City Council, which is expected to take up the CCA issue in January.
Sara is the editor of San Diego Uptown News.