Alcohol-free zone proposed | Combative drinkers make Ocean Beach unsafe, surfers’ `team mom’ saysNovember 22, 2006 1 Comment
Jeanette Steele. The San Diego Union – Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Nov 22, 2006. pg. B.1
At the foot of Newport Avenue, wetsuit-wearing students from the Point Loma High School surf team congregate at the Ocean Beach sea wall.
Julie Klein is a “team mom,” meaning she watches over the surfers as they catch waves at Tuesday and Thursday afternoon practices.
Saying her surfers are tired of being harassed by drinkers, Klein is pushing to create an alcohol-free “recreation zone” over about half of the Ocean Beach sand.
“The families would like to take the beach back,” said Klein, an Ocean Beach resident. “Give us an area. We have the right to choose not to drink. We don’t want to walk through it.”
Opponents say they don’t want to segregate the beach because of a few problem drinkers.
But Klein points to a knot of men and women lounging farther down the sea wall. Both old and young, some do tricks on skateboards, some smoke, some wear the tattered clothes of street people. Klein and one young surfer said they have been punched by combative drunks.
“This is what we have to deal with,” she said. “The first thing you see in this wonderful town is usually people drinking at the foot of Newport.”
Klein — a member of Councilman Kevin Faulconer’s recently formed task force on beach-alcohol issues — has collected 500 signatures supporting an alcohol-free zone between the pier and Saratoga Park, at the foot of Saratoga Avenue. The ban would be lifted on major holidays such as Fourth of July.
She said she hopes Faulconer and the rest of the council will champion the idea. If so, it would be a foot in the door for the on-again off-again movement to curtail drinking alcohol at San Diego’s beaches.
The debate has reawakened in Pacific Beach and Mission Beach, where earlier this year town councils voted to back an alcohol ban on the sand. In 2002, voters citywide killed a test ban on portions of those two beaches by a narrow margin.
Opponents of a ban say Klein’s idea is a bad one because it would create a segregated Ocean Beach, which is already a small stretch of sand by San Diego standards.
“As the population grows, beaches will become more crowded,” said Jeremy Malecha, president of Free PB, which opposes more restrictions at parks and beaches.
“It’s counter to the spirit of openness that San Diego beaches represent,” said Malecha, who also sits on the alcohol task force. “Where do you draw the line? I know plenty of adults who are turned off by kids screaming and throwing sand. Are we going to create an adults-only beach?”
Faulconer says issues like the recreation zone idea will be discussed by his task force, which holds its second public meeting Monday. “My goal is to look at whether there is consensus and common ground that we can find,” he said.
Opinions around Ocean Beach seem mixed.
Former City Council candidate Rich Grosch called the zone idea a reasonable compromise.
“A lot of people are against a ban, but this is a partial ban,” said Grosch, who owns the Ocean Beach Hotel on Newport. “People come down and they are intimidated by these guys who are drinking. Those are the only steps going down to the beach.”
At the Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association, director Denny Knox said she’s torn. “It’s a handful of people causing the problem, so why punish everyone?” Know asked. However, she added, “We do want to take our beach back.”
San Diego Police Capt. Sarah Creighton said she sympathizes with team parents who feel they need to safeguard their surfers. Alcoholic transients are attracted to the sea wall, Creighton said, and her officers get calls about drunks there.
However, while she called the recreation zone “a very good idea,” she said it is not clear that Ocean Beach attracts more drunks than other beaches.
Some young surfers say they’ve seen enough.
“We’re trying to have a surf team, we want to stay clean, and they are bringing it into our environment,” said Brennan Clark, a 16- year-old team member. “It’s just not cool.”
4 PICS; Caption: 1. Members of the Point Loma High School surf team gathered near the parking lot at Ocean Beach to prepare for their practice. Some of the surfers say they have been harassed by drinkers in the area. 2. “Team mom” Julie Klein is a member of Councilman Kevin Faulconer’s beach-alcohol task force and is gathering signatures to create an alcohol-free “recreation zone.” 3. Andrew Scribner, 14 (left), and Chet Cleator, 15 of Point Loma High School prepared to practice with their surf team. 4. Teo Dinger (left), Ralph West, Lou Ghio, Adrian Vusick, Julie Klein and Cooper Nielsen judged a practice heat of the Point Loma High School surf team. (Eds. R,C); Credit: 1-4. Laura Embry / Union-Tribune photos
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