BAN IT. SAVE BEACHES

June 7, 1991 No Comments

JIM GOGEK. San Diego Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Jun 7, 1991. pg. B.9

SAN DIEGO — Mission Bay Park has truly become a park for all San Diegans.

On weekend afternoons, people from throughout the city fill the lawns around the basins and coves, spreading blankets for picnics, firing up barbecue grills and flying kites with the kids. Bonita Cove is a particularly popular spot for families.

But the same area at night is anything but peaceful.

Last weekend, two people were stabbed to death in a fight between two groups of young men in a parking lot there. Another young man was shot to death in the same parking lot in a similar fight; a 17- year-old girl was shot to death last year in another Mission Bay parking lot.

Late-night fights break out almost every weekend at other parking lots around Mission Bay and at the jetty in South Mission Beach. Mission Beach itself is inundated every weekend afternoon with rowdy young men who seem to have consumed a 12-pack of beer each.

Police say that on a nice sunny day, there are 8,000 to 10,000 drunks along Mission Beach and Pacific Beach. Fights between drunks, and intimidation of passers-by is increasing. Police are starting to find weapons among these beach thugs.

This situation is getting worse. If nothing is done, expect to see more knifings, shootings and brawls throughout the summer.

Solutions are obvious, although they will cost some money. First, ban alcohol on the beaches and in the parks. Never mind the talk by by beer distributors of “responsible drinking.” They make a lot of money off the Mission Beach rowdies and are fighting efforts to ban alcohol at the beach. There are some responsible drinkers; many of the picnicking families bring along a six-pack. But take a stroll along the boardwalk at Belmont Park on a Sunday afternoon, if you dare, and see how many “responsible drinkers” you find.

The picnickers probably won’t mind if they have to drink soda; they’re not out to get drunk, just have a nice time, and they can do it without alcohol. The only ones besides the beer distributors, crying about not being allowed to drink, are the scuzzy young men, many of them alcoholics, who go to the beach in the morning with 12- packs in hand and drink all day long.

Sure, drunks have rights, too. But at Mission Beach, they’re infringing upon everyone else’s pursuit of happiness.

The solution for the violence in the Mission Bay parking lots is similarly clear. Close them one hour after dark. All of them.

These solutions will mean more police patrols or a park-ranger system; some artful maneuvering may be needed by the City Council to enforce an alcohol ban, which is strongly opposed by beer distributors and beach-area liquor stores.

If strong measures aren’t taken, Mission Bay and Mission Beach will continue their slide into anarchy. That must not be allowed to happen. Already, parts of Balboa Park are off-limits to people concerned for their safety. Many other city parks also are under siege.

Some city parks have been made safe. Golden Hill Park, once a gang hang-out laced with drugs and violence, is peaceful today. That’s because neighborhood activists convinced the police to close the park after dark and patrol it.

Some say that complaints about troublemakers at the Mission Beach and Mission Bay are racially related, that South Mission Beach residents scream, “Gangs!” every time they see a group of young minority males.

Perhaps. But nobody’s complaining about the peaceful picnickers around Bonita Cove and Mariner Basin, who are San Diegans of all races. A crackdown is needed so those picnickers and others who go to the beach will feel safe and comfortable.

Jim Gogek is a Tribune editorial writer.

Credit: Jim Gogek is a Tribune editorial writer.

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