Battle over ban moves to ballot box | Council puts beach alcohol decision in hands of voters

July 24, 2001 No Comments

Angela Lau. The San Diego Union – Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Jul 24, 2001. pg. B.1

The San Diego City Council has decided to leave to voters one of its most contentious decisions — whether to impose a round-the- clock ban on drinking alcohol at city beaches.

With opponents and supporters of the ban asking them to “do the right thing,” council members voted unanimously yesterday to hold a referendum March 5 during primary elections.

The issue on the ballot will be whether to impose a trial round- the-clock ban on alcohol at parts of Mission Beach and Pacific Beach to replace the existing partial ban on alcohol from 8 p.m. to noon.

“It is important for citizens of San Diego to understand the issue and render an opinion,” said Councilman Byron Wear, author of the trial ban, which the council approved three months ago. “The 92109 ZIP code has the highest percentage of drunk driving in San Diego.”

Other council members said that despite the high cost of a citywide vote — $150,000 to $180,000 — they felt San Diego residents should be heard.

“Even my own family is split on this issue,” Mayor Dick Murphy said. “The only fair thing is to put it on the ballot and let people decide.”

The City Council approved the round-the-clock ban in April. It would have covered the area from the south jetty in Mission Beach to Felspar Street in Pacific Beach, just north of Crystal Pier, and it would have taken effect June 1. It was to have been in place 18 months but was never enforced because opponents gathered enough petition signatures to suspend the ordinance.

The city clerk verified the petition contained the names of 51,729 registered voters and formally presented it to the City Council yesterday. At that point, the council had 10 days to decide to rescind the ban or put it on the ballot.

If the referendum passes, the trial ban will only have about eight months left in its life.

Opponents of the ban, who had demanded a referendum when collecting signatures for the petition, yesterday pushed for a repeal of the ordinance, saying the ban was unnecessary and a referendum was too expensive. Many of them left yesterday’s meeting before a decision was made.

Supporters of the ban, who asked for a referendum, applauded quietly when the voting board showed the council’s unanimous decision.

“This is great,” said Abby Murray, a member of the Mission Beach Woman’s Club. “We need to let citizens say what they want.”

Julie Doenges, who is active with the Ban the Ban II group that gathered enough signatures to force the council to reconsider the trial ordinance yesterday, said she is confident the ban will be defeated by voters.

“It’s a matter of campaigning,” Doenges said.

The vote is likely to be close. Results of a San Diego Union- Tribune poll of 400 randomly selected San Diego residents conducted earlier this month showed them virtually split on the issue. About 43 percent said they supported the ban, and 49 percent said they were opposed to it. Eight percent said they were undecided.

Yesterday, opponents said that a total ban would strip responsible drinkers of the right to enjoy alcohol at the beach. Supporters of the ban said alcohol-free beaches promote safe neighborhoods and reduce under-age drinking.

“The beach has become the biggest club in San Diego where no ID is required,” 15-year-old Reina Marquez of El Cajon told council members. “The majority of teen-agers don’t want alcohol on the beaches.”

Ban supporter Jean Froning of Mission Beach said the referendum is worth its cost.

“It’s peanuts compared to giving us more police officers,” she said, referring to estimates that roughly one-fifth of San Diego’s daily patrolling police force is assigned to beach communities in the summer to suppress crime.
[Illustration]
1 PIC; Caption: Mission Beach residents (from left) Dee Lange (in glasses), Abby Murray and Elfi Segal are supporters of a ban on alcohol at the beach.; Credit: Peggy Peattie / Union-Tribune

Credit: STAFF WRITER

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