Beach booze ban OK’d by council, to begin April 17

February 26, 1991 No Comments

Jeff Ristine. San Diego Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Feb 26, 1991. pg. B.1

Ending a privilege found almost nowhere else in Southern California, the San Diego City Council has voted to prohibit alcohol on city beaches, Mission Bay Park and several inland parks, effective April 17.

“We’ve tried piecemeal attempts to cope with this problem; they’ve all failed,” said Bill Luther, president of the Mission Beach Town Council. “We’re losing our rights and we’re in favor of it, reluctantly.”

For most areas, the prohibition approved on a 7-0 vote yesterday officially is only a one-year test. The council’s approach to the issue suggests, however, it will be made permanent and even expanded if it makes beaches and parks more pleasant for families and non- drinkers.

Mayor O’Connor, who previously opposed across-the-board prohibitions on alcohol at the beaches, was absent for the vote, along with Councilman Wes Pratt.

In other decisions, the council yesterday rejected O’Connor’s request for a ballot measure that could initiate sweeping changes to the city charter, and made final a previous vote to create a permanent human relations commission that will have an advisory role in investigations of hate, bigotry and intolerance.

The council also asked a downtown planning committee led by developer Ernest Hahn to work on the next phase of plans for a new civic center, and whether that center should be built near the current City Hall or moved to the eastern end of downtown, an area some see as being in greater need of redevelopment.

The no-alcohol vote capped years of gradual drift toward tighter controls at city beaches. Since the mid-’80s, critics have blamed drinking for rowdy behavior, obscene language and even violence that they say have made a trip to the beach more of a test of endurance than a good time.

Until now, however, law-abiding beach-goers have always managed to convince the council that their drinking privileges outweighed the trouble caused by a small minority of troublemakers. What changed the council’s position was a six-month test, started last year at La Jolla Shores, the adjacent Kellogg Park and North Park Community Park, that met with widespread, unqualified praise.

“The Shores ban has worked fantastically,” said Brian O’Donnell. “It was like somebody turned a switch off.”

Yesterday’s vote makes the ban at La Jolla Shores, Kellogg Park and North Park Community Park permanent.

All other beaches and shoreline parks from southern Sunset Cliffs to Torrey Pines, including all land areas of Mission Bay Park, will be drawn into the new, one-year test.

Five inland parks also will be added to the list: Vista Terrace in San Ysidro, Larsen Field (also known as the San Ysidro Athletic Area), Mission Trails Regional Park, Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve and Memorial Community Park in Southeast San Diego.

The ban does not affect concessions on leased property, including Ocean Beach Pier and Crystal Pier, that allow drinking on their premises. Organized groups, including family reunions, will be allowed to apply for waivers from the city manager’s staff, to be granted on a case-by-case basis.

After its obligatory second reading, scheduled for March 18, the prohibition will go into effect April 17.

Terri Williams, deputy director of the city Park and Recreation Department’s coastal division, said previous curbs on alcohol have not been completely effective.

Regulations adopted in 1987 barred drinking between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. at all beaches except Ocean Beach, where the ban currently goes into effect at midnight. Drinking in beach parking lots has been banned around the clock; so are all glass beverage containers regardless of content.

But Williams said the beaches continue to experience crime and other disturbances that police and residents of the areas belive are “alcohol-related.”

Councilman Ron Roberts, whose district includes the stretch from Sunset Cliffs to Pacific Beach and Mission Bay, said he was astounded to discover that “before 6:30 in the morning, there are people who have arrived (at the beaches) to start the day’s drinking.”

Roberts and Councilman Bruce Henderson, who represented the central beaches before last year’s redistricting, both opposed tighter alcohol restrictions before the test at La Jolla Shores.

Most beaches in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties long ago banned drinking.

In the other actions yesterday:

o O’Connor’s charter proposal was shuffled over to a workshop the mayor said will be nothing but “yappity yappity yappity yap.”

Pursuing an issue she addressed in her 1991 State of the City address, O’Connor requested council approval of a ballot measure calling a charter review “convention” and appointing its 15 members. The group would review the need for changes in the structure of government, political reforms and other aspects of San Diego’s 60- year-old charter, which would be returned to voters for judgment on subsequent ballots.

O’Connor proposed the convention to bypass the council itself, which last year blocked virtually all her charter-amendment proposals from the November ballot. She pleaded with her colleagues to “have faith in the voters” to do what is right for the city.

But with several of her ideas targeted directly against the council itself — a two-term limit and a proposal to require voter approval of council pay increases, for example — the council majority was in no mood to make life easy for the mayor. In a 7-2 vote on the new ballot measure, only Roberts sided with the mayor.

o The 8-1 vote to establish the Human Relations Commission followed sudden questions from the sole opponent, Henderson, on whether targets of the panel’s investigations would be unfairly tainted before having a chance to respond.

The commission, whose 15 members will be appointed, is intended as a forum for complaints of racism, religious intolerance and other behavior that may not necessarily violate any law.

Henderson wanted an amendment that would legally require the commission to offer subjects of any complaint 30 days to respond prior to any action by the panel. Otherwise, he argued, the commission could act “very much like a Star Chamber,” the 17th- century royal English Court known for secret sessions and severe, arbitrary judgments.

Others noted that assurances of the right to response can be added later in the commission’s rules. Henderson’s proposal, supported by Roberts, Judy McCarty and Bob Filner, failed in a 5-4 vote.

o The council assigned the Centre City Planning Committee, chaired by Horton Plaza developer Hahn, to consider economic and planning questions associated with the proposal to build a new City Hall. The committee will have about three months to look into the issue.

By next year, the city expects to be paying $7 million annually in costs for leased office space, currently spread among several downtown buildings.

Some advocates, including the downtown business group San Diegans Inc., want the new City Hall developed either at the existing civic complex at Second Avenue and C street or somewhere nearby, where it would remain a short walk from courthouses and state and federal office buildings.

Others, including Hahn, argue that a civic center at the east end could stimulate the kind of redevelopment, including housing, badly needed in that area. Hahn’s group last year completed work on a comprehensive land-use plan for downtown that recommends a civic complex at the east end, near San Diego City College.

Economic consultants have determined that the current 13-story City Administration Building cannot be remodeled at reasonable expense.

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Credit: Tribune Staff Writer

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