Booze ban moves closer at popular parkAugust 20, 2010 No Comments
Residents are imploring a San Diego City Council committee to endorse a blanket ban on alcohol at Kate O. Sessions Memorial Park, saying they’ve suffered enough since voters approved a beach booze ban in 2008 and sent more drinkers to their Pacific Beach neighborhood.
The Park & Recreation Board had voted 8-1 Thursday to side with residents in that community who complained that the increase in drinkers has spurred an uptick in noise, fights and public urination. Others in the neighborhood support a compromise that would prohibit drinking in the park on holidays and weekends.
The matter now goes to the City Council’s Public Safety & Neighborhood Services Committee and eventually to the full council.
Jennifer Binn, who lives near the park with her family, said elected officials need only look at the havoc caused by large crowds on the Fourth of July. Her fence was trampled and revelers relieved themselves in her yard. That’s not to mention the rise in vandalism, trash and drinking games at the park, Binn said.
“The park has been taken over by Slip ’N Slides, keg stands and slosh ball games,” she said. “I don’t think it’s fair that our community suffers the fallout of the beach ban. Those who were responsible for banning alcohol did not consider the possible repercussions.”
The San Diego Police Department reported a year-over-year increase in the number of phone calls requesting service at Kate Sessions Park — from 143 in 2008 to 281 in 2009. So far this year, the department has logged 171 such requests.
Kate O. Sessions Memorial Park was designed and built to serve 3,500 to 5,000 people living within a ½-mile radius, said Clay Bingham, the city’s deputy director of parks. But with its sweeping views of downtown and Mission Bay, the park has always drawn people from outside the neighborhood, he said.
Resident Mike Savoca said it was among the most majestic gathering places in the city, but not anymore.
“There are restrictions against having billboards around kids that emulate” drinking, he said. “We have it (here) in 3-D.”
Neighborhood groups backing the 24-hour ban include the Pacific Beach Planning Group, La Jolla Town Council and the community park board overseeing that area.
Jacob Pyle, a member of the group FreePB, said much of the discussion has ignored the strong demand for public recreation zones where adults could drink.
“We have these huge parks that are being underutilized because the park and recreation department in special events refuses to issue permits unless you have your event in a beer prison with a cage,” Pyle said. “I don’t know about you, but as a rational, responsible father of two young children, I’d rather enjoy a cold beer and play with my kids than watch them wander around while I’m standing inside a fence.”
Norman Greene, a member of the park board, acknowledged the “draconian” nature of the suggested park ban and said displaced drinkers likely would exploit unforeseen loopholes in city codes in order to drink in other public places.
“But I think the people around Kate Sessions have suffered for a year and a half as the consequence of the action to ban all alcohol at the beach and Mission Bay Park, and it’s time to give them some relief,” Greene said.
Board member Olivia Puentes-Reynolds cast the lone dissenting vote. She joined with others living in the neighborhood who advocated for a compromise recommended by the city’s parks director. That compromise called for no alcohol consumption from 8 p.m. Friday to noon Monday; during all city, state and federal holidays; and at all times in the area near the children’s playground.
It also would outlaw kegs and curtail standard drinking hours from the current 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to noon to 8 p.m.
Chris Winkle, who served on a committee that helped craft the compromise, suggested the weekend ban be lifted from November through April.
“Those warm months are when most of the activity occurs and perhaps we might have some weekends open to us in the winter months when we can enjoy the park also,” Winkle said.
He also recommended that the board provide a mechanism to allow alcohol at sanctioned concerts in the park without needing a permit.
Photo: Earnie Grafton
Source: SignOnSanDiegoDrunk in Public, Kate Sessions Park, MM