City bars nighttime drinking at beach; foes don’t swallow revamped booze ban

June 11, 1991 No Comments

Sharon Jones. San Diego Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Jun 11, 1991. pg. A.1

Open containers of alcohol are no longer legal on San Diego beaches at night, under an emergency booze ban passed yesterday by San Diego City Council.

Critics immediately vowed to challenge the measure in court. They were joined by Mayor O’Connor, a longstanding opponent of alcohol bans. She cast the sole nay vote in the 6-1 decision.

The council also voted unanimously to declare several Mission Beach parking lots a “public nuisance” and endorsed City Manager Jack McGrory’s closure of the lots after 10 p.m.

Councilmen Bob Filner and Wes Pratt expressed concern over what they called a bias in the way the public and city leaders have responded to recent beach violence.

“It’s about time we had equal outrage,” Filner said. “Please extend that concern, that outrage, to parts of the city that don’t have the same economic standing. Let’s get outraged about what happens in other neighborhoods.”

The booze ban is effective immediately on city beaches and will extend for one year, unless ruled invalid in court. City officials and police say alcohol is involved in 80 percent of the beach crime and gang violence.

A similar ban passed by the council in February was suspended after a group called People to Ban the Ban submitted petitions bearing 47,000 signatures calling for a referendum on the issue. The council may still put the ordinance up for a citywide vote.

Asked if the council “circumvented the political process” by passing an emergency alcohol ban, O’Connor said, “That’s what it looks like to me.”

The measure, effective immediately, outlaws possession or consumption of any alcoholic beverage from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. on all ocean beaches from Sunset Cliffs Park to Torrey Pines State Beach.

It outlaws alcohol possession at any time on boardwalks in Mission Beach and Ocean Beach, at La Jolla Shores beach, and at Kellogg Park, Pacific Beach Park, South Mission Beach Park, Ocean Beach Park and North Park Community Park.

Drinking would, however, be permitted on the Ocean Beach and Pacific Beach piers.

After a lengthy public hearing with 24 speakers and considerable debate, the measure proposed by council member Ron Roberts mustered the six votes needed to pass. Council members Bruce Henderson and John Hartley were absent.

“We’ll be filing a challenge,” said Linda Jo Hardison of People to Ban the Ban, a Leucadia resident who runs a convenience store in La Jolla Shores. “We didn’t work this hard to have them disregard the will of the people.”

To make the emergency ban stick, the council had to come up with a measure that was significantly different than the prior attempt.

Curtis Fitzpatrick, assistant city attorney, said he believed the emergency ban would stand up against a legal challenge, noting that it differs from the referendum in the locales affected and the hours of the ban.

“It’s a close case, but we believe it’s not essentially the same,” he said.

O’Connor, who walked Mission Beach over the weekend, said the booze ban will fail to attack the problem of patrons of bars making a ruckus in the parking lots surrounding Belmont Park.

“Everything I saw in the evening, there are laws on the books to take care of it,” she said. “I’m a little concerned. I have to say it — 99.9 percent of the people at the beach are good people. We’re going to punish 99 percent of the people?”

She suggested extending a nighttime booze ban to beach-area bars and called for police sobriety checks and a holding tank for drunks. The council referred those suggestions to the city manager’s office.

Councilwoman Abbe Wolfsheimer, whose district includes La Jolla Shores, likened the violence at the beaches to the Persian Gulf War.

“We’re going to win our own war on this gulf,” she said. “It’s time to make our beaches safe for everyone who uses them.”

“This is at least a step in the right direction,” said South Mission Beach resident Jeanne Wright, one of 18 people who spoke in favor of the emergency ban. “We’ve tried everything else. It’s a shame we have to give up drinking. But it is at that point.”

The city expects to have the gates in place to close the parking lots in the Bahia Point, Ventura Cove and Bonita Cove areas of Mission Bay Park by tonight.

The city spent $9,400 to install three gates, while the Bahia Hotel paid for two. Two men were stabbed to death June 1 near the hotel.

O’Connor expressed some concern with this private-public venture, saying to a Bahia official, “We’ve got to be careful that our public lots don’t become your private domain.”

In naming the area a public nuisance, McGrory cited 116 crime cases, 45 arrests, 35 citations, two stabbing deaths, gang activity and an “inability of the Police Department to effectively manage the area without nighttime gating.”

The gates are temporary, pending approval of the California Coastal Commission, which has jurisdiction over the parking lots.

Coastal Commission staff is expected to recommend against approving the gates when the issue goes before the commission, which could be as early as the July 16. Commission staff have said they feel increased police presence could solve the problem.

[Illustration]
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Credit: Tribune Staff Writer

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