City mulls blood-alcohol limit for people using parks, beaches

January 10, 1990 No Comments

Kathryn Balint. San Diego Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Jan 10, 1990. pg. B.1

Councilman Bruce Henderson today proposed to make it illegal for anyone to have a blood-alcohol level higher than 0.08 percent — the same standard for drunken driving — while at a city park or beach.

The proposal comes the day after a total ban on alcohol at parks and beaches was ruled out by the San Diego City Council.

Henderson made the proposal for an emergency ordinance at a meeting of the council’s Public Facilities and Recreation Committee.

“I think everybody is going to agree you shouldn’t be drunk on our beaches and in our parks,” Henderson said. “The police officers can take a Breathalyzer with them to the beach, and if you’re over the limit, you’re gone.”

Tests would be targeted at people behaving in a rowdy or disorderly manner.

There already is a city law prohibiting public drunkenness, but Henderson said that law does not set a specific level for blood- alcohol content.

“You almost have to be falling down drunk” in order for police officers to make an arrest under that law, Henderson said.

The 0.08 percent level is the new lower drunken-driving standard that went into effect for motorists throughout the state on Jan. 1.

The committee, in a 5-0 vote, directed the city attorney and city manager to study the proposed ordinance. But the committee did not take a stand on the proposal. The committee suggested that it be one of the proposals presented in a series of public meetings this spring on how to address alcohol-related problems in parks and beaches.

The committee, which Henderson sits on, went back to the drawing board today to look at how to curb curb drunken, rowdy behavior at beaches and parks without penalizing law-abiding citizens.

“If you’re just down at the beach having a beer (and) watching the sun go down, you wouldn’t have a problem with this,” Henderson said of his proposal.

The committee had first endorsed the controversial idea of an outright ban on alcohol, but the full nine-member council, including those who had originally supported the prohibition, killed the alcohol-banning proposal yesterday. The council instead said regulations on alcohol should be put into place on a case-by-case basis rather than with a sweeping prohbition.

When a majority of the council — the five who sit on the Public Facilities and Recreation Committee — proposed prohibiting alcohol in parks and beaches, it sent people into an uproar.

The proposed ban grew out of a discussion of park safety at the Dec. 13 meeting of the committee. At the time, Councilwoman Abbe Wolfsheimer advocated a ban at trouble-prone La Jolla Shores beach, and soon Councilman Bruce Henderson and the three other committee members were pushing for a total prohibition of alcohol at all city beaches and parks.

Citizens on both sides of the issue inundated City Hall with telephone calls and letters.

But the whole thing turned out to be nothing more than a tempest in a teapot.

“It became clear immediately after the vote, based on both public concern and discussion with the city attorney and city manager’s office, that more work needed to be done on the proposal,” said Councilman Bob Filner.

In a complete turnabout, Henderson told the council yesterday: “I oppose a ban, period.” He said he supported it in the first place only as “a cry of desperation.”

Councilman Wes Pratt, who is not on the committee, said yesterday’s 2 1/2 -hour council hearing on the ban was a waste of time.

Pratt scolded the committee members. “To jerk people around on this particular issue … is irresponsible. What has gone on here has almost been a travesty.”

Current San Diego law governs the consumption of alcohol at beaches, banning it between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. on public areas of Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, Mission Bay and La Jolla’s beaches.

Credit: Tribune Staff Writer

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