Council rejects park ban on booze | No drinking curbs near scene of violence

July 25, 1995 No Comments

PHILIP J LaVELLE. The San Diego Union – Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Jul 25, 1995. pg. B.1

Two emergency measures to ban booze at Mission Bay Park were decisively defeated yesterday by the San Diego City Council, which concluded that the moves would unfairly punish law-abiding citizens.

Councilman Scott Harvey had pushed for the measures, asserting that emergency action is required to blunt summertime rowdyism at the sprawling aquatic park — the scene nine days ago of a shootout that left two bystanders wounded and police facing down an angry mob.

“We have had problems in Mission Bay Park,” Harvey told his colleagues. “I am simply trying to reclaim this park for families and for kids.”

But Harvey, who represents Mission Bay and other beach areas, got no support for his principal proposal — a 90-day, 24-hour booze ban at the 4,600-acre park, which includes all of Mission Bay and the area surrounding it – but does not take in Mission Beach.

Nearly a dozen residents of the Mission Beach area implored the council to impose the ban, and police testified that booze bans do cut down on summertime violence. There were a similar number of opponents, including residents, liquor store owners, hoteliers and the Beer Drinkers of America, a nonprofit group that has had financial backing from brewers and distributors.

All seven of Harvey’s colleagues voted against his first measure for a 24-hour ban at all grassy areas of the park, as well as its bay-side beaches and waterways. Exceptions would have been granted to lease-holders, including resort hotels dotting the park, as well as to groups planning events like picnics.

“I think it’s well-intentioned but misdirected,” said Councilwoman Valerie Stallings. “It’s time to stop penalizing the good citizens because of some people who have decided ahead of time to come to the park with guns.”

The city already has an 8 p.m.-to-8 a.m. alcohol ban at Mission Beach and a 24-hour prohibition along Mission Beach’s boardwalk and seawall.

Mayor Susan Golding was absent yesterday because she is in Washington. She has proposed her own measures for the park, including beefed up police patrols that began this past weekend.

After his initial motion received no support, Harvey suggested a weaker measure that would have banned alcohol at the park between 4 p.m. and 6 a.m.

It was supported by Councilman George Stevens but was opposed by all other council members. Stevens argued that alcohol bans are politically unpopular but effective.

“It’s one of the most unpopular things you can do — because nobody wants you to stop their drinking and nobody wants you to stop their smoking in this city,” Stevens said, adding that an alcohol curfew beginning at 4 p.m. is reasonable.

“If people cannot get loaded enough by 4 o’clock during the day, there’s got to be something wrong with the individual,” he said.

Police officials, meantime, were reluctant to get in the middle of a political fight. They stopped short of actively calling for a ban but acknowledged under Harvey’s questioning that they think bans work.

Harvey rattled off a list of problems at the park like a prosecutor reading an indictment, punctuating it all by quizzing police on the July 16 shootout, the July 4 closure of Belmont Park because of teen-age fighting, and the June 10 shooting of a man quarreling over a parking space at Bonita Cove.

“When bans are in place we have noticed a reduction in assaultive behavior,” said Lt. Louis Scanlon, who oversees patrols in Mission Beach and Pacific Beach.

Mark Geller, a Mission Beach resident and criminal-defense lawyer, said he has seen “an amazing increase in criminal activity” at the park. Citing his experiences defending clients arrested in the Mission Beach area, he added: “Almost without exception, alcohol has been a factor.”

Other proponents said they and their families fear for their lives on weekends at the park. One well-known City Hall figure — lobbyist Michael McDade — said he saw the crowd fleeing the July 16 shootout, a scene he said looked more like Bosnia, not San Diego.

“You can’t imagine what a sense of outrage this is when it happens in your neighborhood,” McDade said.

Opponents included hotelier Bill Evans, whose family owns the Bahia and Catamaran hotels in the park.

“This is a Mission Beach problem — not a Mission Bay problem,” Evans said, arguing that a ban would punish law-abiding park-goers.

Another opponent, Abe Dayeh, owner of the Beach Market on Mission Boulevard, said guns are the real problem. “To be honest with you, when they go to the beach they already decided to bring a gun,” Dayeh said.

Credit: Staff Writer

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