Faulconer: Beach brawl `disgrace’ | Councilman will seek ordinance banning booze from shoreline

September 5, 2007 No Comments

Chet Barfield, Joe Hughes. The San Diego Union – Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Sep 5, 2007. pg. B.1

SAN DIEGO — The rowdy drunks might have finally spoiled the party for everyone else.

Revisiting the site of Monday’s melee at Pacific Beach, San Diego Councilman Kevin Faulconer yesterday vowed to introduce a proposal to ban drinking at all San Diego beaches.

“Yesterday’s incident was an embarrassment and a disgrace,” Faulconer said of the massive brawl involving scores of fighters in a crowd of hundreds near Reed Avenue and Ocean Boulevard. It took dozens of police officers with riot shields to break it up; they were pelted with beer cans and water bottles.

“Never again should we have to have police in riot gear walking down the beaches,” Faulconer said yesterday, flanked by dozens of cheering proponents of a beach alcohol ban. “We can no longer tolerate what happened here.”

Faulconer, who until now has straddled the contentious debate over beach drinking, said he is working with City Attorney Michael Aguirre on an ordinance he plans to bring before the City Council within two months. It would ban alcohol at Mission Beach, Ocean Beach and Pacific Beach.

La Jolla is the only San Diego beach where such a ban is in place. Almost all neighboring cities to the north and south have such a ban.

Aguirre said he expects to have a draft ready for public review in about two weeks. He said it would be modeled after ordinances in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Francisco.

San Diego voters narrowly defeated a ballot proposition in 2002 to outlaw drinking on city beaches.

Through a spokesman, Mayor Jerry Sanders said yesterday that he would keep “an open mind,” but he believes a year-round ban goes too far.

“He is more inclined to favor a partial ban on summer holiday periods, because he believes that won’t adversely impact law- abiding citizens who merely want to have a beer, a drink of wine, on the beach and do so in peace and tranquillity,” said Sanders’ spokesman Fred Sainz. “Memorial Day, July Fourth and Labor Day — that’s when the hooligans seem to come out in full force.”

Advocates on both sides of the long-standing debate over beach drinking respectively applauded and criticized Faulconer’s proposal.

“Our beaches are seen as a place to come and binge drink, and this will change that,” said Marcie Beckett, co-founder of SavePB.org, a group pushing the alcohol ban. “It’s going to open the beach up to families and tourists who want to come down and have a different experience.”

FreePB.org, a rights group, issued a statement calling for more discussion, saying an alcohol ban would “affect literally millions of people who have enjoyed San Diego’s beaches this summer, peacefully and without incident.”

Although police still weren’t sure yesterday what triggered the 5:15 p.m. brawl Monday, they blamed its escalation on a combination of too much booze, hot weather and large crowds.

Police said about 70 people in a group of about 500 were primarily involved in the pushing and fighting. One victim, with a swollen and bruised face, told police he was struck at least 30 times by fists and feet.

City lifeguards temporarily closed four towers and evacuated two patrol stands, essentially abandoning the beach and boarding water craft to patrol for swimmers in distress.

The 35 officers who initially responded needed reinforcements of 40 more in full riot gear. Pelted with cans, plastic bottles and trash, officers fired at least five rounds of pepper balls into the crowd, police said.

Fifteen men and one woman, ages 19 to 32, were arrested on suspicion of charges ranging from drunk in public to disturbing the peace and assault on an officer.

Police said one officer suffered a twisted ankle. No others were hurt, and no one among the fighters was believed to have sought hospital treatment.

Police Chief William Lansdowne called the incident a “donnybrook” and said some reports blew it out of proportion. He praised his officers.

Lansdowne has said an alcohol ban on the beach would push the problems inland. “It is easier for me to control them on the beach than to have them come into the city,” he said last summer.

In a brief interview yesterday, Lansdowne stuck by that opinion but quickly added he would enforce City Council action.

Lansdowne said it has been a relatively quiet summer crimewise at the beaches. He said over the Fourth of July holiday, with 600,000 people by the sea, there was only one major incident — a stabbing.

The most serious beach crime of the summer occurred June 20, when a man was fatally stabbed in a fight near the Ocean Beach Pier.

OVERVIEW

Background: Residents of Pacific Beach, Mission Beach and Ocean Beach have complained for years about people who get drunk and out of control on the sand. Many have pushed for a ban on beach drinking, and City Councilman Kevin Faulconer formed a Beach Alcohol Task Force to study the issue. After more than eight months, the advisory panel couldn’t agree on whether even a limited ban on alcohol should be imposed.

What’s changing: A drunken brawl in Pacific Beach on Labor Day galvanized those in favor of a ban and led Faulconer to vow he will introduce a proposal to prohibit alcohol on all San Diego beaches. Currently, La Jolla is the only city beach where alcohol cannot be legally consumed.

The future: Faulconer will work with City Attorney Michael Aguirre on crafting a proposed ban, which could come to the City Council for consideration within two months.
[Illustration]
2 PICS | 1 CHART; Caption: 1. Joel Embrey and his wife, Joan Cann, said they watched the melee Monday on Pacific Beach. Behind them, San Diego City Councilman Kevin Faulconer held a news conference yesterday. 2. Not long after San Diego City Councilman Kevin Faulconer held a news conference yesterday in Pacific Beach, police officers rode the boardwalk. 3. OVERVIEW [1,2. John Gastaldo / Union-Tribune]

Credit: STAFF WRITERS

Beach Ordinance

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