July 4th booze ban at beach is pushed | Police support proposal by some in Mission Bay

October 16, 2003 No Comments

Angela Lau. The San Diego Union – Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Oct 16, 2003. pg. B.1

Dissatisfied with the limited effectiveness of a July Fourth ban on kegs of beer at city beaches, some Mission Bay residents are pushing for a ban on all alcohol at beaches on Independence Day.

While opponents already are voicing objections, the idea has received strong support from San Diego police.

“Temporary bans on alcohol are doable and reasonable,” said Capt. Larry Moratto of the Northern Division, which patrols Mission Bay, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach.

City laws already limit drinking at Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and practically all of Mission Bay to the hours of noon to 8 p.m.

Moratto said he wants to go further than an Independence Day ban at Mission Bay, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach.

Moratto said he would like a round-the-clock beach ban on alcohol the entire July Fourth weekend. He also would like similar weekend bans on Memorial Day and Labor Day.

“During those times, when so many people are crowded into such a confined area and are drinking, we may end up with a riotous situation,” Moratto said. “We have to do something or we’re going to lose it as far as crowd control.”

On July Fourth, 289,000 people visited the beaches of Mission Bay, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach.

Of those, 10,000 were at Sail Bay at the northern edge of Mission Bay, according to San Diego lifeguards. Sail Bay residents successfully pressed the City Council to pass legislation imposing a keg ban earlier this year.

But things did not work out as well as residents had hoped, said Sail Bay Association president Sidney Goodman.

Revelers circumvented the rule by bringing in huge quantities of canned beer.

As a result, Goodman said, beachgoers were just as drunk and rowdy. He said families and senior citizens were so intimidated by the drunken crowds that they were afraid to go to the beach.

On July 5, city workers cleared 25 tons of trash from Sail Bay, where abandoned couches, recliners, a refrigerator and beer cans were found.

Despite ban opponents’ contention that any kind of ban infringes on their right to drink at the beach, Goodman said public safety should be a priority and that an all-day July Fourth ban would accomplish the purpose.

“We are only calling for restrictions on alcohol for an additional eight hours on July Fourth,” he said.

Moratto and some Sail Bay residents also pointed to the success of Del Mar, which banned alcohol at beaches, parks, parking lots and alleys on the Fourth of July and reported significant reductions in crime.

Two Sail Bay residents, Marjorie Kirby and Nicole Larson, said the keg ban brought more orderliness but believe a total Independence Day ban is necessary.

“I didn’t see the combustible rowdiness, but a July Fourth holiday weekend ban is probably the only way they can really control crowds,” said Kirby, a 14-year Sail Bay resident.

The Sail Bay Association’s latest suggestion has rippled through neighboring Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, where community leaders fear that displaced drinkers would swamp their beaches.

The Mission Beach Town Council has joined Sail Bay in pushing for a round-the-clock July Fourth beach alcohol ban. The Pacific Beach Town Council will consider the issue later.

The suggested ban, however, touched a raw nerve in a city where voters just last year defeated a proposed year-round ban on alcohol at city beaches.

Eric Ransavage, 33, an attorney who lives in Pacific Beach and who voted against last year’s proposed ban, said a July Fourth ban is an attempt to inch closer to a year-round ban by attacking one holiday at a time.

“After this, there will be Labor Day, Memorial Day and before you know it, it will be all year round,” Ransavage said. “There always seems to be the same vocal minority that gets upset every year.”

San Diego City Council member Jim Madaffer said he would not support such a full July Fourth ban, although he said the proposal merits further review.

“I don’t support restrictions on people’s freedom,” said Madaffer, who voted against last year’s proposed ban.

City Council member Michael Zucchet, whose district includes Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, said through his spokeswoman, Katie Keach, that he will consider the issue when he attends a Sail Bay residents’ meeting today.

Moratto said a complete ban on alcohol on major holidays is probably the only way police can maintain law and order with limited staff.

“I can put 100 more officers in Sail Bay, but with 10,000 people there, they will not be of much help,” Moratto said.

“Do people want to face 10,000 people who are drunk and uncontrollable,” he asked, “or do they want everybody to enjoy the fireworks and natural resources without being intimidated?”

Angela Lau: (619) 542-4584; angela.lau@uniontrib.com

Credit: STAFF WRITER

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