Pacific Beach `sober center’ in the works | Police, SDSU want place for partyers to sleep it offSeptember 16, 2001 No Comments
Angela Lau. The San Diego Union – Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Sep 16, 2001. pg. B.1
Pacific Beach partyers are so notorious for their rowdy drunkenness that authorities want to find them a place of their own to sober up.
San Diego police and San Diego State University’s collegiate alcohol prevention program have proposed a “sober center” — a crash pad — for the throngs of inebriated youths carousing around Pacific Beach and Mission Beach on weekends.
Organizers are considering sites near Santa Fe Street near Interstate 5 or in nonresidential areas around SeaWorld and Fiesta Island.
Unlike the war of words waged over the round-the-clock ban on alcohol at Pacific and Mission beaches — an issue that will be decided by voters next year — the proposed center has received support from the Mission Beach Town Council and some Pacific Beach bars and residents.
“The beach areas are where a lot of college students live and spend their free time, eating and drinking,” said Marian Novak, project coordinator for SDSU’s College Community Alcohol Prevention Partnership.
“We have a high incidence of DUI in Pacific Beach, but we also don’t have anyplace to take people who are intoxicated besides to detox downtown,” she said. “We need a place where young people who are intoxicated can go and sleep it off.”
According to police statistics, Pacific Beach reported 7,019 alcohol-related crimes from 1998 to 2000, second only to Mission Beach, which recorded 10,374. The crimes ranged from driving under the influence to public drunkenness.
“The idea is to try to get them off the streets so they don’t go out and cause trouble or become victims — pass out, get robbed or be sexually assaulted,” said Sgt. Andra Brown of the San Diego Police Department’s beach patrol team.
Many of the drunks police deal with are 19 to 26 years old, Brown said.
The proposed center — most likely a mobile home or vacant building located away from residences, schools and child-care centers — will provide mats for sleeping, organizers said.
Brown said police expect to pick up 30 people a night for the center, if current crowds are any indication. Police now can only take the most serious cases to detox because it takes two hours to make a round trip to the San Diego Alcohol and Drug Service Center at 11th and Island avenues downtown, officials said.
Habitual drunks will not be accepted at the sober center. They will have to go to the detox center downtown, Novak said.
The center initially will be open from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays — the most popular party nights. Intoxicated people will be required to stay for four hours and sleep, drink coffee or sit until they sober up. The center will not offer the residential treatment programs that detoxification centers do.
“There’ll be coffee and soda machines,” Brown said. “It’s just a place for them to cool their jets.”
Lt. Mike Cash of the Police Department’s Northern Division said authorities are not considering criminal charges for those taken to the sober center. Currently, police allow drunks five visits a month to the downtown detox center before charging them with a crime, said Officer Arthur Calvert.
Cash said after-dark drunkenness is straining the handful of police officers patrolling the Pacific Beach bar areas. There are usually four to eight officers on any given night.
If officers decide not to take someone to detox, they have to spend up to an hour making calls to locate friends who can drive or calling and waiting for a cab. Driving to the proposed sober center nearby would save a lot of time, Cash said.
Organizers said they are not sure how much the center will cost, but Novak said she has proposed using students who major in social work or the health professions to staff the facility. She said organizers hope it will open in the summer of 2002.
The Pacific Beach Town Council, a community advisory group, is considering whether to support the proposal. Mission Beach Town Council president Richard Green said his council has already voted to support the idea.
The sober center was not proposed for Mission Beach because it is a purely residential neighborhood, with no commercial or industrial areas conducive to that kind of facility, Novak said.
Some Pacific Beach bars, such as the popular Moondoggies and Blind Melons, have pledged to cooperate by sending drunks to the center.
“We’re doing that already,” said Moondoggies manager Kerry First. “First we try to escort them out, offer them a cab. Sometimes we get police involved.”
Resident Kathleen Andrews, who also works for Discover Pacific Beach, a business improvement association, said she doesn’t mind the center being in her community.
Ann White, a Pacific Beach resident, said she supports the idea.
“We cannot have that `not in our back yard’ attitude,” she said. “We already have it in our back yard. We already have this image of party central.”
2 PICS; Caption: 1. Police Officer Garrick Nugent (center) shone a flashlight on the Mission Beach boardwalk early yesterday as he and other officers broke up a party that drew noise complaints. 2. Police Sgt. Pat Vinson (second from left) handcuffed a man who was found passed out in a car in Pacific Beach early yesterday morning before having him taken in a patrol car to the detox center downtown. (B-6); Credit: 1,2. Jim Baird / Union-Tribune