Most Pacific Beach residents wouldn’t even think of bringing their family, friends or significant others down to Garnet Avenue for a night on the town. In the evenings there’s little to do than eat and drink, drink and eat, drink, drink… you get the picture. A peaceful stroll up and down Garnet most weekend afternoons? No problem but, come prepared to explain to your kids why so many grown ups are behaving so poorly. Many of the bar patrons arrive from distant parts of San Diego, usually with someone in the party driving. This fact, combined with our community’s reputation of being the place to come and get drunk, make even more serious the many safety concerns which at the very least include:
Growing Number of Alcohol Licensees in Pacific Beach
Lack of Community Voice in License Issuance and Modifications
Number of Groups Addressing (or ignoring) Alcohol Issues
Lack of Sufficient Enforcement by Alcohol Beverage Control
Lack of Sufficient Enforcement Resources for San Diego Police and City
Seemingly-Clear Violations of Law by Many Licensees
Proliferating Pub Crawls
Public Perception of Pacific Beach – Party Town
Inadequate Street Lighting
Lack of Sufficient Parking
Trash and Litter
Marketing and Advertising
In an area zoned for approximately 40 liquor licenses Pacific Beach has 125 including 34 off-sale (i.e. liquor stores) and 91 on-sale (i.e. bars, taverns, restaurants). Many more are in the works – even with many community members jumping up and down in alarm. In our core district there’s a liquor license for every 85 residents. That means every resident could sit in a bar or liquor store for over 3 days and be the only customer – each for 365 days a year! The State of California Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) has every ability to add additional licensees with little regard to the communities interest. Declined applications are often appealed, overturned by ABC-employed jurists, resulting in even more licenses being added. Click here for more on this subject.
Our community struggles to be heard by the ABC and other civil authorities. Mandates are in place to prevent licensee expansion if crime is over 100% of the index. Pacific Beach is over 2700% of the index – yes, 27 times the citywide average in crime! Click here for more on this subject.
- Pacific Beach Community Planning Group – Recently reviewing alcohol issues as they relate to land use and tackling the myriad of alcohol issues plaguing our community. The Planning Group also reviews, making subsequent recommendations to the city, of alcohol licensee applications.
- Discover PB (business ‘improvement’ district) – of 1,250 businesses in PB most dismiss this organization by generating around 60 ballots per year (that’s less than half of one percent)
- Hospitality Task Force – comprised mostly of bar owners and employees who focus largely on self-serving (not community-serving) policies
- Special Events Committee – recently re-tasked by its leadership chaired by a major bar owner, to address alcohol issues by including their review of alcohol licensee applications. See post from 2008.
Click here for more on this subject.
The ABC has limited resources to oversee the well over 2,000 alcohol licensees in San Diego County. For the Pacific Beach community enforcement was light during the 5-year period 2002-2007 which is documented here. In summary, only 16 ABC enforcement actions were completed against the nearly 123 licensees during this period. This is the equivalent of a completed enforcement action being taken against each licensee once every 38 years in business. Not bad odds when facing such high profit potential. Click here for more on this subject.
With ever-increasing budget cuts our safety services do not have the resources to enforce our laws – resulting in everyone at greater risks. Our beleaguered police department needs many more resources to address:
- Drunk Driving –70% of PB’s drunk drivers don’t live in PB. DUI checkpoints are held only one or two times a year because of budget constraints although they yield record numbers of arrests (once over 50 over a few hours… including the first driver pulled over). Pacific Beach is rife with hit and run drivers, drunk-driver murders and alcohol-related accidents. After midnight? Drive as if your life depends on it – because it does here more than ever before. Click here for more information on this subject.
- Physical Assaults – Beatings, stabbings, fights, sexual assaults, are regular occurrences throughout the year. Violent crimes are up 23% from 2008 to 2009. Click here for more information on this subject.
- Signage Enforcement – Code Enforcement department cannot enforce basic sign laws as they lack the manpower to pro-actively cite or litigate these violations. Alcohol marketers are always at the ready to provide more and more signage.
- Public Drinking – stroll around the side streets any night as people flock to the Garnet district and you’ll witness people arriving via car tossing their empty alcohol containers to the curb. Walking pedestrians, many PB residents, drink with impunity usually tossing their containers along the side streets close to the Garnet Ave. corridor. Volunteer to pickup trash with the PB Town Council on the first Saturday of any month and you’ll discover the myriad of things thrown into our streets.
- Public Drunkenness – visit Garnet Avenue any time after 1 am and see how the bars are doing self-policing.
- House Parties – another major source of drunk drivers. Police lack resources to sufficiently answer many complaints
Click here for more on this subject.
Over-serving is how bars make profits. Bars are not allowed to serve patrons who are over the legal drinking limit (.08). How is it that we generate over 600 drunk under the influence arrests (DUI’s) each year if bars are doing so well policing themselves?
- Proliferating Pub Crawls – PB bars serve patrons in organized events who visit several establishments, share in drinks and playing consumption-encouraging games, from afternoon to early morning. Would you turn away 50 customers that walk in your door simultaneously, knowing enforcement is hardly likely? Click here for more information on this subject.
- Bottle Service – PB bars serve patrons entire bottles of hard liquor, usually at astronomical prices, allowing them to serve themselves and their party without close supervision. Bars have little interest in turning away lucrative customers such as this – and have an even harder time stopping their ability to drink when they’re intoxicated. Click here for more information on this subject.
- Bars and liquor licensees well know of the lack of dram-shop liabilities when they serve their patrons. That is, liquor licensees are essentially not responsible for the behavior of their patrons once they leave their establishment. While state laws in many other states hold commercial hosts (bars, restaurants, night clubs, etc.) civilly liable if a patron is over-served alcohol and subsequently injures or kills another individual in a drunk driving car accident, California does not impose such liability. In fact, California has specific amendments providing blanket immunity to commercial establishments with the exception of cases where alcohol was sold or furnished to an obviously intoxicated minor. All in all, licensees have almost zero monetary incentive to stop their patrons from drinking excessively. Their response usually claims the ABC is strict about enforcement is as we have shown highly inadequate.
PB lives with the label that we’re the place to get drunk. Ask anyone who’s under 50 in San Diego where the party is. Most would tell you PB. Our reputation is untarnished as the place for 20-30 somethings to get trashed and an anything-goes atmosphere.
- Street Lighting– Our street lighting is not sufficient to illuminate the hundreds of staggering drunks in the early hours of the morning. Well over 50 street lights, often at key intersections are burned out – with a strapped city Streets Department taking many months to respond for repairs. Old-fashioned yellow lighting provides dim lighting of our busiest streets. Click here for more on this subject. Click here for more information on this subject.
- Pedestrian Safety – It’s a miracle more people are not seriously injured or killed in PB in the evenings – however several are over the years. One must be hyper-alert to not only drunk drivers but, the few taxis that will stop wherever a drunk hails them – including in the middle of the street.
- Transportation – Drunks don’t ride buses. Drunks don’t like paying $50 for a cab ride home to their college or university campus neighborhoods. Most designated drivers end up drinking by the end of the night. What alternatives should be offered? By whom?
- Parking – In a study of parking spaces in the core-area along Garnet Avenue we found a significant lack of spaces required by zoning laws. Many shops were grandfathered in but, any new modifications to a licensee’s operation were supposed to include their coming up to code on parking – which in most instances is not the case. Click here for our parking survey and more on this subject.
- Trash and Litter –
Our streets are littered with alcohol-related containers, fast food packaging and flyers promoting other bars. For the few bars that clean their storefronts that’s all they’ll clean – their immediate property – even though their collective patrons are trashing the community.
- Pamphleteers -Illegal flyer distribution by downtown bars, nightclub promoters and local alcohol-related businesses account for a good deal of trash – usually picked up in the neighborhoods by community groups – not the bars or alcohol establishments.
- Marketing and Advertising – Our youth are under a constant barrage of alcohol-related marketing including bar and store signage, billboards and event sponsorship.
- Vandalism – Over 400 instances of graffiti and storefront vandalism were documented in a one-block area (on the South side of Garnet from Bayard to Cass St.) in 2008. One tagger spotted (and reported to the SDPD) ‘created’ 19 tags from the bar he left one evening on the way to his truck.
- Bicycle Safety – City laws making it illegal to ride on our Garnet Ave. sidewalks, probably intended to prevent pedestrian accidents, is usually always ignored by bicyclists. Would you ride on a street where so many drunk drivers drive?