In response to complaints about a seeming increase in the homeless population within the Village of La Jolla, the
La Jolla Light
received a tip from a former employee of Jonathan’s Market that the company was not following its policy of keeping its trash bins locked when not in use.
The employee said the company had ramped up its efforts to secure the dumpsters in light of the tragic death of community member Alfonso de Bourbon, who died one year ago while rifling through the receptacles behind Jonathan’s market.
Bourbon, 83, was pinned between the loading dock and a dumpster by a tractor- trailer driver who was unaware of his presence.
For a one-week period in December, the
observed that Jonathan’s dumpsters were left open and unlocked throughout the day.
inquiry, the bins have since been kept locked.
The company’s loss prevention manager, Mike Hiden, initially questioned whether the locks had been tampered with.
“I wasn’t aware that they weren’t locking them if they weren’t, but I also know that the transients break into the dumpsters,” he said.
Hiden confirmed that the bins are supposed to be locked when not in use.
“I checked over at the store and they understand they’re supposed to be keeping them closed,” he said. “It is our policy to lock those dumpsters.”
Jonathan’s is adjacent a recycling center patronized by homeless people, as well as a Vons supermarket, which keeps its bins behind a locked enclosure, though its lids are often left open and the bins overflowing.
Though San Diego Municipal Code (66.0126) does not require businesses to keep their dumpsters locked (only lids closed), a list of homeless prevention tips issued by the city suggests businesses keep dumpsters locked when not being filled or emptied.
La Jolla Village Merchants Association Board President Phil Coller said the issue has been broached at association meetings, and deemed a “safety issue.”
“People are not supposed to be able to climb in and (have) the lid close on them and get trapped,” Coller said. “We want all our merchants to lock their dumpsters at all times.”
Bob McElroy, president of San Diego-based Alpha Project, which provides outreach and services for the homeless, said open dumpsters are a magnet for transients, and advises business owners to keep them closed and locked when unattended.
McElroy said the vast majority of services for homeless people are located in downtown San Diego, and that “urban campers” are only in La Jolla because they have an incentive to be there, such as residents giving them money or food, and access to dumpsters, which he said homeless people typically access for recyclables to buy alcohol or drugs.
“There are enough churches and other places that provide meals that I don’t think they’re looking for food,” McElroy said.
“Somebody’s taking care of them; somebody’s enabling them to be there ... and as long as somebody’s enabling them ... they’re going to be there.”