Lack of resources foils Kellogg Park patrol July 4th

Because the La Jolla Shores Association (LJSA) has been working with San Diego Police since last year to deter illegal camping in Kellogg Park on summer holidays, many were disappointed to find no decrease in tents and parties during this year’s Fourth of July.

In what is becoming an annual problem, guests to La Jolla Shores camp out ahead of the holiday — reportedly by the hundreds, late at night on July 3 — to ensure they have a perfect viewing spot for the fireworks. However, tents with all four sides down are illegal in Kellogg Park, and this summer, residents were hopeful police would take a proactive approach to stop the problem before it got out of hand.

One idea was to lock the gates to the beachside parking lot from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., which Northern Division Lt. Robert Daun agreed to try, along with increased police presence. But LJSA chair Nick LeBeouf said at the July 13 LJSA meeting, the gates to the beachside parking lot were not locked, so illegal camping was as big a problem this year as ever.

As an explanation, Lt. Daun simply said, “I just don’t have the resources.”

Although police planned to lock the gates at 10 p.m., there were too many other incidences taking officers away from Kellogg Park. “We had 275 calls for service from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. the night of July 3. I had 24 officers, so that’s 12 (two-officer) units to answer 275 calls. We just don’t have the resources to have an officer there to close the park on that night,” he said.

“Staffing is an issue all the time because our department is short staffed, and staffing on the Fourth of July is the hardest. It’s tough to get officers who want to come in and work overtime because there’s so much overtime out there, officers are getting burned out. I couldn’t get my complete staffing … I had to pull my second watch officers to staff my beach team and pull from other divisions to fill our patrol staffing for that weekend.”

Lt. Daun said his jurisdiction includes all the beaches from Mission Bay to Torrey Pines, and there were 600,000 people at Northern Division beaches that weekend. With 24 officers in his patrol, he said there were 80 officers total for Northern Division. For perspective, he said at a Chargers versus Raiders football game, there are 150 officers at Qualcomm Stadium.

Despite the number of police calls, “Overall, it was a very peaceful Fourth of July,” he said, adding there were no incidences of terrorist attacks, shootings or assaults.

Nevertheless, Lt. Daun said he was “disheartened” by the inability to have a presence at Kellogg Park. “We tried our best this year … and it’s disheartening for me, because I did everything I said I was going to do when we spoke at previous meetings throughout the year … and it was working until July 3 rolled around and we realized we didn’t have the resources,” he said. “I can’t do it with the resources I have. You have to be reasonable.”

LJSA member John Sheridan asked whether citations would more effectively send the message. “It wouldn’t matter if we wrote citations,” Lt. Daun replied. “You could site 20 people and the people watching it are going to wait until those (who were cited and the police) leave and then flow into those areas. We could ‘what-if’ this to death, what I’m telling you is I don’t have the resources to go out there and camp at Kellogg Park when I have 275 priority calls and a limited number of officers. You get to a point where you can’t do anything else.”

While open to suggestions for how to improve things next year, Lt. Daun said shy of producing more manpower, there aren’t a lot of options. “We’re not attracting the number of applicants we used to, and it’s a problem nationwide. We’ve got permission from the mayor to fill a 50-person Police Academy, but we only had 20 applicants. There were 3,000 people applying the year I applied almost 30 years ago,” he said.

Willing to continue brainstorming, the board thanked the police for their continued service and said they would offer ideas as they come up.

In other LJSA news:

No to Roundup: Responding to a circulating “e-mail chain” suggesting the city would like to apply the controversial pesticide Roundup to the plants at Kellogg Park, after a brief discussion, the board voted to ask the city not to use the chemical pesticide.

Kellogg Park goes regional? Frustrated with the lack of city funding and services at Kellogg Park, LJSA chair LeBeouf said he began the process of getting the park designated as a Regional Park. He has been working with the offices of City Council President Sherri Lightner, whose field representative Justin Garver said there was an effort underway to get several shoreline parks designated as one Regional Park.

“The designation would make them eligible for different funding,” Garver explained. The other parks include: Balboa Park, Mission Bay and Torrey Pines City Park. “Mission Bay, as a Regional Park, has a certain amount of funding secured for at least the next 53 years to be used as needed,” he said. However, he was not sure if there are disadvantages or rights lost by converting. To investigate, LJSA formed a sub-committee that will report its findings at a future meeting.

See you in September: LJSA will not meet in August, but will resume meeting 6:30 p.m. Wednesday Sept. 14 at the Martin Johnson House of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 8840 Biolgical Grade.