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Crime concerns prompt San Diego to propose nighttime closures at several coastal areas, including in La Jolla

 Black's Beach in La Jolla near the Torrey Pines Gliderport
A surfer heads to Black’s Beach in La Jolla from near the Torrey Pines Gliderport in 2019. The gliderport is proposed to get new security gates for nighttime closure to help reduce crime and other problems along San Diego’s coast.
(File / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The city will need approval from the California Coastal Commission.

San Diego officials say they want to enact nighttime closures at nearly a dozen coastal parks and parking areas spanning from La Jolla to Point Loma to help reduce gang activity, late-night parties, illegal bonfires and unauthorized camping.

The parks and parking lots would either be physically closed by installing new security gates or would have signs posted announcing the overnight closures. They would be added to several coastal parks and lots that already have overnight restrictions in place, some for as long as 20 years.

City officials and many community leaders say the new restrictions would serve as a key enforcement tool for police, who are facing increased gang activity in Mission Beach and more overnight parties in Mission Bay Park.

To expand the number of parks and lots with overnight restrictions, the city needs approval from the California Coastal Commission, which is typically reluctant to support restrictions that limit the public’s access to coastal areas.

Permission from the commission also is needed to continue enforcing restrictions now in place, because the city’s permit for those restrictions expired last year.

Leaders of the city’s Parks & Recreation Department are seeking support for the proposed closures from nearly 50 neighborhood groups and civic organizations to help persuade the Coastal Commission to approve the closures.

Parks & Rec officials declined requests for interviews about the new proposal. But they said through a spokesman that the proposal is still in its early stages and that the list of proposed parks might change.

“The Parks & Recreation Department has conducted public outreach to local stakeholders for recommendations about how we can better manage coastal parking lots, which may include the installation of additional signage, gates and changes to hours of operation,” city spokesman Tim Graham said this week.

City officials said the list of new areas proposed for overnight closure is based on “recent observations of after-hours activity and requests” from the community.

Locations that would get new security gates are the Torrey Pines Gliderport in La Jolla, Belmont Park in Mission Beach, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park/Ladera Street parking lot in Point Loma, and East Bonita Cove, Ventura Cove and Bahia Point in Mission Bay Park.

Coastal areas that would get signs saying parking is prohibited at night are Windansea Beach in La Jolla, Ocean Beach Dog Beach, Santa Monica Avenue parking lot in Ocean Beach, Newport Avenue and Ocean Beach Pier parking lot and Sunset Cliffs Linear Park.

Hours of closure would be 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. or midnight to 6 a.m., with gates to be closed by a security service each night. Installations of gates would be contingent on availability of funding, which would be about $6,000 per gate.

Locations that already have security gates for night closures are Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores, South Mission Beach, South Jetty/ Mission Point, Crown Point, Fiesta Island and Fanuel Street Park in Pacific Beach.

Some residents and environmentalists have questioned whether the proposed new closures would go too far, contending the city’s reaction to many problems is to remove public access.

But Marcella Bothwell, chairwoman of the city’s Park and Recreation Board and head of the Pacific Beach Town Council, said the new rules would only limit parking, not access to the water.

“You can still walk on the beach — you just can’t park,” she said. “So it won’t affect those who persevere.”

Claudia Baranowski, president of the La Jolla Parks & Beaches board, said the group received a request from the Parks & Recreation Department in July for input on signs for no nightly parking at Windansea.

“We approved a letter at our July 26 meeting supporting the closure time at Windansea from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m.,” Baranowski said. “The discussion during the meeting regarding the specific closure times included concerns about pushing overnight parkers into residential streets.”

She added that “any additional patrolling at Windansea and sign regulation enforcement by the city would be beneficial.”

Melinda Merryweather, another LJP&B member and co-founder of the nonprofit Friends of Windansea, said the Friends group favors no overnight parking at Windansea. “Surfers don’t really surf after dark,” she said. “You don’t need to park overnight.”

Merryweather also is a member of the Windansea Surf Club, which she said also supports the proposed parking closure.

She said she supports it “out of respect for the neighbors and [to] give the city a chance to street-sweep the lot.”

Dale Gottdank, communications officer for the Torrey Pines Gulls, a club that flies gliders at the Torrey Pines Gliderport, said city officials would lock gates at the gliderport every evening from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Using gates again now “would simply return things to the way they were,” Gottdank said. “In any event, locking the parking gate won’t affect the TP Gulls, as the parking closure is outside of our normal [daytime] operating hours.”

Officials of Air California Adventure, which operates the gliderport, could not be reached for comment. ◆

Updates

3:05 p.m. Jan. 10, 2022: This article was updated with comments from the Torrey Pines Gulls.

5:10 p.m. Jan. 7, 2022: This article was updated with comments from La Jolla community representatives.