Pressing issues centerstage at Pacific Beach Town Council

The City's draft ordinance regarding vehicle habitation, state legislation regulating law enforcement procedures, electric scooters, height limits in coastal zones, short-term rentals and other hot-button issues were discussed at the PB Town Council meeting Wednesday, April 17 at Crown Point Elementary School.

Town Council president Brian White started the meeting with an update on San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer 's proposed ordinance to make vehicle habitation at any time of the day or night illegal within 500 feet of a residential or school area (not including colleges or universities), and illegal in non-residential areas from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. White also shared that the new vehicle habitation parking lot would be at SDCCU Stadium, where recreational vehicles will be allowed. (See related story, "City Council passes dockless scooter rules," PB News Briefs.)

Graffiti Clean Up Day

Andy Byrl, part of the organizing committee for Graffiti Clean Up Day, said the 11th annual event would run 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, May 4 from PB Presbyterian Church, 1675 Garnet Ave., and promised large amounts of coffee and donuts to get volunteers pumped up to spruce up the town. Those who want to help, but can't make it to the event, may help survey graffiti sites in the next few weeks (contact Marcie Beckett at mbeckett@ucsd.edu) or visit the Town Council office at 1706 Garnet Ave. to check out cleaning materials for removing graffiti on their own.

Street Guardians gone

Sara Berns of Discover PB announced the closing of the PB Street Guardians program, a non-profit that hired individuals experiencing homelessness to help keep streets, sidewalks, alleys and beaches clean, in addition to performing janitorial work for local businesses and residents. Because of the closing, trash pick-up will be reduced from six to five days, and beginning July 1, it will drop to three days a week unless organizers can find new funding.

Police reports

Northern Division Community Relations Officer Larry Hesselgesser reported that the neighborhood policing team partnered with peace officers and on March 22, 23, 26 and 31, they visited every parking lot they could in Mission Bay to enforce parking laws. The results? 884 parking citations with 22 vehicles impounded. A few days after the crackdown, Hesselgesser said he took Monica Eslamian, rep for City Council member Jennifer Campbell, on a ride-along and the duo couldn't find a group of illegally parked cars anywhere, which he attributed to the recent crackdown.

Veteran Detective Jack Schaeffer explained that two police enforcement bills have been proposed: Assembly Bill 392 and Senate Bill 230.

AB 392 recently made it through the Assembly's Public Safety Committee, and would hold officers liable for injuries that occur in situations officers choose to enter. Schaeffer expressed his concerns with this bill considering the rapidity with which dangerous situations often appear out of seemingly harmless interactions. "An officer really doesn't have the ability to take the time to think about how this is going to look in the media," he said. "Force looks ugly, no matter what."

SB 230 was crafted as a result of discussions between the Senate and local law enforcement agencies. It calls for mandatory scenario training and de-escalation training to help officers respond in the least inflammatory manner when in dangerous situations.

Paying for lifeguards

Speaking on behalf of the SD Lifeguard Union, Sgt. Ed Harris encouraged community members to attend the 2020 Budget Review Committee Hearing to make a difference in lifeguards' pay, 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 1 at Council Chambers, 202 C St. on the 12th floor.

According to Harris, the San Diego Lifeguard Department is having a hard time hiring qualified lifeguards due to low pay (about $16.71 an hour) for seasonal guards. A "special salary adjustment" was filed by the Union, Harris added, stating that the low pay had significantly and negatively affected hiring. After declining a 20 percent pay raise for lifeguards, Civil Services agreed to a 5-percent raise of 84-cents an hour, which would pay San Diego lifeguards about $33.50 a week. The Mayor vetoed the pay increase.

Scooters and vacation rentals

Eslamian stated that on Tuesday, April 23 at 2 p.m., the Mayor's proposals on scooter regulations were going before the council. (See related story, "City Council passes dockless scooter rules," PB News Briefs.)

Michaela Valk, rep for Assembly member Todd Gloria, gave an update on two scooter regulation bills: AB 1112 and AB 1286.

If passed, AB 1112 would, among other things, require identification numbers on the backs of scooters visible within five feet to help identify riders.

If AB 1286 is passed, it would require cities to have safety rules in place before shared mobility devices may distribute their devices; if a city doesn't have those regulations in place as of Jan. 1, 2020, those companies must remove the scooters until rules are established. For more details on AB 1112, visit bit.ly/2IEvtGW and for more about AB 1286, visit bit.ly/2UyHoHO

Valk also discussed AB 1731 regarding short-term rentals, authored by Assembly member Tasha Boerner Horvath, who represents Oceanside and Encinitas. It states that if you have a property within certain coastal areas in San Diego County and it's your primary residence, you are able to use it as a short-term rental 365 days a year. If the residence you're renting out is not your primary home, you may only rent it out for up to 30 days maximum per platform.

Clarification from the author of the bill is being sought due to the confusion behind it only mentioning three platforms, when there are more than that. An update will be given once details have been clarified. AB 1731 currently only applies to San Diego County, not State-wide.

Building heights, beach vendors, Census

Chevelle Tate of State Senate President Toni Atkins' office argued that despite confusion in the media and community, SB 330 does not eliminate height limits in coastal areas. She said the confusion stems from an inaccurate statement made by a staff member from Nancy Skinner 's office to The LA Times. What the bill actually does, Tate said, is prevent cities from reducing their height limits, e.g. San Diego can't decide to lower its height limits from 30 feet to 20 feet.

Another pending piece of legislation, SB 946, decriminalizes sidewalk vending and allows local governments to decide how they want to regulate the practice, Tate explained. As long as a vendor's cart is mobile, it is legal. San Diego may form its own regulations on mobile vendors, but has not yet decided on what regulations to put in place.

Regarding the forthcoming Census 2020, Tate said Atkins will push for communities to use an online option for filling it out instead of the standard paper option.

Tate added that she and coalition Count Me 2020 have been working together to find a solution to reaching populations without access to the Internet.

Climate Change, passports

Cesar Solis, rep for U.S. Congress member Scott Peters , announced that Peters has released his "climate playbook" — a call to act on climate change that includes a list of 53 bills already written to address it.

For those who travel out-of-country, Solis said that the State Department held a congressional training session, to inform about the rise in passport theft, particularly in San Diego region.

He urged anyone who has their passport stolen (or loses it), to report it to the Department of State so it can be de-activated.

Kenall-Frost Mission Bay Marsh

The meeting concluded with a presentation on Kendall-Frost Mission Bay Marsh and the Kendall-Frost trailer by Heather Henter, Ph.D., executive director of UCSD Natural Reserve System. Henter discussed the outdated trailer and need for community feedback on what they'd like to see happen with the marsh.

The marsh is part of the UC Natural Reserve System, a network of 39 ecological reserves across California.

Henter began with a slideshow explaining the historical qualities of the marsh and the way wetlands can help San Diego reach its climate action goals via the way they absorb water and store carbon.

She went on to address the marsh trailer (located at the corner of Crown Point Drive and Pacific Beach Drive) which thanks to California Proposition 68 — the Parks, Environment and Water Bond — gave matching funds to the UC Natural Reserve System to replace it with a bigger building.

The building would include a large room that could hold a classroom of up to 36 students, but would also be used as a workroom for researchers and a community meeting room for groups doing anything related to the marsh.

One woman, who said she regularly bikes past the marsh, called it "beautiful," and said she'd like some sort of elevated walkway installed to allow those outside the fenced-off area to see what's inside and feel "connected" to the marsh. "Because otherwise, to us, it's just a big fenced-off area," she opined.

Henter explained that the reason for the fence is to keep out feral cats and dogs, and protect the expensive research equipment used in the marsh.

"Nevertheless," she added, "We're trying to brainstorm ways the public can be more involved in the marsh."

A docent program, in collaboration with Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, is in the works to let people visit the marsh, see exhibits about the marsh, talk with an expert, watch the birds and connect with the land.

Other community members suggested adding a short boardwalk so people could walk out into the marsh, increasing education outreach to schools, and building a raised observation deck. To reach Henter, send an e-mail to hhenter@ucsd.edu

— PB Town Council next meets 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 15 at Crown Point Junior Music Academy, 4033 Ingraham St. pbtowncouncil.org

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