Ocean Beach Town Council hears updates on City issues

The Ocean Beach Pier repairs, drug-use, dockless scooter companies and short-term vacation rentals were some of the topics revisited by police and political reps at the OB Town Council meeting Wednesday, April 24 at the Masonic Lodge, 1711 Sunset Cliffs Blvd.

Scooters and OB Pier

Although Mayor Kevin Faulconer 's community rep Anthony George, could not attend the meeting, George e-mailed a projects update to the Town Council.

It said the Mayor won unanimous City Council approval for his proposed dockless vehicle ordinance requiring companies to obtain permits and comply with new regulations in six areas: speed limits, staging and parking, rider education, data sharing, fees and identification and liability insurance.

It further stated that the reconstruction of OB Pier is on schedule and should be re-opened by Memorial Day at the latest.

OB Town Council president Mark Winkie raised the concern that pier permits are needed 60 days prior for the annual OB Pier Pancake Breakfast (September) and Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association Fourth of July fireworks. However, Seamus Kennedy, community rep for City Council member Jennifer Campbell, jumped in to inform the board that he was working with OBMA to make sure the fireworks permits are in order for July and that the pier should be repaired well before the Pancake Breakfast paperwork is required.

George's update ended with fact that the Mayor's proposed vehicle habitation regulations passed a City Council committee and will be sent for a full Council vote, but that date has not been set.

Scooter and vehicle habitation updates

With electric scooter speeds a top community concern, Kennedy said Ocean Beach, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach will have overlay zones where staging will be regulated and geofencing will reduce speeds significantly — to as low as 3 mph in areas designated for pedestrians. In addition to the boardwalk areas in Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, the OB Pier and Abbott Street are other areas where speeds are reduced.

Kennedy strongly encouraged community members who shared their testimony about vehicle habitation at the City Council's Public Safety Committee meeting to show up and repeat their reports at the City Council meeting, slated to take place within the month, to ensure the vehicle habitation regulations continue moving forward.

Winkie asked what the liability is for scooter companies when someone on a scooter hits another person. Kennedy responded that under the rules just passed, the companies are required to carry liability of $2 million per incident and a minimum of $4 million a year. He was unsure at the time if the City held any liability.

Police discuss arrests and drugs

Western Division SDPD Officer David Surwilo announced that police officers will undergo a shift change in mid-May. Officers who've been on day watch will move to night watch, night watch to afternoons, and afternoon watch to mornings. He suggested community members stop and introduce themselves to the officers on new shifts and express any concerns regarding a particular time of day.

He also corrected statements that had been circling on social media regarding last month's Town Council meeting, which, according to Surwilo, suggested that the SDPD does not arrest people nor confiscate drugs such as methamphetamines.

"Yes, we do arrest people, no we never said we won't take your meth or heroine," he stated. "We will take it, we will impound it, and we will arrest you one way or the other. And remember: an arrest is a citation or a physical transport to a facility. Those are arrests. The paper copy you get, the notice to appear, is just an agreement that you're not guilty, just like when we book you into jail, but that you will show up and talk to the judge ... we cannot book people under all circumstances into jail. We do, as a City, pay for that, and that's one of the reasons why."

One board member asked Surwilo about a death that had reportedly occurred the day prior to the meeting, claiming that social media said the death was related to fentanyl. Surwilo acknowledged that there have been deaths from opioids recently, but until medical procedures are followed and testing is complete, there is no way to confirm that a particular death resulted from fentanyl.

The room grew quiet as Surwilo explained that marijuana is not the same drug it used to be and expressed deep concern for the "nationwide epidemic" of death from opioids. "We're saying it's OK for marijuana — OK, fine. We're saying that meth and heroine are no longer felonies and we need to drop those down (to misdemeanors). There seems to be a problem, because if you're watching the news and if you're reading social media, we've got people dying who are very young, because of overdoses of meth and heroine and it's a real problem. So maybe it's OK to keep marijuana legal, but maybe we need to really reconsider the level of impact that meth and heroine have upon our children."

Lifeguard updates

San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Lifeguard Joe Gaydos reported 83 rescues to date, but no cliff calls. By June 14, he said, the lifeguards will be fully staffed.

OB Elementary School

Principal Marco Drapeau said the air-conditioning installation has begun and should be ready to go by the end of December.

Short-term rentals bill

Michaela Valk, rep for Assembly member Todd Gloria, discussed Assembly Bill 1731, regarding short-term vacation rentals. AB 1731 was authored by Assembly member Tasha Boerner Horvath, Valk explained, 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 live there at least 270 days a year), 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 (e.g. Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO, etc.)

Point Loma-OB Monthly later reached out to Valk who clarified that if the residence is not the homeowner's primary residence, the hosting platform can only list that property for 30 days maximum. More clarification from the bill's author is sought due to the confusion behind it only mentioning three platforms, when there are many more than that. An update will be given once details have been decided.

Valk said she does not believe these complications were the author's intention and added that this is Horvath's first year in the Assembly. She invited community feedback on the bill via e-mail to her at michaela.valk@asm.ca.gov or (619) 645-3090.

Town Council membership

OB Town Council membership is now free to all who live, work or own property in ZIP code 92107. However, there are still different levels of participation within the Council: Bronze ($20 per year), Silver ($100 per year) and Gold ($500 per year). The Council is discussing a shift from being a 501(c)(4) organization to becoming a 501(c)(3).

OB Town Council next meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 22 at the Masonic Lodge, 1711 Sunset Cliffs Blvd. obtowncouncil.org

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