Electric scooters gone wild. Congested traffic and the ever-increasing number of speeding motorists. The "uptick" in community crime. Short-term rentals replacing neighborhoods. Loitering and panhandling by homeless people. The preservation of North Chapel at Liberty Station. Safe roads for all modes. Formosa Slough plans.
All these issues (and more) were topics for the annual Peninsula Community Conversation, Jan. 23 at the UPSES Portuguese Hall, 2818 Avenida de Portugal.
Hosted by the Point Loma Association (PLA), the evening was well-attended and led participants to request another be arranged for Tuesday, May 14.
PLA president Dave Martin opened the Conversation by proclaiming from center stage that "The future of Point Loma is so bright." To prove it, he cited projects underway for anchor lighting across Rosecrans Street, beautification of the medians with green plants and river rock, progress on the kinetic sculpture for Nimitz Boulevard, and the work of the Mean Green Team to maintain the landscape and pick up trash.
Representing the Ocean Beach Main Street Association — with perhaps the biggest news of the night — Denny Knox told the gathering the Association was beginning its 41st year with 14 board members and 500 members. She said various street crimes of late have put her in closer touch with police, and in addition to the private security program the Association arranges, the police will step up "walking teams" on Newport Avenue. "I feel good that we can come up with a good plan," she said.
Lt. Danny Grubbs of Western Division reminded everyone that police walk a fine line in dealing with loiterers and transients. He said the department is seeing an "uptick" in robberies, although assault reports were down for January. He recommended businesses get a "Stay Away" order to deal with repeat offenders. "When it comes to those who are homeless," Grubbs explained, "we always try to offer them social services, but many turn them down by choice."
As for the sexual assault that was reported in OB on Sunday, Jan. 20, he assured the audience "it is under investigation."
Representing the Peninsula Planning Board, Fred Kosmo expressed its concern, that in dealing with the new owners of the North Chapel at Liberty Station, vigilance is required to ensure they maintain it as historical and sacred. To that end, he said the board was working with 90-pages of legal opinion from City Attorney Mara Elliott, and enlisting the support of Congress member Scott Peters and Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
Kosmo also said that though it's hard to add bike lanes to a city that's already built, he appreciates the need to "create safe roads for all modes." He discussed a City proposal to add take a four-lane road on West Point Loma Boulevard and reduce it to make room for a bike path.
In regard to the Formosa Slough area, Kosmo said the construction vehicles spotted at the site are part of a City feasibility/geo-technical study, and no land-use decision has been made yet.
OB Town Council president Mark Winkie and OB Planning Board chair Andrea Schlageter brought up the hope for greater citizen participation at civic meetings to address community concerns. Schlageter was adamant in her opposition to short-term vacation rentals and when asked about their effects on the beach community neighborhoods, she reminded the audience that the City Attorney has already opined they were illegal in areas zoned residential. "The City just needs to enforce the existing law," she said.
A brief discussion followed on the need to reconstruct the beach stairs at Bermuda Street, and the ongoing hill erosion at Sunset Cliffs.
Before the evening ended, the audience brought forth questions about removing panhandlers from Rosecrans, the proliferation of e-scooters and keeping them off the OB Pier and peninsula right-of-ways ("It's the Wild Wild West out here!" one man sighed), the missing link for I-5 access from the peninsula requiring motorists to either take SeaWorld Drive or cruise through the Midway District as the only options for accessing the freeway, and speeding by Naval base employees.
As the 8 p.m. hour approached and organizers took the last question, some attendees noted how much they learned from the Community Conversation and encouraged the PLA to host a mid-year update in May.