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Town Council hears issues with beach drinking, drug use and trash

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San Diego City Council allocates $430,000 for Children’s Pool Walkway spruce-up

Barber Tract residents say the formerly pristine beach at the edge of their residential neighborhood is being degraded by underage drinking, drug use and trash from an increase in patrons drawn to the pocket beach, largely shielded from the prying eyes of law enforcement and devoid of a lifeguard with the ability to issue citations.

Members of the Barber Tract Neighborhood Association (BTNA) voiced their concerns during the May 14 meeting of the La Jolla Town Council (LJTC), noting a need for the city to add a permanent, level II or III lifeguard at the beach — the pay for which ranges from about $63,000 to more than $100,000 annually (with overtime pay and other perks).

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Barber Tract resident Hollis McMillan said the money would be well spent, as the depiction of the beach as a lawless party zone has spread via social media since 2008, when the City of San Diego banned booze on public beaches.

“Our area is so popular because beach-goers can’t be seen from the street, there’s no patrol there,” McMillan said. “We’re a magnet for all these kids; they come out in great numbers … drinking and smoking pot. Young girls are there with their fifth of vodka.”

McMillan said a group of young men returned to the beach repeatedly with a folding table recently to play drinking games, until police responded to residents’ complaints and issued them citations.

“I’m all for public beaches and we’ve all granted easements, but the city in taking the easements for the beach is not taking responsibility for what’s now happening there,” she said.

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LJTC trustee Ann Kerr Bache, who resides in the Barber Tract, noted that after similar problems in the 1990s, the BTNA hired an off-duty police officer to patrol the neighborhood in a golf cart. The police presence seemed to solve the problem, she said, but the BTNA said insurance companies are no longer willing to offer insurance for the patrol. In addition, when the city implemented a ban on booze at San Diego beaches, once conspicuous consumption of alcoholic beverages at beaches got pushed to hidden nooks such as Marine Street.

LJTC member Ann Kerr Bache, who also serves on the Barber Tract Neighborhood Association, says her association used to hire an off-duty police officer to patrol the Barber Tract, though they are no longer able to get insurance for the detail.
LJTC member Ann Kerr Bache, who also serves on the Barber Tract Neighborhood Association, says her association used to hire an off-duty police officer to patrol the Barber Tract, though they are no longer able to get insurance for the detail.
(Pat Sherman)

Although police have been responsive to residents’ calls, Kerr Bache said BTNA member Cynthia Chasan has been “bounced around like a ping pong ball” between various city departments during the past year trying to get assistance. “Everybody’s well meaning, but it falls through the cracks,” she said.

Although Chasan said the La Jolla Parks & Beaches group voted unanimously to ask the city to address the problem, she said the city brushed its recommendation aside, stating that the group is merely advisory in nature.

“We are heading into the summer without resources at this beach to handle the crowds,” Chasan said, noting that presently there is only one level I (seasonal) lifeguard stationed at Marine Street Beach, who is not authorized to issue citations. The BTNA is requesting a level II or III lifeguard also be stationed at the foot of Sea Lane, where the police have lately issued numerous citations for public and underage drinking.

Chasan noted that WindanSea Beach has two permanent level II lifeguards stationed there throughout the summer — and sometimes three. “We can’t get a ranger, because we’re not a park; the police are listening to us, but they have limited resources,” she said.

When the ranger assigned to Children’s Pool Beach agreed to come down and help patrol Marine Street Beach last month — though it is not considered a city park nor within his jurisdiction — the tires of his vehicle were slit. “He said he’s not coming back,” Chasan added. “This is the type of people we’re dealing with down there.”

In addition, Chasan said there is only one trashcan at the top of the each of three stairways leading to and from the beach. “If you had a business that was generating $9 million per year (in property taxes), would you treat it like this?” she said, adding that the beach team, or police officers dressed and equipped to patrol the beach on all-terrain vehicles, doesn’t venture north of Tourmaline Beach.

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“We’d really like seagull-proof trashcans put in this area … and we would really like the beach team to perform routine patrols,” she said.

Following the discussion, LJTC trustees voted to form a committee that will meet with BTNA members, lifeguards and police about the issue and report their progress during the June 11 LJTC meeting, 5 p.m. at La Jolla Rec Center.

In other LJTC news

Children’s Pool Walk windfall! Phyllis Minick, founder and chair of the Children’s Pool Walk beautification project, noted that the San Diego City Council voted on May 12 to allocate $430,000 in funding for the project, to take place during the ongoing construction of the new lifeguard tower at Children’s Pool beach along Coast Boulevard. The project and related improvements are being overseen by La Jolla Parks and Beaches (LJP&B) city advisory group. LJP&B member Mary Ellen Morgan delivered the news to LJTC board members and meeting attendees.

Officers announced: LJTC trustees also voted in the following slate of officers: Steve Haskins as president, Joseph Pitrofsky as first vice-president, Yolanda de Riquer as second vice-president, Maureen Murphy as secretary and Ron Jones as treasurer.