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Pacific Beach leaders guiding community through the pandemic

Beach closure
A San Diego Lifeguard patrols an empty Pacific Beach at Crystal Pier, March 24, 2020. San Diego beaches and parks were closed since the end of March by emergency City and County regulations to stop people from gathering and help slow the spread of coronavirus.
(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

With the world essentially on lock-down due to the coronavirus pandemic, PB Monthly reached out to Town Council president Brian White and City Council member Jennifer Campbell’s PB rep Jordan Beane to get the low-down on how our beach town is faring as we shelter-in-place.

What’s the Town Council up to?

White reported the PB Town Council was discussing turning its office at 1706 Garnet Ave. into a food distribution center and working in collaboration with San Diego Food Bank, but after reading last month’s story “Stay Home SD: Volunteers start grocery aid program” in PB Monthly magazine, the Town Council decided to choose a different collaboration. The article highlighted the grassroots effort by resident James Hays called Stay Home SD, which provides food for the elderly and health-compromised individuals in the community, while operating out of Firehouse American Eatery & Lounge on Grand Avenue.

White said since then, the Town Council has reached out to Stay Home SD to see how the group can coordinate efforts and get some Town Council volunteers involved.

“Several board members have worked with SD Food Bank in the past and are eager to help out with local deliveries as well,” he added.

Like many other civic organizations, the Town Council has been conducting business by meeting via Zoom, the online platform that — thanks to social distancing limiting in-person meetings — has become a household name, seemingly overnight.

Additionally, the Town Council recently approved scholarships for two students who White said are “exceptional young ladies doing great things in our community.”

The Dan Froelich Youth Award for outstanding community service goes to both Ashley Slomba, a graduating senior at Mission Bay High School, and Sophia Sidell, a student at Pacific Beach Middle School. The Town Council awarded Ashley $1,000, and Sophia received $500.

Chief concerns

According to rep Beane, the most common calls to City Council member Campbell’s office have been from people asking about street sweeping and parking rules.

The bottom line, Beane instructed, is this: Parking along red, white or blue curbs is still illegal (unless you’re an authorized vehicle) and street sweeping is still taking place. But, he clarified, right now people won’t be ticketed if they are parked in a street sweeping zone during the sweeping, “because we’re asking everybody to work from home, it’s not fair to give folks a ticket, especially considering just how full our parking spaces are right now.”

White reported that complaints about people not following the six-foot social-distancing rule are also the subject of calls and e-mails sent to both the Town Council and the police department. Some members of the community even continue to hold large gatherings or throw parties. “I don’t know to what extent, and I don’t think it’s a rampant problem, but it can make neighbors uneasy,” White explained.

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Brian White, PB Town Council president
(Courtesy)

Also making neighbors uneasy is the use of short-term vacation rentals at this time to host out-of-towners.

“You know, hosting tourists in our neighborhoods in Airbnb rentals only heightens the chance of coronavirus exposure for our residents,” White opined. “The health and safety of our family and neighbors should be everyone’s top priority right now — not short-term vacation rental profits.”

He advised that if someone wants to report a large gathering in their neighborhood to call the non-emergency police line at (619) 531-2000 or dial 2-1-1. Additionally, Beane commented that community members may also reach out to Campbell’s office if they have concerns about large gatherings.

White further shared that local grocery store workers have expressed concerns for their health and safety; they want customers to wear masks and not crowd them while they are stocking shelves or working the register.

“They want to feel safe, too,” he added. “Just to put things in perspective, we have 29 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our ZIP code, 92109, and that’s according to County numbers as of April 13.” For the latest count, visit bit.ly/covidbyzip

No Surf San Diego

A scan of social media comments suggests that one of the most unfavorable restrictions put in place by the City is the beach closures, with calls and e-mails to the District 2 office coming from surfers and beach-walkers.

“From one side it certainly makes sense,” Beane mused. “We’re seeing comments from folks saying, ‘Look, we’re socially distancing; this is a very individual sport to begin with.’ ” However, he noted that part of the decision to close down beaches came from concern for the health of first-responders, like lifeguards.

Added Beane: “The people who are out there keeping us safe before this are now doing an as-important job during this pandemic.”

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Jordan Beane, rep for District 2 City Council member Jennifer Campbell
(Courtesy)

He referenced a recent “Readers React” article in The San Diego Union-Tribune written by surfing icon Skip Frye that called for the community to take the beach ban seriously. The article concluded with Frye’s challenge: “If I can stay home, you can stay home.”

Speaking hypothetically, Beane mused, “If I’m a bad surfer and if I were to go out there and get myself injured, am I going to take a hospital bed from somebody who might need it from being infected with COVID-19?”

Canceled, postponed and up in the air

The San Diego County ban on gatherings of 10 or more people (unless they’re of the same household) has seen to it that a handful of PB events have been canceled, with potentially more to come.

Discover PB’s Casino Awards Night was canceled, which would have taken place March 19 on the historic William D. Evans Sternwheeler leaving from the Catamaran Hotel & Resort. Ditto the upcoming annual Graffiti Clean-up Day set for May 9, which has been postponed indefinitely.

One of the most-anticipated PB events now in question is Concerts on the Green in Kate Sessions Park (which Mayor Kevin Faulconer re-opened to residents on April 21). This four-part summer music series takes place the last two Sundays of July and the first two Sundays in August.

“We’re still continuing to organize the concerts as though they’re happening, but we still don’t officially know if they will or not,” White shared. “And if they must be canceled, we will be refunding donations.”

Where and how to get help during coronavirus pandemic

With so many things up in the air right now, Beane said Campbell’s office — with everyone working from home — is putting an emphasis on accessibility by being present on social platforms such as nextdoor.com and Facebook, as well as being readily available by e-mail.

“We are making ourselves available to answer every question people have because it seems like there’s a new one every day,” he observed.

In response to the multiple posts on social media with questions as to what businesses are open and offering deliveries, Campbell’s office compiled a live and continuously updated “District 2 Master Directory,” which includes:

• A list of restaurants and their current business hours;

• A City Council District 2 (PB) staff directory; and

• Links to government resources regarding COVID-19 that include loan and unemployment questions.

The document can be found at bit.ly/masterdirectory

Beane noted some of the questions being asked are not ones the City can answer. “Some folks are going to have to work their way up the municipal ladder… but we are here to, if nothing else, pass people through. We’re the ones trying to get people to the right places,” he explained.

For questions about unemployment, community members should contact their assembly member or state member, or visit the Employment Development Department website’s FAQ page at bit.ly/eddfaqunemployment

For those in need of a Small Business Administration loan, visit the U.S. Small Business Association website’s page for coronavirus relief, at bit.ly/sbaloaninfo

For questions or concerns, Beane encourages the community to contact him at (619) 890-1902 or jbeane@sandiego.gov

He had parting words on behalf of the small businesses and local restaurants struggling financially during the pandemic: “As much as we are relying on our grocery stores right now, in a very service-industry heavy area like District 2, the more you run out to your favorite taco place or sushi spot, the more you’re helping keep your neighbors with a roof over their head. You’re helping ensure these great, small businesses continue to operate despite tough times.”

Who Ya Gonna Call?

  • PB Town Council president Brian White: (858) 483-6666. general@pbtowncouncil.org
  • City Council member Campell’s rep Jordan Beane: (619) 890-1902. jbeane@sandiego.gov

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