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Latest SavePB Survey: Things are slowly getting better

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A sign placed in a yard in Pacific Beach speaks to the feelings many community members have against short-term vacation rentals.
(Savanah Duffy)

SavePB, a volunteer group comprised of five take-charge Pacific Beach residents, recently released the results of their 2019 SavePB Survey, for which they analyzed feedback from the community about the quality of life in PB.

SavePB co-founder Marcie Beckett explained to PB Monthly that she and neighbors Marcella Teran, Suzanne Landa, Scott Chipman and Monica Green joined forces in 2005 to form SavePB, with the mission of keeping community members informed about who the local decision-makers are, what the background on important issues is, and the best ways to resolve neighborhood problems.

The group’s 2019 survey marked the third year it released such a presentation to the public. The first came in 2005; the second in 2009, with 200 survey-takers giving input. Back then, the top issues were (in order of importance) DUIs, parking, mini-dorms, oversized vehicles and new liquor licenses.

While 2019’s survey garnered responses from just 82 individuals — Teran, who is also a personal fitness trainer at Beach & Bay Family YMCA, and Landa, who retired in 2000 and now enjoys drawing and delving into her family genealogy — maintain the drop in responses was due to a technical glitch in the reporting system. Apparently, some SavePB e-mails were mistakenly being sent to spam folders.

Despite the technical difficulties, the survey gleaned a healthy amount of comments — a feature missing from the 2009 survey.

“This time we allowed comments, and oh my god, did we get comments!” Landa exclaimed. “People wanted to get things off their chests. That was the feeling we got. People had a lot to say.”

2019 SavePB Survey results

With the data and comments organized and released to the SavePB email-listers, the top five concerns of PB citizens were revealed: short-term vacation rentals, vehicle habitation, motorized scooters and bikes, homelessness, and crime.

“We have so many issues that are neck-and-neck for causing problems that affect our quality of life,” Teran commented.

While residents might not be stunned at the top five issues, Landa said she found it surprising that 57.5 percent of responders reported feeling that PB had not improved since 2004.

“I chalk it up to we’ve forgotten what it was like when we formed SavePB,” she said with a laugh.

“I remember the problems we tackled and solved over the years. Now, people seem overwhelmed by more recent in-your-face issues — electric scooters, homelessness, vehicle habitation, etc...”

Comments revolved around the business district’s streetscape and deteriorated storefronts, the addition of more bars, drug-dealing and people doing drugs in public places, the danger of motorized scooters and motorized bicycles, criminal homeless individuals committing property crimes, lack of laws being enforced, and more.

On the flip side, the 35.5 percent of responders who felt PB had improved since 2004, contended that Pacific Beach could boast a better assortment of restaurants, improved access to shopping (such as Trader Joe’s opening), more families along the boardwalk due to the beaches now being alcohol-free, and easier access to transportation with the Midcoast Trolley set to stop in PB.

“Yes, PB has improved,” said one survey-taker, “there are less partying students (it’s too expensive for them) and the cheap rentals have become pricey STVRs; there’s no drinking and smoking at the beaches and parks (and this is a great blessing because those places were filthy and dangerous especially around Belmont Park and required massive clean-up and patrol); and more monitoring of bars and drunks has helped, too. Thanks for all your efforts everyone.”

Member Chipman, who has lived in PB with his family since 1975, opined that the quality of life in PB has fluctuated.

“People who haven’t been in Pacific Beach for many, many years don’t realize that it has changed. And I think it’s declined ... but now, it’s actually starting to re-bound. Sometimes, surveys are more of an indication of what people are aware of than what the situation is.”

SavePB’s helpful methods

SavePB boasts a long list of successful community-based efforts to help improve the beach town’s quality of life.

Among those accomplishments are the ending of the PB Block Party in 2006 (an event notorious for causing destruction and alcohol-fueled mayhem), a permanent order for alcohol-free beaches, and the annual Graffiti Clean-Up Day to help rid the community of graffiti (this event is unfortunately canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic).

According to Teran, an educated community is essential to solving community issues like the ones mentioned in the survey. She observed that many people living in PB are unaware of civic groups that can help, such as the PB Town Council and the PB Planning Group.

“I’ve seen it over and over,” she mused. “People go, ‘Oh, I don’t know what to do, there’s nothing one person can do.’ And they get frustrated and they move somewhere else. By educating the community, we’re empowering people to know how to get their voices heard.”

With this in mind, her first bit of advice for those who want to see change is simple: get informed and stay informed.

According to Landa, much of SavePB’s response to the 2009 survey results revolved around informing the community about where and who they could reach out to, to help solve some of PB’s issues at the time. In this way, results from 2019’s survey were different — most of the topics have already been addressed to some degree (e.g. vehicle habitation and STVRs), and many locals use resources such as their planning group and City Hall meetings.

SavePB will continue putting an emphasis on enlightening community members, but the group will also use their new website as a way to keep residents up-to-date regarding PB’s biggest issues, while simultaneously encouraging them to get involved where they want to see progress.

To become a SavePB member, visit SavePB.org

Membership requires no dues, monthly meetings nor action on the part of the member, they simply receive about two e-mails per month with community-related information and updates.

Note: SavePB shared the following efforts and results with PB Monthly to illustrate the problems the PB community has faced, and the progress made with an informed community working together. SavePB members were involved in each of the efforts below, but SavePB does not take credit for the results.

SavePB’s Efforts and Results:

• PB Block Party — Community-wide effort to end the event resulted in the City’s denial of the permit in 2006, thereby ending the event.

• PB Special Events Committee — Formed to review special events and give feedback to the City regarding permits.

• Detox Center — Citizens helped thwart its relocation to Pacific Beach.

• Mini-dorms — Citizens fought their use in PB and the City adopted new ordinances.

• Alcohol-free Beaches — Relentless pressure from citizens combined with a beach riot in 2007, resulted in a one-year trial of alcohol-free beaches in 2008, which became permanent after a City-wide vote on Proposition D.

• Floatopia and Kate Sessions Park — These became alcohol-free after citizens urged an end to drinking events.

• 25 Illegal Pot Shops Closed — Citizens reported scofflaws and pressed the City to enforce Code Compliance.

• Graffiti — The annual Graffiti Clean-up Day and community education aids in solving this issue.

• Oversized Vehicles — Citizens relentlessly urged the City to adopt a new ordinance prohibiting overnight parking of RVs, trailers and over-sized vehicles on residential streets.

• STVR (Vacation Rentals) — Citizens relentlessly pressed City Council to pass a new ordinance in 2018, but an Airbnb signature drive referendum resulted in the ordinance being rescinded. Citizens continue efforts to get an ordinance in place regulating STRVs.

• Vehicle Habitation — Citizens campaign resulted in the City passing a new ordinance that restricts living in vehicles in residential areas and provides alternative safe parking lots. Citizens continue to press for enforcement by reporting violations on the City’s Get It Done app.

• Bars and Crime — A 2011 PB Planning Group report detailed the problems, causes and solutions. (Read the report at SavePB.org)

Despite broad-based citizen support from PB, North Park, Hillcrest and Ocean Beach, the City was unwilling to implement proposed solutions. As a result, enormous police resources are required in the PB bar district. For now, new alcohol licenses are being somewhat limited by citizens filing Alcohol Beverage Control protests, but residents continue to press City leaders to adopt proven solutions.

• E-scooters — Citizens’ relentless pressing of City Council and the Mayor resulted in new regulations, but efforts continue.

• Neighborhood Watch — This group has grown to more than 60 branches in PB thanks to the tireless efforts of citizens like Marcella Teran and block captains. Citizens and police have direct links for better reporting of chronic problems and better police enforcement.

• PB Schools — Scores of dedicated PB parents, teachers and principals fought plans to close schools, and instead, built PB schools into award-winning educational establishments that attract both local and non-local students.


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