Growth trend: Pacific Beach Town Council tackles weeds on traffic medians

Pictures show a traffic median on Mission Bay Drive before and after the Pacific Beach Town Council cut the weeds Aug. 22.
Pictures show a traffic median on Mission Bay Drive near the Interstate 5 southbound on-ramp before and after members of the Pacific Beach Town Council cut the weeds Aug. 22.

If you’ve noticed that traffic medians in Pacific Beach look less overrun with weeds lately, thank the Pacific Beach Town Council — volunteers who have taken it on themselves to spruce up the streets.

Brian White, president of the nonprofit Town Council, said the city of San Diego has fallen behind on clearing weeds, particularly in the past few months. Rather than wait for the city to do it, White and several other Town Council members have taken to the streets in the early morning — weed whackers, rakes and garbage bags in hand — to beautify the streets.

White, who has been involved in the Town Council the past four years, said he noticed a couple of months ago that the weeds on traffic medians in Pacific Beach were more overgrown than normal and were becoming an eyesore.

“It looked like there was zero maintenance. Some of the weeds on some of the medians were starting to look like shrubs,” he said. “That’s when we decided we needed to start tackling the weeds, since the city wasn’t getting the job done.”

City spokesman Anthony Santacroce said: “Our roadway crews continue to address all instances of weed and vegetation growth on and around our medians and roadways. As this has impacted communities citywide, the city has received a high volume of calls and reports that we continue to respond to, in addition to the regular requests from San Diego Fire-Rescue for preventive vegetation and brush abatement.”

The city has had to prioritize weed and brush abatement in areas with elevated fire risks, Santacroce said.

But he said increased funding that Mayor Kevin Faulconer allocated for brush abatement for the last fiscal year resulted in 80 miles of weed and vegetation removal. The program was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic but has returned for the 2020-21 fiscal year and has so far completed three miles of abatement, with an additional 11 miles scheduled, Santacroce said.

“I know that what tends to get prioritized for the weed abatement projects are things that are fire hazards. And I know that this has become more of an issue during COVID,” White said. “But in recent months, [the weeds have] become extremely overgrown.”

A traffic median at the Balboa Avenue split in Pacific Beach before and after the Town Council cut the weeds.
A traffic median at the Balboa Avenue split in Pacific Beach before and after the Town Council cut the weeds.

Specifically, the Town Council has tackled overgrowth on traffic medians on Garnet Avenue at Balboa Avenue, Garnet near Rose Creek Cottage and Soledad Mountain Road, and Mission Bay Drive near the Interstate 5 southbound on-ramp.

White and his team, including Town Council board members Ron Walker, Susan Crowers and Charlie Nieto, set out as early as 5 a.m. to avoid traffic as much as possible. The process can take hours.

“To be honest with you, I envisioned it would be a few hours, but it ends up being longer than that. It can turn into five hours, like a half-day,” White said.

During higher-traffic periods, they switch to handheld clippers to reduce debris. After trimming, the team sweeps and bags the waste for removal.

Brian White and Ron Walker of the Pacific Beach Town Council work to spruce up a median along Mission Bay Drive on Aug. 22.

White estimated before a scheduled Aug. 29 cleanup along Mission Bay Drive that the Town Council had spent $200 on supplies and maintenance. However, he said “we’ll probably be spending another $300 to $500 for more tools and supplies to accommodate more volunteers, and can be used on future projects.”

The added expenses will go toward vests for volunteers, hand tools like “loppers” and “Road work ahead” signs.

The council has a web page devoted to its weed abatement efforts,, where residents can donate to help mitigate the costs.

After the Aug. 29 cleanup, the team will continue its efforts on other sections of Mission Bay Drive, White said.

The Town Council has shared its maintenance progress in its newsletter and social media platforms, including a video set to the theme music from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

“What we see is that people are contacting us because they want to get involved,” White said. “It’s something that people want to be a part of. So we are ... opening it up to wider community participation. That’s been the goal all along, to get going initially and start doing this stuff, but then to draw in more volunteers so we can tackle more and more medians.”

White said improving the look of the asphalt on traffic medians is a longer-term priority. For that type of project, he said, there needs to be more collaboration with the city.

“A lot of people in the community want to see our traffic medians look a little nicer. And when you look at neighboring communities like Ocean Beach, like Point Loma, they have better-looking traffic medians with better materials like the river rock and things like that. ... We have a bunch of cracked asphalt. So we want to see some improvements. We are looking to see what we can do there in working with the city.”

Santacroce encouraged people to report vegetation that poses a public safety concern on the city’s Get It Done app.