Crime concerns prompt San Diego to propose nighttime closures at several coastal parks

 Black's Beach in La Jolla.
A surfer heads down to Black’s Beach in La Jolla, from near the Torrey Pines Gliderport in 2019. The park is proposed for nighttime closure to reduce crime and other problems along San Diego’s coast.

Coastal Commission approval needed; parks span from La Jolla to Ocean Beach


San Diego officials say they want to close nearly a dozen coastal parks and parking areas at night to help reduce gang activity, late-night parties, illegal bonfires and unauthorized camping.

The parks and parking lots, which span from La Jolla to Ocean Beach, would either be physically closed by installing new security gates or posted with signs announcing the overnight closures. They would be added to several coastal parks and lots that already have overnight restrictions in place, some for as long as 20 years.

City officials and community leaders say the new restrictions would serve as a key enforcement tool for police, who are facing increased gang activity in Mission Beach and more overnight parties in Mission Bay Park.

To expand the number of parks and lots with overnight restrictions, the city needs approval from the California Coastal Commission, which is typically reluctant to support restrictions that limit the public’s access to coastal areas.

Permission from the commission is also needed to continue enforcing restrictions now in place, because the city’s permit for those restrictions expired last year.

Leaders of the city’s Park and Recreation Department are seeking support for the proposed closures from nearly 50 neighborhood groups and civic organizations to help persuade the Coastal Commission to approve the closures.

Marcella Bothwell, chairperson of the city’s Park and Recreation Board and head of the Pacific Beach Town Council, said Wednesday that limiting the potential areas for crime and mischief along the coast will help police keep order.

She said police must deal with significant gang activity, including stabbings and shootings. The owners of Belmont Park in Mission Beach have offered to pay for nighttime gates if the city gets approval, she said.

“It’s so concerning to them that they’re willing to pay for it,” she said.

Late-night parties, a major problem in Mission Beach and Crown Point during the early stages of the pandemic when bars were closed, also remain a significant problem even though bars have re-opened, Bothwell said.

“We thought they might go away when the bars re-opened, but the kids realized that the beaches are pretty nice, and they don’t have to pay a bar tab,” she said.

Some residents and environmentalists have questioned whether the proposed new closures would go too far, contending the city’s reaction to many problems is to remove public access.

Bothwell said the new rules only limit parking, not access to the water.

“You can still walk on the beach — you just can’t park,” she said. “So it won’t affect those who persevere.”

Leaders of the Parks and Recreation Department declined requests for interviews about the new proposal. But they said through a spokesman that the proposal is still in its early stages and that the list of proposed parks might change.

“The Parks & Recreation Department has conducted public outreach to local stakeholders for recommendations about how we can better manage coastal parking lots, which may include the installation of additional signage, gates and changes to hours of operation,” city spokesman Tim Graham said this week.

City officials said the list of new areas proposed for overnight closure is based on “recent observations of after-hours activity and requests” from the community.

Locations that would get new security gates are Torrey Pines City Park and Gliderport, Belmont Park, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park/Ladera Street Parking Lot; and three locations in Mission Bay Park: East Bonita Cove, Ventura Cove and Bahia Point.

Areas that would get signs saying parking is prohibited at night are Ocean Beach Dog Beach, Santa Monica Avenue Parking Lot, Newport Avenue and Ocean Beach Pier Parking Lot, Sunset Cliffs Linear Park and Windansea.

Hours of closure would be 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. or midnight to 6 a.m., with gates to be closed by a security service each night. Installations of gates would be contingent on availability of funding, which would be about $6,000 per gate.

Locations that already have security gates for night closures are La Jolla Shores Kellogg Park, South Mission Beach, South Jetty/ Mission Point, Crown Point, Fiesta Island and Fanuel Park.