Safety issues lead discussion at Pacific Beach Town Council
First in-person meeting in two years
From safety concerns over electric bikes and more discussion about Diamond Street to an upcoming graffiti clean-up, many topics were discussed during the Pacific Beach Town Council’s first in-person and virtual hybrid meeting.
This new format at the council’s March 16 meeting in St. Brigid’s Parish Hall was the first in-person meeting opportunity since February 2020 due to the pandemic. There were 30 attendees in the room and 20 on Zoom.
“I think it’s healing for the community to be together,” said PB Town Council President Marcella Bothwell. “I’m the first one to say that Zoom is convenient. But the enjoyment of being with people gives you an energy. It gives you happiness that we just didn’t have the last two years. ... It just lifts your spirits to be back together. It’s not just community. We’re friends. I think that’s what we missed and I’m really excited to get back to that.”
Council member Brian Curry asked police Lt. Rick Aguilar from Northern Division whether police were planning enforcement actions and the city considering an ordinance to regulate the explosion of electric bicycles on the street and elsewhere, many driven by children and teenagers.
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed but we now have children riding motorcycles around Pacific Beach; basically the electric bikes” Curry said. “I don’t think they should be allowed on the Boardwalk too, but I haven’t seen one enforcement on the Boardwalk.”
Attendee Jen Darwin said when she skates on the Boardwalk, she’s under no illusion on what could happen to her with one reckless electric bicycle.
“They mow you down on the Boardwalk all the time,” Darwin said. “I skate fast. If we collide, I’m going to be the one down.”
Council Secretary Denise Friedman noted the hazard from darting electric bicycles has spread beyond the streets and bike routes on which they’re supposed to drive.
“They’re on the sidewalks, not just in the street,” Friedman said. “They’re riding along the beach, the motorized vehicles, on the sand along the shore. It’s going to get worse this summer.”
With no ordinance being planned to his knowledge, Aguilar said all riders are required to wear helmets and any police action would come from the Traffic Enforcement Division.
Attendee Martha Shaw asked when enforcement of the recently-passed Street Vending Ordinance would commence. Aguilar said it has to be reviewed by the Coastal Commission as it pertains to Pacific Beach and other beach areas. If approved, enforcement would be done by the city’s code enforcement and Parks and Recreation Department, not police.
“When Governor Brown signed the senate bill into law, he took the enforcement away from the police and it became an administrative enforcement,” Aguilar said.
Speaking as the chair of the PB Planning Group, Karl Rand (who is also the PB Town Council vice president) said the Planning Group tentatively plans to address the city’s Slow Street Program on Diamond Street at its April 13 meeting. This is due to the overwhelming response to the issue at the February PB Town Council meeting.
“One of the issues that we may — I’m not making any promises — tackle is the Diamond Slow Street,” Rand said. “I think from the previous meeting here, the city has some sort of plans to make some things a little bit more permanent on Diamond. I know that there are a lot of people interested in that.”
With St. Brigid’s Parish abutting Diamond Street on one side, several residents affected by the Slow Street attended. Dick Sampson complained about the scant notice provided for council’s February meeting, noting it arrived by email at 10:30 a.m. on the same day as the meeting.
“How will we get the word out if it comes late like that?” Sampson asked.
Rand said the planners’ meeting agenda will be posted online three days prior and recommended that interested parties monitor the Planning Group’s website at pbplanning.org, as well as communicate with neighbors.
“We’re trying to do what we can to get everybody’s who interested,” Rand said. “(What) we don’t want is to have the meeting and somebody say ‘I didn’t know about it.’ That’s why we’re paying attention to that.”
As for other safety news, Aguilar said San Diego Police Department’s Northern Division was running into obstacles in establishing four separate beach teams to patrol the beach area seven days a week during the upcoming summer months.
“A lot of it has to do with our staffing,” he said. “So we’re going to try to get creative with our staffing and try to have at least three beach teams out there. And we’re trying to work on a fourth one. ... I’m coming up with a plan so hopefully we can get that seven-day coverage not only during the day but at night as well.”
Aguilar also said police officers working overtime is essential for effective police response.
Representing the city’s lifeguards, Lt. Ric Stell said his agency was extending tryouts for seasonal lifeguards in the hopes of attracting more applicants.
“We are struggling with applications,” Stell said. “We would obviously like more. We’re doing our best to negotiate the limited availability of people wanting to be seasonal lifeguards. So we’re having additional tryouts to try and mitigate that issue.”
There was better news on the labor shortage from San Diego Fire-Rescue. Capt. Rich Marcello said Fire Station No. 21 would no longer be subject to brownout, in which stations across the city were temporarily closed due to lack of personnel because of COVID-19 and other issues.
“The good news is, everybody’s back,” Marcello said. “Everybody’s healthy. We have reopened the station and we don’t intend on shutting it down any longer on occasion.”
Residents were also asked to volunteer for Pacific Beach’s Graffiti Clean-Up Day on May 14. The event has not been held for two years due to the pandemic.
Launched in 2008, Graffiti Clean-Up Day provides volunteers with materials and maps to locate and remove unsightly graffiti with simple spray and wipe non-toxic cleanser.
Event coordinator Jim Menders said in advance of the May event he needs 15 to 20 volunteers to survey Pacific Beach for graffiti on buildings, utility poles and trash bins on the streets and in alleys. They would be assigned six to 10 blocks and take photos of any graffiti over the course of a month, which Menders would use to create an electronic or paper map for Graffiti Clean-Up Day.
Menders compared the survey to the Get It Done app for reporting problems to the city.
“Just imagine a massive Get It Done taking place in which you don’t have to wait for the city to get around to taking of your requests,” Menders said. “It’s kind of like writing up an order for getting graffiti removed from your neighborhood.”
To volunteer, email email@example.com.