Residents gather to dedicate the Pacific Beach Community Surf Garden
The design on the PB Recreation Center’s north wall is one of two planned in the project
With a large crowd gathered on the north lawn of the Pacific Beach Recreation Center, the Pacific Beach Community Surf Garden — a beautification project four years in the making — was dedicated.
The July 7 ceremony drew a mixture of attendees, from city dignitaries to community leaders and residents, many of whom participated in some of the surf board mosaic decorating events.
“It’s really cool, awesome,” said Emma Zackowski, 12, who attended with her father, Greg Zackowski.
Their family was among those who not only participated in making the project but financially supported it.
“We sponsored, have our name on a surf board,” Greg Zackowski said. “I think it is a cool thing in the heart of the community. Surfing and the ocean are a big part of living in Pacific Beach. It’s cool that they used relics to make it beautiful.”
More than 100 full-size surf boards were donated by community members to create the two murals designed by artist Rob Tobin. There are also surf board-shaped tiles of various sizes representing contributors’ monetary donations.
The recreation center’s north exterior wall utilizes 44 full-size surf boards to create six flowers. On the south wall, when its mural is installed, the surf boards will be placed to give the appearance of a sunset. The south mural is on hold due to structural issues with the center’s wall that must be addressed before installation.
“It is better than I envisioned,” said PB Town Council member Susan Crowers, recalling when 2023 PB Honorary Mayor Brian J. Curry first proposed the project to the council in 2019.
“This has been in the works for a long time,” Crowers said. “He took the lead, found Rob Tobin to be the artist and brought it back to the council. We 100 percent backed it.”
Crowers said she especially liked how the donor tiles were placed on the wall, creating an ocean wave motif.
“It is different from the original plan,” Crowers said. “It complements the mosaic flowers beautifully.”
“This is better than we expected, it’s remarkable,” Curry said.
He noted that the $155,000 project has been entirely community funded, with $88,483 raised to date. In addition to the two murals the plan is to add landscaping and direct lighting.
“At night, it will be cool to see the way it sparkles,” Curry said about the remaining plans.
Curry has known Tobin for more than 20 years. The artist often uses reclaimed items in his work that is sometimes installed in under-utilized spaces.
Tobin said when he first visited the recreation center with Curry he was thinking about painting a mural. But then he got the idea for creating artwork with surf boards.
“It turned out great,” Tobin said. “People were cleaning out their garages and bringing surf boards. I couldn’t ask for a better time,” he said in reference to events where residents of all ages were tasked with applying mosaic tiles to the surf boards.
PB Town Council President Charlie Nieto praised the “unstoppable community grassroots vision,” saying the mural shows what those in Pacific Beach can accomplish when they work together.
“It is awesome,” Nieto said. “Two hundred families, businesses and the artist created something that is truly exceptional. Every piece is a reflection of the contributions members of the community (made) with their collective energy.”
Nieto added, “What we behold is extraordinary. I appreciate the lasting impact this will have on our town. It will be an iconic landmark in Pacific Beach.”
“This is Pacific Beach,” Curry said to the crowd in reference to the mural. “This is a community-based effort.”
Curry noted that the PB Town Council, not the city, was the driving force and fiscal sponsor. While city staff helped guide the project through official channels, no city money was spent on the endeavor.
The mosaic murals are being added to the city’s Civic Art Collection of 950 pieces, which means the city has committed to maintaining the murals in perpetuity. Most items in the collection are inside city libraries, according to Jonathon Glus, executive director of the City of San Diego Commission for Arts & Culture.
“I am really proud of the collection,” Glus said. “Most are not in public spaces like this. Few are funded by the community. I am proud of the precedent you are setting.”
He said the commission receives five to 10 requests for projects on a daily basis, but never with the comment that no city funds are needed.
“The neighborhood was saying we do not need money, just have to know how to navigate City Hall,” Glus said. “Three-and-a-half years later, this has been a real labor of love.”
“This is really what defines who we are as a city,” said City Councilman Joe LaCava, praising residents for their efforts to create the murals, saying it reflects the community’s values.
“There is no other community like Pacific Beach ... there is something special about Pacific Beach,” LaCava said.
Additional sponsors are needed for the project to be fully funded. Five sponsorship levels are available. Each sponsor will be recognized with a tile noting their name or entity. All donations are tax deductible.
The options are “Waist High” (6-inch tile for $50-$99), “Head High” (10-inch tile for $100-$499), “Overhead” (14-inch tile for $500-$1,499), “Triple Overhead (18-inch tile for $1,500-$4,999) and “Tsunami” (24-inch tile for $5,000 or more).
For details on how to pay for a sponsorship, visit pbtowncouncil.org.