OCEAN BEACH,CA. A local OB resident who was involved in the Summer 1970 fight to stop the jetty that the City of San Diego and the Army Corps of Engineers wanted to build in North OB, has now come forward to share details of those dramatic and exciting days & nights. Our local guy, who wishes to remain anonymous – we’ll call him “Bill” – has disclosed the nit and gritty of the action against the jetty at what is now Dog Beach. Here is what he recalls, exactly 38 years later:
The Army Corps needed to drop the boulders deep into the sand, so they maintained a deep hole at the head of the jetty. The hole slowly migrated Westward as the jetty grew longer. It was surrounded on three sides by high berms of sand, and the hole was deep enough to reach the water level. It was like a large version of a childs sandcastle. For thousands of years children in OB have dug holes in the sand down to the water level, and then built a sand castle wall to protect it from the ocean. The result is always the same. The high tide breaches the wall, and then the hole fills in with sand. Eventually the beach returns to its original slope.
I’m not sure who, but some activist got the bright idea to use this childs play tactic against the mighty Army Corps of Engineers. At night people dug in shifts to make a trench through the Western berm so the high tide could rush in and mess up the hole. It was dangerous work with people digging feverishly in the semi darkness. My offer to help was politely refused, because I’d been drinking. Each morning the Army Corps would have to repair the berm and dig out the hole. It was about noon before they could start dropping more boulders. The childs tactic to mess with the Man’s sandcastle didn’t stop the jetty, but it was an excellent delaying tactic. It slowed the growth of the jetty to half speed, and gave the attorneys more time to do their job.
It should be noted that it was the Army Corps that armed the activists with rocks to throw. The small granitic rocks were brought in by the truckload, and used to grout the gaps in the boulders along the top of the jetty. This gave the crane and dump trucks a surface to move along as the jetty progressed. The jetty road also provided quick access for police cars that were staged at Robb Field. Unfortunately for the Army Corps the rocks were a dangerous weapon in the hands of frustrated people.
I was there the first day that rocks started flying. The crane was only hit a few times before the operators fled. Some rocks were thrown in their direction as they ran away, but I don’t think they were hit by any. Then a large volley of rocks rained down on the crane. There was a brief silence, and then people rushed toward the crane. I was the first person to climb into the metal jaws that formed a large bucket. Two friends of mine soon followed, and one of them lit up a victory cigarette. It was very invigorating, but the victory was short-lived. The police suddenly appeared on top of the North berm. They must have come down the back way from Robb Field. They stood shoulder to shoulder and held their billy clubs at chest level with both hands. A wall of helmets, hardwood and black leather. Then that wall started moving slowly toward us. It felt like something from one of the Planet of the Apes movies that were popular at that time. Only we were the half-naked humans, and we were about to be thumped by the gorilla army. We retreated across the South berm, and that’s where the police stopped their advance. They were later replaced by a rope barricade, and the boulders started dropping once again. It was another sucessful delay, but now we had a boudary line that the activists had to stay behind.
I was in the parking lot the night of the big riot, but only as a spectator driving through it. My friend Paul had picked me up that evening in his grandmother’s Cadillac, and we headed down to North OB. We detoured into Robb Field to do a pork census. We were shocked at what we saw. We drove through a gauntlet of cop cars parked on both sides of a long and narrow parking lot. We counted over eighty police cars. Some with four cops inside each car. Amazingly we got through without being stopped, and headed down to the beach to warn our friends.
The melee had already begun when we arrived in the North OB parking lot. The police must have come down the jetty road. It was surreal. We drove through the infamous OB jetty riot in a Cadillac with “Alices Restaurant” playing on the radio. We crawled along at five miles per hour, and stopped frequently to allow the rioters and cops to pass by. Some of them bouncing off the car. We were almost home free when we spotted a checkpoint near the Brighton Avenue end of the parking lot. We had to eat two ashtrays full of roaches in a big hurry….two very large Cadillac ashtrays. Three cars away from the checkpoint, and my friend Paul informed us that he still had a half a can of weed under the steering wheel cap. A felony at that time. I turned off the Arlo Guthrie, and then we had brief but intense talk with Officer Opie at the checkpoint. He shined his ten pound flashlight on each one of us, and asked if anyone was bleeding. We said no, and he waved us by. We were fortunate. Many others were not.
In the end the jetty was stopped at the waters edge. The surfers still grumbled. It wasn’t built far enough out to produce good waves like the Cape May jetty. The marinas and high rise hotels were never built. Unfortunately the rescued portion of North OB was given to the dogs, when it naturally should be a bird sanctuary. But that’s another story.
For the full story of the fight against the jetty, go here.