November 30, 2008
San Diego neighborhoods closest to the shore that are most affected by a beach booze ban soundly rejected Proposition D, despite arguments from supporters that a permanent prohibition was needed to make beaches safer. The restrictions, which also apply to the city’s waterfront parks, trailed in virtually every precinct in Mission Beach, Ocean Beach and Pacific Beach, the epicenter of the debate, The San Diego Union-Tribune found in an analysis of the Nov. 4 election results.
The measure prevailed because of overwhelming support elsewhere, especially in the city’s bedroom communities.
The tally makes sense to Rick Evert, 42, a private investigator.
“I didn’t think it was going to pass, I really didn’t,” the Pacific Beach resident said. “Just talking to people around here, I found most people were against it.”
Helen Barnes, 33, of Pacific Beach said a one-year trial ban, which took effect Jan. 14, persuaded her to support the measure. She thought most other beach residents would agree.
“That really surprises me,” the cellular biologist said of the analysis. “I thought it would be completely the opposite.”
She wasn’t the only one. Jim Lantry, who advised the pro-ban faction, said their polling suggested beach voters would embrace Proposition D. The research also indicated the measure would capture 60 percent or more of the vote. Instead, 52.5 percent of voters favored the ban.
Banking on victory at the beaches, the campaign dispatched volunteers to lobby voters inland. The miscalculation about winning the beach, oddly enough, may have helped the measure succeed. “It was our belief that the beach community had already made up its mind, Lantry said. “Our outreach was to the rest of the community.” That’s where the ban amassed its greatest support, including areas that skew slightly older and where more families are likely to live. For instance, the median age in Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach is 37. But in Rancho Bernardo, which strongly backed the ban, the median age is 43.
Proposition D performed well in the north part of the city, including Mira Mesa, Black Mountain Ranch and Rancho Peñasquitos; the southern communities of San Ysidro and Otay Mesa; and almost every neighborhood in southeastern San Diego. Some of the strongest support came from La Jolla, which already has a beach booze ban, and Point Loma.
<–> The measure didn’t fare as well in several central San Diego communities, including Hillcrest, Mission Valley and Normal Heights.
Other neighborhoods that rejected the ban include the College Area, home to San Diego State University, and those near the University of California San Diego and the University of San Diego.
The crux of the supporters’ argument – that keeping alcohol off the sand would make beach-goers safer – proved persuasive, said political observers on both sides, especially after a Labor Day clash in 2007 between police and partyers in Pacific Beach.
Jacob Pyle, a leader among critics of the ban, credited the other side with doing “a great job of framing” the measure as a public safety concern.
Council President Scott Peters, who represents La Jolla and the northwestern bedroom communities that supported Proposition D, said public safety pitches carry great weight with his constituents.
“In my experience, police and fire opinions mean a lot to folks in District 1,” said Peters, who will leave office Dec. 8 because of term limits.
Bolstering the backers’ cause were police statistics that showed some alcohol-related incidents had dropped off at the beaches after the temporary ban took effect. Backers also noted that some police officers and lifeguards had joined them.
Pyle said the ban’s failure at the beaches didn’t surprise him because voters there rejected more limited restrictions in 2002. A measure on a March primary ballot that year attracted 150,000 voters, about a third of the throng that crowded polling places for this month’s presidential contest.
He has another explanation for Proposition D’s strong showing outside his community. Beach residents, he said, are more likely to see the area when it’s sedate.
“If I go to the beach 25 times a year, I have a great time, but if you never come down and mostly stay in your community, all you see is what’s on the news,” Pyle said.
Footage of the Labor Day melee, when police responded to Pacific Beach in riot gear, aired often, creating an opening for beach residents who have long pushed for limits on alcohol.
“For the proponents, it was a big opportunity,” said Richard Ledford, a San Diego political consultant.
The footage was rebroadcast during the City Council debate that led to the trial ban, when the ban took effect, and in the months since the council put the proposal for a permanent ban on the ballot.
Pyle said he and other Proposition D opponents struggled with how to counter the impact of the incident. “We had a huge uphill battle,” he said.
Barbara O’Connor, a professor at California State University Sacramento who runs the campus’ Institute for the Study of Politics and Media, said the images almost certainly left a mark.
“Nobody wants to say they are relying on fear appeals to win,” O’Connor said. “That would be insulting, but they do.”
Sharon Burley, 61, of Mission Hills, a retiree who likes to visit Pacific Beach, said the Labor Day rowdiness contributed to her vote for the ban.
“I’ve just seen people out of control,” the former nurse said. “I didn’t like it and if I had children, I sure wouldn’t like it.”
New parent Joe Avalos doesn’t. He used to drink at the beach, but then his son, Aldo, 16 months, was born. He supported the ban.
“You get a whole new outlook,” said Avalos, 35, of San Carlos, a school-bus driver. “I think a lot of parents voted for the proposition.” [Go here for the original article at Union-Tribune.]
METHODOLOGY:This story and map are based on an analysis by The San Diego Union-Tribuneof 403,030 votes cast in the city of San Diego as of election night. The Registrar of Voters Office provided the database. It does not include votes from among 219,100 ballots counted countywide since Nov. 4, as the count is ongoing. The overall percentages for Proposition D have changed only slightly and are unlikely to be significantly different when all ballots are counted. As of Friday, with 500 ballots across the county outstanding, 52.51 percent of voters supported the measure and 47.49 percent opposed it.
Jennifer Vigil: (619) 718-5069; firstname.lastname@example.org