No Pitchforks, No Torches – Just a Concerned Neighborhood

by on February 2, 2011 · 37 comments

in Culture, Ocean Beach, Popular, The Widder Curry, Veterans

Judi Curry speaking to Board member Jane Gawronski just prior to the beginning of the OBPB meeting, Feb. 2, 2011. (Photo by Frank Gormlie.)

I attended the Friday (Jan. 28) night meeting of the residents and the VFW. I stood right beside Andy Cohen (who wrote a post entitled “Pitchforks and Torches for the New Ocean Beach VFW Post” on Jan. 28) and heard the same thing that he heard. At no time did I hear threats; at no time did it turn ugly; and for the most part, it was very orderly as people wanted to vocalize their concerns. My take was 180 degrees different than Andy.

Tonight, February 2, I attended the Ocean Beach Planning Board Meeting.

Since the item of not having the VFW cantina in our neighborhood was not on the agenda – and we all knew it would not be – each person that wanted to speak was given one minute to express their views. There were approximately 30 people in the audience and not everyone spoke.

Those that did were articulate; expressed their concerns about the two schools and church less than 300 feet from the proposed cantina.

The Pastor of the church expressed her concern about parking; the fact that the only public bathrooms are on her site; which, by the way, are side by side with the preschool playground.

Ron stated that he felt that the VFW would be a disruption to the neighborhood; John said his father and grandfather were both vets and he loves them dearly, but he also has 3 small children and he didn’t feel that the cantina would add to the wholesome environment of the neighborhood.

Jim stated that he himself was a vet; his wife’s family has been in Ocean Beach for over 90 years and was concerned about the close proximity of the cantina and schools. He, too, expressed his concern over the lack of parking.

Karen said that her concerns were not based on the VFW – the veterans, particularly, but that the drinking and smoking was not good for our neighborhood. She said that members of the community would be happy to help the VFW seek other accommodations that would be more fitting with the cantina concept.

Patty said that she admires those that are vets; but that it doesn’t give them the right to bring their nuisance into her back yard.

Marie said that she was a businesswoman that opens her establishment at 6:00am. Most of her clientele are women and she is concerned for their welfare. She chose our neighborhood for her business because it is quiet and affords a form of safety for the women.

The board listened quietly; at the end they gave some great suggestions as to the procedure to follow – writing and/or calling the ABC re: the concerns; sending in a petition; file protests, etc.

They enlightened us about the transfer from one site to another for the liquor license. Joyce, a member of the audience that was there for another purpose, informed us that the ABC is so busy right now that they are issuing “interim licenses.” The members of the Board told us that they still would have to be notified if that was going to be done, and to their knowledge, a license transfer has not been requested.

There was no fire or brimstone or torches or pitchforks. Rather, it was a quiet group expressing their concern about a potential problem developing in their neighborhood. Those that are so fired up at the neighborhood reaction need to sit back and ask themselves if they want a bar next door to their homes. (That is literally the case if the cantina is approved.) Not if they want the VFW next door, but if the want a BAR next door.

The fact that this is a veteran’s organization is incidental. That has absolutely nothing to do with the concerns being raised. The concern is with a bar, less than 300 feet from two schools and a church; less that 100 feet from the nearest residence. There is a house for sale and an apartment to rent almost across the street. Would you think twice about buying – or renting it?

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Deborah February 2, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Bravo Judi! I believe your depiction of last Friday’s residents meeting and tonight’s OB Planning Board meeting very accurately describe not only the events themselves, but the concerns of the neighborhood as well. Thank you!


avatar Goatskull February 3, 2011 at 6:24 am

No disrespect to you Judi, I know you’re just relaying what other at the meeting said, but some of what is being quoted just crawls under my skin. I made this statement in the article below this one and I just have to ask, how would all these people who are against the cantina feel if this was an upscale restaurant with full bar or a nice high end wine bar? I have a hard believing they would not like to have a place they could walk to from their house, relax, have a nice drink or two, maybe something to munch on and walk back home.
But it’s not, it’s a VFW which I would be the first to admit won’t likely be the classiest place in the world. It will effect the “wholesomeness” of their neighborhood and that thinking is what really bugs the s*** out of me. I think the desires of people who’ve served their country and have been through a hell nobody who’s ever been through can’t even begin to imagine sort of outweigh the snobbery of the these La Jolla of OB residents. Now with all that being said, I’m sure rules could be put into place as to the behavior of the patrons and noise levels and all that, just like any other bar.


avatar Judi Curry February 3, 2011 at 7:48 am

Good Morning, Goat. I cannot imagine what you object to in my article. I reported it objectively; did not add any emotion or feelings into it, and reported just what took place. What “crawls” under your skin. The fact that some homeowners, renters and business owners want to protect their property? The fact that a bar is not a restaurant; This crap about “people who’ve served their country and have been through hell” really pisses me off. My husband was a vet; he told me some of the things that he – and his fellow vets did while fighting WWII. He told me how embarrassed he would be now if those things ever came out. Sure, he said combat was hell; but he was fighting for his country and enlisted the day he graduated from high school because that war was worth fighting for. He never expected, nor did he want, nor did he deserve to be given “special considerations” because he was a vet. Your definition of “snobbery” only points out that you are the intolerant one; you are the one that does not listen; you are the one that has a point of view and no one else can differ with you. And you said it succinctly in your last line – in your last word – “bar”; not restaurant; not food; but BAR. Those of us in the neighborhood frequented Rancho’s when it was here. We also had wine or beer as we ATE OUR MEAL. We did not go there to drink, per se; we went there to have an entire experience in our local establishment. We went; we ate; we drank and then we went home. I can just hear you now – as “rules
could be placed on this establishment”. “Rules”, you say, “for these men and women that served their country? Haven’t they had enough rules?”


avatar Goatskull February 3, 2011 at 8:40 am

Judi, as I made clear in my first line, I acknowledged that you were just relaying what was being said at the meeting. I pointed that out so you would not take is as an attack on you. As to the rest of what I said I still believe. I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. Most of the time I do agree with you on other issues you post. I still think that if this place was some kind of high end wine bar or something to that effect it would not have the same objection as a VWF cantina, food or not. The simple fact is they were kicked out of their old location and need a new home and found one but ohhh nooo not here. I DO believe they deserve a special place to congregate and have some camaraderie with each other because of what they went, through, whether the wars they participated were worth fighting for. Your husband may feel differently, and probably other vets do as well, but I believe a place like this should be available for those who choose it. I’m a 20 year retired vet myself and technically I would qualify to join the VFW if I chose (Afghanistan war) but I’m not interested. These places are just not my cup of tea but to each his own. If one were to go up in my neighborhood I would have no problem with it what so ever tho like I said I would probably not hang out there.


avatar Goatskull February 3, 2011 at 10:45 am

Also keep in mind Judi, I don’t consider veteran status as an excuse to act like loud drunken idiots and pee and pass out in people yards. I honestly don’t think that will happen and if it does, people can make complaints to Post Commander Bill Havrilla, who I’m quite sure wants to have a good relationship with the community.


avatar Rob February 4, 2011 at 7:26 am

Goatskull, I respect your opinion and desire to use the new location for your bar (“Cantina”). Your opinion fails to recognize that most neighbors are not objecting to the VFW having a meeting place on Point Loma Avenue. They are objecting to having a bar (“Cantina”) within 300 feet on either side of two schools (Warren Walker and Saint Peter’s). Upon leaving the establishment in their vehicle, if a member (or guest) of your Cantina has an accident on the street, will the VFW be willing to financially cover any damages that result (including the possible loss of a child’s life)? It is a simple matter of safety, not a judgement of social class.


avatar Danny Morales February 4, 2011 at 9:40 am

Rob- With all due respect to the issue of public safety; In a society dominated by the dialectics of class (Landlord/Tenant, Employer/Employee, etc.) public discourse amongst individuals and institutions is colored by the ofttimes hidden phenomena of class. More importantly it is the class orientation of the arbiters that determines the outcome of a dispute as in Joseph Stalin’s quote attributed to the presidential election of 2000: “It is not who votes that counts but who counts the votes” For more on the issue see my blog post of 10/7/10
For those who have eye’s, let them see!- Danny


avatar Danny Morales February 3, 2011 at 6:45 am

Judi-I’m curious.What part of Ocean Beach do you live in? What planning district is it in and who’s your representative? And Deborah too?


avatar Judi Curry February 3, 2011 at 7:49 am

Obviously, Danny, I must live in the neighborhood when the bar will be located. I am in District 7 and I do not know the name of my representative. But he was at the meeting last night. I do not know where Deborah lives.


avatar Judi Curry February 3, 2011 at 7:58 am

By the way, Danny, I bought my house in 1968 when the only aircraft using Lindbergh Field was PSA.


avatar Danny Morales February 3, 2011 at 1:46 pm

I knew your husband Bob when he was a member of Veterans for Peace. I have been invited to your house several times. I have met you as a contributor to this blog. In the name of decency ma’am I implore you to not insult your gentle readers nor the mission statement of this blog with misleading appeals to the “obvious”

In Kind Regard,


avatar Judi February 3, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Hi Danny. I keep asking myself what Bob think of this brew-ha-ha. (“Brew” used advisedly.) I am not not sure how I am insulting my gently readers, but I am not know to use those tactics. I am also known for my objectivity, sarcasm, and humor. What is obvious to me is not, apparently, obvious to you, but I do not apologize. In free speech, we are all entitled to say things as we see it.

I do have a suggestion for the VFW that a friend emailed me earlier this morning. Now be careful when you read this, because you may not take it the way it is intended: It could be sarcastic; it could be humorous; it could be serious – I’ll let you decide. But…how about putting the VFW at Mt. Soledad!


avatar Danny Morales February 4, 2011 at 10:11 am

Judi-I’m praying for you!


avatar Shane Finneran February 3, 2011 at 7:51 am

Judi, did anyone at the meeting acknowledge the VFW’s offer to adjust its hours to well after schools close?

I have a hard time taking concerns about school proximity seriously when people voicing those concerns don’t address the fact that the VFW has offered a solution.


avatar Judi Curry February 3, 2011 at 7:57 am

Hi Shane. Those that spoke had 1 minute to voice their concerns. We were not there to discuss anything but our concerns. What we were asking was to be put on the March agenda of the Planning Board so that a full-scale discussion could be held. There was little – if any – “give and take” between the Board and the audience. That was not the purpose.

And….the VFW has NOT offered a solution yet. Bill said he would take the suggestion back to his board and that they would make the decision. His Board may not approve the suggestion at all, and it still comes down to the fact that it is a bar. As a parent, an educator, a grandparent, an administrator, a bar does not belong less than 300 feet from two schools.


avatar Shane Finneran February 3, 2011 at 8:39 am

Hmm, on 10News, the leader of the VFW offered to adjust hours to well after school closing times. Maybe the offer is not official yet, but he sure made a public commitment to it.

In any case, assuming the offer was official, would it placate your concerns about school children? That’s really what I’m getting at. Are you willing to compromise, or is proximity to schools somehow still a concern even long after the schools have closed and the kids have gone home?


avatar Deborah February 3, 2011 at 7:51 am

I live in District 7 is a small home on a subdivided lot. Although I think it is very cute and, because I was able to purchase it on my own and have worked hard on fixing it up over the last 12 years, I take great pride in it. However, it certainly could not be described in anyone’s wild imagination as a “McMansion”. And, I love the quiet, neighborly feel of this area. All we are trying to do is ensure the neighborhood we love so much maintains the character and charm that attracted us to this area.
My representatives are Brittany Taylor and Ronsom Shamoun.


avatar Danny Morales February 3, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Thank you Deborah for your reply. Please excuse the wild imaginations of some of the attendees to this blog. Some of it is rhetoric, some of it is creative literature and some just pure dishonest B.S.- I’ll leave it to you and the gentle reader to figure out whom to admire, whom to emulate and whom to pray for.



avatar Deborah February 3, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Thank you Danny! I think that we should be putting all of this emotion, energy and effort into finding the VFW a better home in the OB community (one that has better bus service, more parking, etc.). I am putting on my thinking cap to see if I can come up with some creative ideas to get the communities energies redirected toward achieving a solution that will be a “win-win” for all concerned.
P.S. Where do you live and who are your Planning Board reps? ;-)


avatar Danny Morales February 3, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Deborah-Fair enough. I currently live on the 5000 block of Lotus Street which is in Dist.#1 of the Planning Board. My representatives are Nancy Taylor and Landry Watson. Previously (1999-2003) I served two terms on the Board as a representative from that district. Work and personal concerns have kept me from being on the Board as of late but I maintain an active interest in the Board and the issues brought before it. My main concern is that the Ocean Beach Planning Board provide good stewardship of its foundation document (The Ocean Beach Precise Plan) and maintain political/economic independence in service to its constituents.
That being said I’d like to invite you and anyone else who seeks just solutions to the questions of community planning to get on the Ocean Beach Planning Board. But a word of caution. I am doggedly insistent that members of the Board place the interests of the community above narrow personal interest as former chairs Mindy Pellisier, Frank Gormlie and Brittany Taylor can attest.


avatar Deborah February 3, 2011 at 9:12 pm

I appreciate the invitation. I am rather new to community activism (or, that is to say, it has been many years since I was involved – I used to work for the president of the ACLU in Seattle in his environmental law practice, representing community groups against large, corporate developers–but that was many, many moons ago!) However, I have decided that I should get more involved in my community. One cannot let work be so all-consuming!! So, I have decided to make it a resolution to put work-life in a better balance (that it to say, life-work!!). I did not know about the VFW’s need to relocate or that they proposed to move into the Point Loma Ave & Ebers location until last Friday morning, by chance discussion with a neighbor. Shame on me!! Where have I been??? We have an exceptional and diverse community, which is why I love it so!! And I do have some thoughts about how to assist the VFW, but would prefer to discuss them off-line, bounce some ideas around, before publishing them to the community. Then we can expose them to the OBrag commentary! ;-)


avatar Danny Morales February 4, 2011 at 10:09 am

Deborah- Unfortunately our private conversations (or those on the OB Rag for that matter) will bear little weight as this issue moves through the public realm. Read between the lines of our friend Allison Maris’ full post;
for more insight on these tangential(?) points.
I do hope to personally meet w/you as you make concrete your contributions to the common good and keep on truckin’- Danny


avatar Deborah February 4, 2011 at 12:31 pm

I would love to meet you too! Maybe we can get together sometime and have some coffee or meet up at the Farmers Market on Wednesday evening and toss around some ideas. I only decline to put them out here because I need to do some homework first — then I’ll subject my ideas to the scrutiny of the OBrag commentary!!!


avatar A.W. Maris February 4, 2011 at 10:40 am

Deborah, Try reading Danny’s referenced (see below) post backwards to get more insight into his devil in the details style (not between the lines Dummy-Danny!) As the little boats move from fore to aft I think we can push this particular vessel to fair winds and following seas before the sun comes up over the Otay. -Tugboat Allie


avatar A.W. Maris February 4, 2011 at 10:53 am
avatar OB Guy February 3, 2011 at 9:00 am

I heard this same community outcry occured when they were told the children’s day care / school were coming. Does that ring a bell with anyone? And since this business has been vacant for six years has anyone in the community opposed to the VFW attempted to find a business to move in that would have community approval? The area is a mix use business and commercal zone and as such business have the right to move in. I wonder if the residents are simply using the school they protested when it came as their fake attempt to denie the vets. This seems like a case of not in my neighborhood.


avatar Danny Morales February 3, 2011 at 2:12 pm

I just had an idea! How about the VFW move into the property that used to house the Children’s Learning Center before they were kicked out to make room for more lucrative ventures. For those of us who stayed for the entire meeting, turning private property back over to the commons is a goal that even corporate America is beginning to see as profitable. It also would be a fitting amends to the immeasurable harm that our local propertied class has levied upon the VFW. Why I could even sip a cold one in the “Chester Nimitz Oriental Garden” while listening to the Austin Lounge Lizards! Well I can dream, can’t I?


avatar Deborah February 4, 2011 at 12:30 pm

I would love to meet you too! Maybe we can get together sometime and have some coffee or meet up at the Farmers Market on Wednesday evening and toss around some ideas. I only decline to put them out here because I need to do some homework first — then I’ll subject my ideas to the scrutiny of the OBrag commentary!!!


avatar Deborah February 4, 2011 at 12:32 pm

The above comment was directed to Danny. Unfortunately, I replied in the wrong location! ;-)


avatar A.W. Maris February 4, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Most unfortunate indeed! But in keeping with the spirit of this blog I invite you to become a regular contributor. Since we often gather at Judi’s house in Point Loma we can get to know each other in a different setting.


avatar Judi February 4, 2011 at 5:33 pm

And you are welcome at any time.


avatar Deborah February 4, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Thanks to both of you! I would love to take you up on the offer! Judi, I believe you have my email address. Let me know when you guys are getting together and I’ll bring the wine! :-)


avatar Nancy February 4, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I just posted my comments about this on the recent “In Our Name—” before I was
aware of this article. Please refer to that if you wish, but to summarize I stated that
my husband who is a vet and I live about 3 blocks from the location; that we have
attended the previous location and would attend if it were relocated, and we’d frequent the Thrift Store if it moves also, as I assume it would since there is plenty of
space. We’re in our mid 60’s and don’t usually go to a “regular” hangout but did occasionally stop in for a drink or two.
A friend used to live here but now resides in AZ, and when he came to visit would meet my husband at the VFW at 9 or 10 in the morning; they’d have coffee and/or a beer and talk for at least an hr. before going on to somewhere else. They could have their private talk before coming back to the house, where I could give my 2cents.

I also mentioned that I realized that it was more comfortable going there than to a regular bar; that there’s a camaraderie there that vets don’t feel in a regular bar, and that it’s less noisy also. They can easily talk to the guy next to them if they want to.

So I don’t think the VFW bar is “just a bar.” It’s more of a meeting place that serves alcohol, and coffee.

I mentioned that I am wondering about the health of an older skinny vet who was usually in the bar when we were, mostly by himself, and who cooked the pig that was served at the yearly Labor Day event in Sept. that we attended 2 or 3 times. I was amazed that he was on his feet and put in hours doing this. I was told that he did this for years. I wonder where he goes now, as I sensed him as being a lonely person who needed this place to go to.

I mentioned also that I can’t foresee the vets going up to the school and/or preschool/church in the area at all, or that the kids would be walking by this new location. I’ll bet the kids don’t know or care about what the other businesses are in the area now. I don’t think they’ll notice sitting in a car going by or even walking by
what’s going on inside this location. Yes, maybe they’ll see someone smoking outside, but don’t they now when they walk by other places, like parks?

Comments made on this site mention fear of people peeing outside or needing public restrooms; I never smelled it in the previous area which had no public restrooms, and saw many vets use the bathrm, as I and my husband did also, in the previous location. This location ALSO would have a bathrm., as I assume it already does since it was a restaurant, that we did not ever go to; so I don’t understand that thinking.

I don’t understand what “other nuisance” someone thinks these vets will bring to this area.

What do we think we’re saving our kids from? Isn’t it a good thing to talk to our children about what the VFW really is about? And even talk about what the non-VFW bars are about, where your kids are more likely to get hooked up with dope and other drugs?

In conclusion, I’m for giving the vets their space.


avatar Judi February 4, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Hi Nancy,
As similar as we are in our political beliefs, we are 180 degrees apart on this one. Is Stuart a member of the VFA? or did you just stop in because he is a vet? Bob and I went in once. No one asked for any I.D. Nine or 10:00am for a cup of coffee and/or a beer seems awfully early to me. Of course, as a Principal in both San Ysidro and Imperial Beach I am used to the “regulars” hanging out at the bars at all hours of the day, night and morning. But, unlike you, I frequently had patrons of the bar sleeping in the doorways and called the police regularly to remove them before the students arrived at school. And…the bars closed at 2:00am and I didn’t get to the facilities until 6:30-7:00am. Frequently my custodians had already called the police to remove the people because they arrived earlier than I did.

Stuart and his friend didn’t have to go to a “bar” to separate themselves from you. There are any number of small restaurants on Newport that are quiet enough for some serious talking – and having some great food. And I am not concerned with the students seeing people smoking. With all the anti-smoking literature in the schools today seeing someone smoke is not earth-shattering. What is a mess is the butts that liter the sidewalk; the street; the gutters, and probably the Church parking lot since it fronts the bus stop. Remember, the bathrooms are only open as long as the bar is. (I no longer can think of it as a “cantina”, since I have fond memories of “cantina’s” in Mexico.) It isn’t a cantina anyway. It is, first and foremost, a bar.

I really don’t think you are naive enough to think that drugs are not being used by VFW members. They are being used by all members of society in every walk of life. My kids know what VFW stands for – their grandfather’s are vets; that still doesn’t mean that they are any different than the “non-vet.”

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised at your reaction. In reading Shane’s comments I had the feeling that you might agree with him. It’s just that you and I don’t agree.


avatar Nancy February 5, 2011 at 8:50 am

I guess we are on opposite ends on this one, even though we do agree on many things.

Yes, Stewart was a member of the VFA for many yrs but is currently inactive.
When we went in together for the first time about 5+ yrs. ago, they even asked about me being part of a women’s group as a spouse, and it turned out that I had
signed up at a fair booth the summer before. We went more in that first year so they knew who we were; if a new bartender was on duty, Stewart was asked to see his card.
Stewart is not a morning person but his friend is, so 9 or 9:30 was the time they chose, and Jim has stomach problems so didn’t drink beyond one drink; Stewart usually had one drink. Jim usually had breakfast before he came over from LaMesa area where he was staying. When they ask for a drink (even if just coffee), they ask for one’s VFW card, as a member can bring in one guest. Jim has a lifetime membership. Stewart has to renew.

I guess they chose that venue because of the reason I stated: for the camaraderie.
Jim went to the VFW bar where he lived in AZ and was social so liked to talk to others. He already had breakfast and so didn’t want a restaurant; sometimes they did go to a restaurant afterwards.

Whatever happened at San Ysidro or Imp. Beach yrs. ago didn’t happen at this VFW bar from what I’ve seen over the years whenever walking in that area. I read in a writeup about the Friday night meeting that the off-duty policeman at the meeting didn’t have any arrests when he patrolled the VFW OB area. Never did
notice the butts either, but both of our observations are anecdotal.

I am naive about many things but never noticed anyone “high” ; the older vets were the more frequent visitors and I’d say booze was more their thing. We’ve never seen anyone acting out; Stewart has gone to regular meetings for awhile and said based on the way they ran them (“like the Army”), they wouldn’t let acting out happen, and if it did, the person would be put out.

Shane and I don’t always agree, but guess we do on this issue.


avatar Rick February 4, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Thanks for sharing that sanctimonious rant.


avatar Ron Weiss February 12, 2011 at 11:57 am

To all that have commented:

It seems that those that are willing to give the VFW a chance really understand what this organization is all about and why it would be a shame to be deprived a location in Zipcode 92107.

On the other side of this coin it sounds like we have panic struck neighbors that just believe an alley that has a history of homeless people hanging out and all the garbage that seems to go along with it is/was caused by the VFW.

As a patrol officer in Ocean Beach, I can tell you first hand that the homeless are still in that alley, and we still have the same amount of unsavory folks hanging out since the VFW has closed it’s doors over a month ago.

The VFW did not invent homelessness and does not advertise to attract them to their locale. If anyone would do a little fact checking and even snoop around at other VFW locations in San Diego, you will find they all operate efficiently and are not considered to be a hazard for any community that they are located in.

Ocean Beach residents, this is a golden opportunity for you. I firmly believe opening up the VFW at this location will improve profits for the other businesses in the immediate area. This location could become a model for all other VFW’S to emulate. Work with the VFW and you will have supported your vets and have an organization in your neighborhood that you can be very proud of.

The homeless will not leave Abbott Street or Newport Avenue. Your beautiful neighborhood will stay intact, in fact you probably will have more visits by law enforcement patroling this area. I know I will. I am a vetran and I consider them family!

God Bless!


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