Editor: This is Part 2 of the History of the Anti-Starbucks Campaign in Ocean Beach. (Here’s Part 1.) Many of the details in the following account were gleaned from my notes on specific meetings and other observations about the Starbucks opposition campaign.
First Protest Against Starbucks
The very first protest against Starbucks coming into OB was held on Sunday, March 25th, 2001. At first at the anointed time, dozens upon dozens of people gathered at all four corners of Bacon and Newport, chanting, waving signs, picketing back and forth in front of the empty building. They handed out clipboards with a petition opposing the lease to Starbucks, and there were lots of hand-crafted signs – as the Coalition had met at the Green Store the night before to make them. As the crowd grew, it continued to be generally very boisterous and friendly. It was almost a party atmosphere. Lots of smiles, some chants. One was: “We don’t want no corporate whores, on our beautiful OB shores!”
We stood, chanted and waved standing on those corners for awhile, with some even spilling out into the streets. A few TV stations showed up to cover the protest. Finally, the organizers marshaled the crowd down Newport Avenue and onto the green grass nearby where we held a rally. The crowd seemed huge then. It was estimated to be 200 to 250 people, most of them young.
Using a metal step ladder, a number of people addressed the very supportive and appreciative crowd. David Klowden, the primary speaker, railed against the corporate giant, listing all their faults, weaknesses, and their threat to the community.
Dan Morales and someone named “OB Man” also revved up the crowd. Morales spoke about recent problems with the police, complaining about the police trailer left in the Pier parking lot. “OB Man” spoke and made the crowd laugh, as he spoke about his special power which was derived from people’s activism – as he battled Dr. Evil.
Gregg Robinson spoke for OBGO and its current initiatives – there were half a dozen. I spoke about the toxic dump next to SeaWorld and the upcoming protest later that summer. When Rio spoke, she was very passionate – as always – about the dangers to her beloved community – and when she finished, she yelled out “I love OB!”
Besides some of the speakers, other prominent organizers of the protest included Kip Kruger, Colleen Dietzel of the Green Store, and Dave Shoemaker. With such a turnout, organizers were thrilled. Media coverage was ripping. The community seemed geared up to stop Starbucks. We all appeared to be on the same page – that Starbucks had to be stopped in order to ‘save OB.’
With the success of the first protest under their belt, Coalition organizers met with the building manager – Torrey Pines Management. The meeting took place at their La Jolla office and the activists wanted them to reconsider the lease to Starbucks. They had petitions with a 1,000 signatures opposing the corporation moving into OB.
But to no avail. The coalition reps were told that a 3-year lease was being signed with the coffee company, and that – in fact – it was a done deal. So, Starbucks was coming in. June first was the date being thrown about for their official opening, a little more than two months away.
The bad news was announced at the March 12th OBGO meeting at the Rec Center. To add insult to injury, trees on the property would be coming down to make way for the new landscaping. One reaction people had to this new reality was to take the issue to the the OB Town Council meeting coming up in about a month.
Town Hall Meeting About Starbucks
And did they. On April 17th, a large town-hall meeting was held in the auditorium of the Rec Center – a meeting sponsored by the Town Council. It was a mostly boisterous, energetic – and mainly anti-Starbucks – crowd sitting in the metal chairs and milling about. Six police officers stood against one of the walls, noticeably close by. Speakers, pro or con, gave their talking points about the coming of Starbucks. Those offering positive views about the coffee giant were met with a scattering of boo’s. Finally, since it seemed that Starbucks was going to open up, a number of speakers called for a boycott and each time one was declared, applause erupted from the audience.
The upshot of this outpouring of community sentiment was that both the Town Council and the Planning Board wrote letters to the building manager in efforts to get them to reconsider the lease. This was announced at the next OBGO meeting of April 26.
Things were picking up. A demonstration was being planned outside the management office in La Jolla. There also were plans to stage a guerrilla theater-type of protest in front of the Point Loma Starbucks on Rosecrans. The petition against the coffee company was now up to 1400 signatures. Another major demonstration against the OB storefront was being set for Memorial Day.
On May 19th, the Point Loma Starbucks saw theater on the grass in front of its store. While customers sipped their lattes at outside tables, activists – all dressed in costume – acted out their anti-corporate skit, surprisingly well done considering the little time they had for rehearsals. (OBGO members knew each other by their first names; Devon was there, as was Matt, Brooke, Terry, Rio, Marilyn, Lynne, Elise, Pat, and David – most all dressed up.)
By time OBGO met on May 24th, the Coalition to Save OB had finalized their details for the Memorial Day protest. It was to be at 11 in the morning, there was to be more theater, there would be tables. The group had already distributed many fliers and were planning on distributing a total 6,000 (these were the ecological-appropriate quarter sheets). Hundreds of them had been already handed out at Farmers’ Markets. The Coalition wanted OBGO to have a strong presence at the event, and as nobody disagreed, Rio was selected to be the group’s speaker. OBGO members voted to give the coalition $50 to help with flier costs, etc.
(Side note: you can stick pick up the anti-Starbucks posters for $5 at the Green Store, 4827 Voltaire.)
The second major protest against the coffee company was on that next weekend, Memorial Day weekend. It was very similar to the first one, although this time, there was no rally down at the beach as picketing was held in front of the building instead. (A personal note: I distinctly remember this demonstration as three of us active in the protest left it to go camping in the desert, and during the wee hours of our first morning at Cougar Canyon we were attacked by killer bees.)
Even though most activists involved in the campaign against Starbucks were in both groups, the Coalition and OBGO, if wasn’t really discussed that the Coalition was not really a “coalition” – as coalitions are usually considered to be a network of groups. Ours was simply about a dozen activists with a single purpose of focusing on the anti-Starbucks campaign. Any agenda at an OBGO meeting – in contrast – would reflect the group’s work on a half-dozen issues, such as SeaWorld, Donna Frye’s mayoral campaign, the toxic waste dump, the planning committees, Mission Bay hotel developers.
So, at the next OBGO meeting on June 14, the relationship between the two groups was on the agenda. But as I recall, there really wasn’t much discussion. There was a general consensus, though, that people considered the coalition to be a committee of OBGO.
Other discussion on Starbucks centered on the door-to-door canvass being planned by the coalition. People were to go throughout OB with a petition and other literature against the corporation. By educating the community and raising awareness, they hoped to not only recruit new activists, raise some funds, but to generally generate pressure on Starbucks. At that point, organizers had made up bumper-stickers, posters and some yard signs. One flier distributed included a listing and map of about twenty-some other local coffee houses or merchants in Ocean Beach. Another idea was for people to go into Starbucks stores and fill out their official comment cards, trashing their move into OB.
By mid-July, new ideas for the campaign emerged. One was enacting a Formula Restaurant resolution by the Planning Board that would restrict certain types of restaurant-type businesses coming into OB, particularly franchises. Another was taking a full page ad out in the Beacon – a whole page would cost $1100. Another idea was holding our “own” town hall meeting to ensure that the community understood why we were opposing Starbucks. At that point, their opening was supposed to coincide with Labor Day.
We also heard that Roger Hedgecock, the radio personality-former mayor cum felon, was going to be broadcasting across the street from Starbucks during one of his upcoming day radio programs. He was to set up at Java Jungle for a few hours, and direct the conversation to be about Starbucks for a good part of the show.
At the July 26th OBGO meeting, it was announced that the OB Town Council was going to poll its membership about Starbucks, with the poll placed in their monthly newsletter (these were the days before emails). So, in response to this stirring news, many people wanted to join the OBTC, and as there was at the moment two openings on their Board, there was even some discussion about people getting on it.
Meanwhile, we also heard that the arcade property owner on Newport had denied a request by MacDonalds to move in. This was met with applause and “hurrah’s” or whatever passes for them. More yard signs were being readied and people could see the few that had gone up already.
At the “Coalition to Save OB” meeting on August 2nd, nine people attended including me. Dan was trying to get other merchants to donate money for that Beacon ad. Also, what was called the Formula Establishment Ban was being drawn up by a sympathetic lawyer and would go for a vote by the Planning Board. Plus, the group was gearing up for the August 23rd town hall meeting, but couldn’t decide where to hold it – either the OB Women’s Club or the Rec Center.
Finally, the next demonstration was being planned. As Starbucks was going to officially open on Labor Day, the group wanted to hold it either before or by then. This whole campaign was being led by a little more than a handful of activists, and they included Dan, Kim, Rio, Colleen, Doug, Shane, Kip, CT – and those that didn’t make the meeting, like Devon and Marc.
The next meeting of the Coalition in mid-August centered on preparing for what we were calling the Town meeting. We would use the gathering to get our message out of why we are opposed to the coffee giant, and we were organizing a panel of speakers. We decided that due to the crowd expected, we would have the meeting outside on the asphalt on the side of the Center – as the large gym was busy for that night.
Panelists and what they were going to present were chosen. Seana was to speak on the anti-corporate part of our campaign. Kip was to discuss the environmental aspects of how the coffee giant operated; Rio on how it’s up to property owners to maintain the cleanliness of their storefronts and how some of the other coffee merchants view what’s happening. Gregg was selected to bring up the ‘rising commercial rents’ issue if Starbucks was allowed to move in. I was to speak about the change to OB’s character if chains and franchises were allowed onto mainstreet of the community, as it’s the mainstreet that reflects that character. Kim was to represent the residents’ views, and Doug was to raise the issue of other communities around the country in similar fights against Starbucks.
We had to deal with all the logistics for the meeting, making the fliers and passing them out, the speakers, the sound system or megaphone, sign-up sheets, tables, chairs, signs, the ad, yard signs, the media, phone banking, bumper-stickers, leafleting the night before …. Half a dozen people took responsibility for handing out our fliers during the upcoming Farmers Markets.
Three days later, OBGO held a day-long “retreat” at a local activist’s house. This was in mid-August. During the get-together we listed all the “good things” that the group had achieved in its a little over a year’s existence. The campaign against Starbucks was on that list. Up to then, three demonstrations had been held against the company – and some considered the last one, “the best”. People were jazzed about the spontaneous response that we had received from the community during the campaign, as activists were focusing on its actual opening. We also listed what issues we wanted to address in the next year, and the ‘no on Starbucks’ crusade was on it.
At the town meeting on the 23rd of August, we had a great turn-out for our first outside night-time meeting. Everything turned out the way we planned. We got our messages out: OB was a community fighting for its soul. A number of panelists made this point: in response to people saying ‘where were you when Rite-Aide moved in? Where were you when Dominoes moved in?’ we stated that ‘that’s just the point. We weren’t here – many of us lived here then, but the community was not organized. Now we’re organized. We’re trying to bring back community activism. OB was saved in the past by community activism, the jetty, Collier Park, and now it’s time to do it again.
Labor Day came and went. Starbucks had yet to open. Then we heard the new date. The Coalition to Save OB and OBGO planned a picket line on the opening day. They would open at 6:30 a.m. we heard, and we would be there to meet them. We had our signs ready, our petitions, our fliers. We were all set to go.
Starbucks was going to open bright and early on September 11, 2001. 9/11. And we were going to meet them.
Part 3 is coming soon.