Bench Tour of South Ocean Beach

by on July 25, 2011 · 31 comments

in Environment, Hitchikers' Guide to OB, Ocean Beach, Popular

Bench at the end of the alley, Cape May Place

With all the recent drama at Del Mar Avenue, I decided to take a tour in search of other viewing benches in the area.  Working from North to South our tour begins at the dead end alley known as Cape May Place.  This lone bench is in the style of memorial benches, but bears no plaque.  The view here is spoiled by a trash can and the exposed rip rap at the Northern edge of Saratoga Park.  Sadly the bench also suffers from that most ineffective mating ritual known as graffiti.  I think the bench should be relocated out to the far corner of Saratoga Park.  At the very least it should be angled more toward North Ocean Beach.  I would also screen the back of the bench from public view with a single dome-shaped lemonade-berry plant.

Moving South the next bench is a long line of sandstone boulders that provide variable seating.  There are no memorial boulder benches here.  It’s been said that the most interesting man in the world once sat there for seven hours, but nobody knows exactly where.  The boulder benches end at the beginning of the combination sea wall bench that runs all the way to the the Silver Spray sandbox.  So the beach portion of our tour has seating for hundreds, but only one traditional bench.

Moving up to the pier there are twenty benches, and none of them are memorial benches.  The armless benches have a Jetsons Era style, but probably aren’t that old.

Admiral’s Bridge at the end of the Ocean Beach Pier

I think we need a new style of concrete bench made just for the pier.  Benches that have PVC pipes cast in the armrests for rod holders.  Similar but smaller holes along the backrest for beach umbrellas to slide into.  Plus the angle of the back must be more reclined.  I want a  bench that says, “I’m not waiting for a bus…I’m waiting for fish.”  It might also be worth placing the benches on small slabs so that people can see over the railing better.

Out near the end of the pier is a small building that could possibly be the ultimate viewing bench.  Unfortunately the Admiral’s Bridge is off limits to the public.  It’s kept locked up, but I still hope to have a cup of coffee in there someday.  In fact I wish that everybody could get the chance to pilot the pier from the Admiral’s Bridge someday.

The people’s bench, located on the southern end of the Ocean Beach Pier

The pier extends farthest on the Southern branch. This is the peoples portion of the pier.  While the pier was being built, it became known that the pier would miss the kelp beds.  Funds were needed to extend the pier South, and the donation jars sat on the counters of many local merchants, if not all of them.  I even donated coke bottle money to the cause.  The people eventually met their goal, and got their Southern extension.

During my recent visit, I was able to get the farthest bench on the Southern end.  Sitting on that bench was a real joy when I was a kid, but the bench is no longer something that inspires civic pride.  The choice bench closest to the kelp beds now has shatters on both corners, and the nearby railings pegged my skank-o-meter.  Perhaps it’s time for the people and the merchants to take charge of their end of the pier.

The foot of Del Monte Avenue, Ocean Beach

Back to the bluffs and moving South, the next benches are at the foot of Del Monte Avenue.  There was once a pier here, so the end of the street is very wide.  It still has the old school wood railing painted white.  The concrete walks need a major makeover.  This street has a lot of potential, but currently there are just two benches and a trashcan.  They are both memorial benches.  One has a plaque that reads, MARC.  We Miss You!  Mom, Dad, Jen, Mitch & your circle of friends.  There are no dates of birth and death.  Sadly Marc’s bench is missing a large chunk at the top.

The other Del Monte bench is a tribute to Dr. Tony Moore, Dad, Husband, Surfer, Friend 5/6/49 (small cross) 5/10/98.  I sat there for a while and pondered the guy that died four days after his birthday.  If anyone knows more about Marc and Tony, then please chime in down in the comments section. (See photos of these plaques in the gallery below)

“Choose Happy” memorial bench located at Coronado and Bacon Streets in Ocean Beach

Our next bench on the tour is a memorial bench where Coronado Avenue ends at Bacon Street. The plaque reads “Choose Happy”  In Memory of Cathie Shedd  1944-2000.  There is of course more traffic here than on a dead end street, and your view of the ocean is through an eight foot tall chain link fence.  I must say though that I do like the way this bench reclines.  The bench itself is set on a slope.  I think we need to choose a happier location for this bench, like Narragansett or Orchard Avenues.  At its current location it’s too close to a dangerous cliff that could slump at any time.  In fact I’m surprised that City Risk Management hasn’t moved the bench sooner.

The only other memorial benches in the area would be the missing Del Mar Avenue benches.  When they return, I think it would be nice to place the Story bench closer to the ocean.  The bluff in that area has been rebuilt, sloped, and vegetated.  It should be safe to have the bench closer to the ocean than it was originally.

I think it’s also a good time to complete this unfinished micro park.  Currently there’s no curb separating the dirt from the end of Del Mar Avenue.  We need to prevent water from flowing in both directions.  The guardrail could be replaced with a short wall planter box.  It only needs to be tall enough to handle the street end warning signs.  The sidewalk to nowhere on the South side of the street should wrap around the end of the street.

More ambitious projects farther in the future might involve a lower terrace that provides a more secluded view point.  A terrace that would give more privacy to both visitors and residents.

Foot of Narragansett Avenue, Ocean Beach

One final word about parking at our dead parks.  At several locations we could get rid of all the red paint and angry no parking signs if we would simply put in some seven minute parking spaces in strategic locations.  Bermuda and Santa Cruz Avenues should each get one parking space that allows people seven minutes to park and unload all of their beach stuff.  It would make those two beaches more family friendly.  Some people might want to park there for seven minutes to gobble a quick meal while they check out the waves.  Plus local residents should see some value in them for quick stops for themselves and their visiting friends.

Narragansett and Orchard Avenues have stairs that don’t lead directly to beaches, but I still recommend them for seven minute parking spaces.  Having no parking paints our micro parks with negativity.  I say we keep it positive with seven minute parking.  People will park there anyway.

On my recent visit there was a small park & rec trash truck parked at the end of Narraganset Avenue.  Two city guys were eating their lunch in their truck, and enjoying the view of the pier.  There is no city trash can there for them to service.  There’s just a small kitchen size trash bin probably maintained by people in the hood.  The city guys were doing exactly what the rest of us would like to be able to do.  It’s high time for us to get real about it.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Citizen Cane July 25, 2011 at 1:33 pm

There were some things I could have written into the article, but wanted to bounce around here in the comments section. Orchard Avenue is in the photo gallery as a potential bench site. More importantly it’s a good example of the handywork of the city’s Department of ENMJ Projects (Ees not my job.) A new guardrail was installed, but the old guardrail was left to compost?? The city grows their own native plants at the Miramar Landfill, but pickleweed is the best they can do at Orchard Avenue. ..ENMJ. Please reply to this particular post for comments specific to Orchard Avenue.

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avatar BOBOB July 26, 2011 at 8:51 am

the end of orchard is just fine, nothing wrong with it other than whats at the bottom of those stairs, if you want to improve something start down there.

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avatar Citizen Cane July 26, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Two basic things to consider with each dead end street:
1. How can they be unique.
2. What common denominators need to be satisfied.

In the case of Orchard Avenue it could be made unique as the only dead end street with dwarf citris plants. One common denominator would be a sidewalk that wraps the end of the street. Children, seniors, and people in wheelchairs should be able to go from one side of the street to the other without stepping down into the street. Amazingly this basic infrastructure of connecting sidewalks only exists at one dead end street, Del Monte Avenue (although in a rather shabby state.) Bench or no bench, we deserve connecting sidewalks.

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avatar BOBOB July 27, 2011 at 9:50 am

I like the old guard posts and fence. Left as is, it is a piece our history preserved. Also it’s great just the way it is. Trying to debate improving the top of the cliff while not addressing whats going on at the bottom of the stairs makes no sense. The beach covered in boulders infested by rats frequented by the homeless and plagued by graffiti. Start there. Crumbling cliff lines precludes any type of permanent installation at the edge without some good planning and $$$. Don’t think the city is looking to fix something that isn’t broke.

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avatar BOBOB July 27, 2011 at 9:52 am

also what you cropped out of your photo is the nice grassy area at the top of the stairs with the unique hand made little bench for watching sunsets. The grass is maintained by the mega apartment building which we can all thank for completely destroying the cliffs and beach with their “breakwall” and concrete.

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avatar BOBOB July 27, 2011 at 9:53 am

and where do you pull the dwarf citrus plants from? are they already there? you just think it would neato? do you live on orchard?

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avatar Citizen Cane July 27, 2011 at 4:15 pm

I served up the citris plants merely as an example of how the street could be unique….an orchard type of plant for Orchard Avenue. Sort of like the pink oleander theme on Brighton Avenue. Cypress, pepper and Torreys defined other street. BTW the original name for Orchard Avenue was La Jolla Avenue.

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avatar RB July 27, 2011 at 4:35 pm

BTW just to keep the history straight, Orchard Avenue was named after the olive orchards grown by and for the Portuguese community. You can still find trees in the area.

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avatar BOBOB July 28, 2011 at 8:17 am

ok, interesting idea citizen cane. I’m still kind of a no change is good change when theres a huge monster of a problem right there at the bottom of the stairs. But I salute you for your article and ideas to improve the community and ocean viewing experience. RB thanks for the history, I always wondered. Maybe one or two olive trees? would they grow cliffside? not sure. I love the cacti looking plants with the large stalks that grow up and out of them that are already there. Not sure if they are native but they are along the cliff line in many places. Maybe some more of that type of plant, succulents. The last house on the southside of the street before the ramp to the beach has kept his property very undeveloped and they have a bunch of cool big succulents, maybe an extension of what they have been doing? I like the pickleweed too myself : )

Either way I would be interested first in the opinions of the tenents and owners of the homes right there since they are the ones who have to live with it. out their windows.

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avatar BOBOB July 28, 2011 at 8:23 am

one more note : ) the reason I like the way the streets end abruptly with guard rails and no special designs, sidewalks etc is that I have always been inspired by how they appear to have been built to extend further, they look like they/the cliff has been washed away by time. I always think to how cool it is that those spots are the end of the road, the furthest point west, they symbolize the end of the the city and the country and the beginning of the pacific which for me is a playground and source of adventure. Putting in finished sidewalks, manicured parks and neat and clean aesthetics to me makes it just like pb and lajolla, whitewashed, prettied up and fancy. I like it raw, unkept and in flux just how the cliffs are and should be a work of art in progress shaped by wind and waves…not man. we have lost too much of the natural aspect already.

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avatar RB July 28, 2011 at 9:51 am

Ideas for a raw, natural look can be found at our native plant garden.

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avatar Citizen Cane July 28, 2011 at 10:14 am

Also worth a look…the experimental garden South of the Ladera Street parking lot. Please stay outside the ropes. Here you can see native plants in a Sunset Cliffs environment. Viewing them in the Summer gives you a good preview of what to expect during the dry season.

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avatar RB July 28, 2011 at 10:34 am

I walk that area all the time and will check it out.

avatar blaw0013 July 20, 2012 at 7:21 am

As a tenant of the cottages at the end of Orchard, I can say that we really enjoy our neighbors being able to visit the micro-park. Dreaming, I have wished the last 10 feet or so of the road could just be ripped up and really made into a park as suggested. The cliff is a bit dangerous, so setting back a small grassy (?) area and couple of benches would be great! I know we are a regular stop for city crews and our postman for a lunch break, so why not embrace it with the short term parking, rather than mean-spirited red paint? Final thoughts–there is a great bench built into the tree on the South side, and thanks to locals who maintain the trash for the city. BTW the ENMJ guys did fantastic work recently replacing the handrail on the stairs.

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avatar Citizen Cane July 25, 2011 at 1:44 pm

The foot of Santa Cruz Avenue has a couple of unnoficial benches already. I think one of them is a private wall. Here the City’s Department of ENMJ Projects stubbornly refuses to deal with an ADA upgrade. The sidewalk pithes up at one angle, and then down toward the stairs. Between them is a wierd transition piece with some wild curves. This sort of construction gets awards in a Dr. Suess universe, but doesn’t work well in our public setting. Please use the reply button here for specific comments about Santa Cruz Avenue.

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avatar Jon July 25, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I’m pretty sure there is a memorial bench on Dog Beach as well……

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avatar Citizen Cane July 25, 2011 at 1:52 pm

We also have to fault the Department of ENMJ Projects for saying, “Ees not my job to deal with encroachments.” Really? Then who should do it? Should we outsource the job of dealing with encroachments? To make it easy on the city guys, I’ll offer a few spots that warrant further scrutiny….South side of Narragansett, North side of Del Mar, North side of Bermuda, and the South side of Pescadero (there are bigger problems there with safety.) Please use the reply button here if you want to comment specifically about encroachments.

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avatar Citizen Cane July 25, 2011 at 2:12 pm

As for the exposed sharp rocks at the foot of Cape May Place….the city should just take care of simple proplems like this without having risk managment lean on them. An easy fix here would be to cover the rocks with dirt, and maybe transplant some the pickleweed that used to cover the entire berm. Yes, it’s something simple enough for volunteers to deal with, but I have some personal reservations about volunteer work. I worry about volunteers preventing city jobs from being created, and volunteers allowing the city to cut down on workers hours. Yes, I know these are lean times, but I’m one of those people that thinks the city should overstaff during tough times….it’s when people need the jobs the most.

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avatar Emily July 25, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Lets call these guys!

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avatar BOBOB July 26, 2011 at 8:55 am

wow where did you find that link!! I was lucky enough to participate in 2 of the projects there, benchmark and tweet street. My bench project is a permanent installation on the city college campus, my tweet street box is also alive and well in front of the new school of architecture.

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avatar Sunshine July 26, 2011 at 9:17 am

these are wonderful! love art in public places

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avatar Citizen Cane July 26, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Hmmm, perhaps we shouldn’t be too quick to discard or replace that bench on the pier with the ragged, broken top edge. The bench could be painted to look like a wave, and the ragged edge could be whitewater at the top of the wave. Perhaps all of the benches on the pier could be community art.

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avatar Patty Jones July 26, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Community art, an awesome idea!

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avatar BOBOB July 27, 2011 at 9:55 am

good idea! the pier could use some love. its pretty depressing…

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avatar barbara July 26, 2011 at 5:53 am

I have really enjoyed the tour! Thanks so much!

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avatar tj July 26, 2011 at 8:52 am

Could these oversize concrete monstrosities – be any more ugly?

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avatar Danny Morales July 26, 2011 at 10:53 am

“Could any of these concrete monstosities-be any more ugly?” – Yes tj, if anybody listens to you, life itself will get more ugly and we’ll have no sense of time! 8-}P

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avatar obecean July 26, 2011 at 11:12 am

Do you wish for a more dainty bench instead?

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avatar BOBOB July 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm

tj hate to break it to you but you may be completely alone in your opinion. sorry buddy

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avatar Debbie July 20, 2012 at 11:30 am

Benches without those goofy dividers are great. The benches over at NTC aka Liberty Station are nice. But whatever…don’t put a bench in front of a fence! Who could side there and enjoy that view? cut a hole in fence somebody a nice big oval so when you sit there you can look out and enjoy.

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avatar Terri July 26, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Thank you for your well-written tour of the benches. I especially appreciate the pictures.

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