The Saga of the Del Mar Ave. Benches Not Over Yet

by on July 28, 2011 · 17 comments

in Ocean Beach, Popular

OB Town Council Meeting, July 27, 2011:  Town Council awards $6,000 in grants to local organizations.

The benches are back, but the controversy is not over yet.  As has been widely reported, KUSI Channel  9/51’s Michael Turko facilitated the return from a junkyard of the two missing memorial benches placed overlooking the ocean at the end of Del Mar Ave.  However there remain some questions about the legality of their placement.

Representatives from the City of San Diego have been deluged with phone calls regarding the Story and Cappellucci benches, with a mix of calls expressing outrage over their unlawful disappearance and irritation that the benches were allowed to be placed there in the first place.

In his report to the Ocean Beach Town Council last night, representative Michael Patton from Councilman Kevin Faulconer’s office reiterated that the Councilman is pleased that the benches “are back with the families.”  However, despite the Councilman’s relief at the benches’ return, there remains a good deal of dispute as to whether or not the benches have been placed there legally.

The site is designated as a public right of way (essentially a sidewalk, and therefore public property).

Despite claims by both the Story and Cappellucci families, the City of San Diego, according to Patton, has no record of any permits being issued for either bench.  And while the Story bench was placed at the foot of Del Mar Ave. using a special memorial program sponsored by the City Parks and Recreation Department, that program that no longer exists.  Both benches, Patton said, will need two different permits:  A site development permit, and a coastal development permit.  The coastal development will be the much more difficult one to get.

In the meantime, there seems to be no appetite whatsoever to once again remove the benches, permits or not.  Patton said that Faulconer’s office will work with the families to help them through the permit process and to make sure everything goes smoothly.  The OB Planning Board will also be taking the matter up as an agenda item at its next meeting on Wednesday, August 3 at 6pm at the Ocean Beach Rec Center.  All meetings are open to the public and public comments are welcomed.

As for the claims of nuisance at the site of the benches:  Faulconer’s office has had discussions with the San Diego Police Department about increasing patrols in the area, and hope to abate the noise and litter problems that nearby residents have said has long been a problem.  It is hoped that with increased patrols the problems that likely led to one local resident taking matters into his own hands and unilaterally having the benches removed will subside.

The City Attorney’s office has referred the case against Robert Bryson—the individual who had the benches removed—to the San Diego County District Attorney’s office.  It will now be up to the District Attorney to determine whether or not to file charges against Mr. Bryson.

(Editor: For more updates on the memorial benches, go here.)

OB Town Council Awards Grants to Local Organizations

The Town Council awarded a total of $6,000 in grants to various local organizations that provide a variety of charitable services to the local community.  The grants went to the Ocean Beach Rec Center’s “Good Food for Good Friends” program that provides lunches to seniors; the Peninsula Shepherd Center’s program that provides transportation services to seniors through a volunteer program; the OB Dollars for Scholars program, that last year provided 30 scholarships; the OB Community Foundation; the OB Community Development Corporation, which operates a women’s shelter in Ocean Beach; Challenged America organization, a group that makes specialized sail boats available to the severely disabled.

The Town Council collects donations for the annual food and Christmas toy drive, and any leftover funds are donated back into local non-profits.


Councilman Kevin Faulconer will hold a “Community Coffee” on August 25th from 9am to 11am on the patio of Shades Ocean Front Bistro in Ocean Beach.  Public welcome.

The San Diego Redistricting Commission’s preliminary plan is available on the City website for public viewing.  The map (not final yet) can be viewed at the redistricting commission website.  The preliminary plan calls for Ocean Beach and Pt. Loma to be separated from the Little Italy, Mission Hills, and Downtown San Diego neighborhoods, and combines them with Mission Bay, Clairemont, and Linda Vista/USD, creating an all coastal area District 2.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar John Story July 28, 2011 at 10:00 am

The City of San Diego Parks and Recreation Department placed my father’s memorial bench TEN YEARS AGO in the exact spot it was returned to yesterday by Michael Turko. The City handled all aspects of bench placing. All we did was design the plaque and pay for it.

I’m not sure where the confusion is coming from about the legality of the City placing public property on land owned by the City. My father’s memorial bench was one of dozens placed around town at that time. Are all these benches “legality” now in question??

New permitting process? We gave the bench to the City to place 10 years ago! It has been at the foot of Del Mar Ave. ever since. If the Councilman sees fit to get a new permit for it, my family is all for it. Have at it, Councilman.

I’d like to ask the question, does a memorial bench need a permit? If so, where are the permits for every single memorial bench the City has placed?

Political football with a memorial bench that was a private party’s gift to the City which was accepted and installed by the City itself? Not sure where this one is going but it can’t be good for the City’s bottom line.


avatar BOBOB July 28, 2011 at 10:26 am

they are city property clearly. seems like the city just doesn’t want to do anything. just like with the seals in la jolla, pass the buck, do nothing, blame someone else…sound familiar, oh thats right, same as the liars and thieves in washington, they only care about collecting checks and fulfilling their egos. If our country is in decline you know who to thank, and then blame yourselfs for sitting by and doing nothing while they drive our nation into the dirt/


avatar Frank Gormlie July 28, 2011 at 11:45 am

John, several more points: the “lost” permit is another example of the City’s institutional amnesia. We experienced another example years ago during the 1980’s when the City “lost” the memory of a toxic waste dump it operated right next to what’s now SeaWorld. True story.

This permit issue, I believe, is a red herring. It’s a way for the City to walk the tight-rope, not admitting to anything and not wanting to look responsible. It also could be an excuse for the City to remove the benches, so we’ve got to keep our eye on them. Faulconer’s office and others’ offers to assist the families through the permit process (there’s 2 of them???) is fine – and they should do it – but throwing everything back on the families is simply not fair – and as Turko would say – “It ain’t right!!!”

And speaking of maintaining the site where the benches are, there used to be a city-issued trash can there. But in a cost-saving move, the City removed it and a lot of other trash cans at the foot of the bluff streets. So now, we’re looking at making a trash issue into a police issue? Asking the police to up their patrols is okay, especially with the decline of crime at the beach, but is this the way we want our ever-declining numbers of paid officers to spend their time? Everyone should observe the loud noise cut-off time, and neighbors have a right to respond to those who don’t.

Look, the benches are in, the DA needs to figure out how to charge Mr. Bryson, and let’s get on with the more important issues of our lives. For the City to spend any more time on the benches is a waste of our time and money.


avatar John Story July 28, 2011 at 1:22 pm

For some reason there is a public impression ‘out there’ that my family arbitrarily plopped down a memorial bench on an ocean bluff. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The bench was approved and placed by the City at the foot of Del Mar Avenue in April 2001, expenses paid for by my family.


avatar Andy Cohen July 28, 2011 at 1:30 pm


That, I think, is understood. But it would really be helpful if you (and the Cappelluccis) could locate the paperwork from when the benches were originally placed. There has to be some sort of record of payment or permitting, and the City has already said that it is lacking on their end.

I have no doubt that you and the Cappelluccis followed protocol and received what you believed to be proper permission for your memorial benches (we all know how confusing these processes can be for those who’ve never done anything like this before). The problem is that at this point without any written proof it’s your word against the City’s, and the City is going to win that argument every time. If you can find some record of correspondence between you and the City–ANY kind of correspondence regarding the bench–that would go a long way toward erasing any doubts.


avatar Frank Gormlie July 28, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Andy, don’t agree with you here. The City does not always win. It’s not the Story family’s word against the City’s. The bench was there for over ten years and there is now a legal presumption that it was there legally and properly. It’s in the City’s court to somehow “prove” that it was not allowed to be there. But I don’t really think the City will go that way. They would stir up a mini-revolt of the citizenry if they tried to remove the benches.


avatar Andy Cohen July 28, 2011 at 1:40 pm

You’re right: I don’t think they’ll remove them either. However, there is still the claim that no permit exists for either bench, and as such–and because they are the prevailing authority–they can pretty easily claim that they are placed illegally, regardless of how long they’ve been there. So now they’re saying “get the permits and remove all doubt.” Until that happens, or until the families produce some sort of documentation from the original placement, it is going to remain an issue.

Getting the planning board approval will be a good first step, as it demonstrates in a formal way community support.


avatar John Story July 28, 2011 at 2:35 pm

There is a lawbreaker involved here. This person wishes to obfuscate that issue in the minds of anyone willing to listen. Are you saying, there is a burden of proof on my family to produce records from more 10 years ago to clear this up and show it was legitimate?? On a gift we made to the City which the City handled itself?

Please. Sir.


avatar Andy Cohen July 28, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Yes, actually. That appears to be the City’s position, although as both Frank and I have stated, I doubt they’ll do much about it……..for now. Why else would they insist on obtaining the proper permits this time around? Since they don’t have any records documenting the original placement (apparently), and you don’t have any records………

Hey, don’t shoot the messenger here. I’m just interpreting what I’m hearing and what I’ve been told. And the basic premise of the City’s position as far as I can tell is that there are no permits, period, unless you and the Cappelluccis can produce your copies. The City may very well have handled the process 10 years ago, but apparently they have no record of it, and therefore as far as they are concerned–if they really wanted to force the issue, which I don’t believe they do for the time being–they have no idea and no record of what happened 10 years ago. It’s the ‘ol Ronnie Reagan/Ollie North “I do not recall” gambit. I’m going to presume that the people you dealt with back then are gone from that department, and therefore cannot testify to your dealings with them. That leaves it at your word against the City’s.

Put it this way: If it ever were to go to court for whatever reason, then the burden of proof would be on you. Sad, but true. That’s merely the pathetic reality of the situation as we find it. Again, don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just reporting the facts from both sides as I know them.


avatar John Story July 28, 2011 at 3:22 pm

I must say that if all that is the case which you state, the precedent set not only condones but encourages future lawlessness, vigilantism and anarchical acts by anyone having a problem with anything!

Is that the environ the City and its police wish to create?


avatar Citizen Cane July 28, 2011 at 10:38 am

How broad is the agenda item for the OB Planning Board? Will they only the address the benches, or will they also address the alleged encroachment of Bryson’s driveway and fence on public land?


avatar obecean July 28, 2011 at 10:41 am

Perhaps explore Bryson’s political campaign contributions as well?

People who live in glass houses should not teach others to throw stones! LOL!!


avatar Andy Cohen July 28, 2011 at 10:53 am

There are two agenda items: The benches and something about chickens (seriously). I’m guessing that the planning board will ultimately vote to approve the permits for the benches, which, while non-binding, is a good first step toward assuring the benches remain there permanently.


avatar Frank Gormlie July 28, 2011 at 11:12 am

The OB Plan Bd can only, by law, address what’s on their publicly noticed agenda. They always can place issues on their future agendas by citizen input.


avatar Andy Cohen July 28, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Right, and the bench issue is officially on the agenda.


avatar Citizen Cane July 28, 2011 at 9:52 pm

I also wonder if it was on the agenda ten years ago. Did the OB planning board sign off on the bench back then? The Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Recreation Council was consulted by Park and Rec about the memorial benches near Hill Street, because they were within the boundaries of Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. Del Mar Avenue is outside of the park boundary, but the (whole city) Park and Rec Board should have held an official vote on the Del Mar Bench, or perhaps a batch of bench proiposals. So there might be a paper trail in the meeting minutes of the Park and Rec Board. The city might be able to lose permits, but I doubt if they could lose meeting minutes….even if they wanted to.


avatar OB Dude July 29, 2011 at 6:25 pm

I am all for food, transportation and socializes for our seniors!

Why is the OBCDC operating a woman’s shelter? Is this the same property on Voltaire Street which is owned or used to be owned by Mike Stevens? Does OBCDC involvement in the woman’s shelter require someone to be on the payroll?

Anyone know about the OBCF ? Is this organization that has been encouraging advertising on lifeguard stations, bathrooms and trash cans to raise money for the city?


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