“Respect OB”: An Open Letter to the Readers of the OB Rag

by on April 30, 2012 · 19 comments

in Culture, Economy, Environment, Homelessness, Labor, Ocean Beach, Organizing, Popular

By Andy Taubmann

Fellow readers of the OB Rag,

I have been a regular reader of the OB Rag for about ten years, although I have never commented or contributed. I read the Rag, because I believe that the Rag has a unique position to observe, chronicle, and comment on the happenings of Ocean Beach.

As such, the very valid question has been asked, what is the Respect OB movement and what is it about? No one has a monopoly on that answer, but as someone who took a leading role, I do have my own opinion and story that I would like to share.

First and foremost, Respect OB is a pure expression of love for OB. It is not affiliated with any political movement. It is an effort to get people to think about OB for OB’s sake. It is an exploration to see if there is a common thread that unites us as OBceans. The goal is not to find solutions, because that is impossible for very real and good reasons. The goal is to see if we can make improvements, for the benefit of everyone.

To me, this is important, because we tried doing nothing, and that was not working. And believe me, no one tried harder than me to do nothing.

I have no idea who “Molly” is, but I would like to bring forth her comment from a prior thread, as being substantially correct, “Molly April 25, 2012 at 6:17 pm:

Like all things in life, this “Respect OB” is dialectical. That is, it contains within itself as a collective movement of neighborhood residents, businesspeople, and city employees positive and negative aspects and potential positive and negative results. One negative aspect, for example, is the potential for vigilantism. One positive aspect, is the lowering of community angst over problems that individually appear unresolvable.

And now for the brief history. I am Andy. I run a computer software and internet business that is located above the Blue Parrot. We have been located in that building for the majority of the years since 1999. Most important, I love OB. I have lived many places, and certainly I could choose to live elsewhere. I am here because I love OB, its people, its places, and its vibe.

So a large part of my involvement is for the selfish reason (yet selfless at the same time) that I don’t want OB to change. In the relatively recent past, especially by OB standards, two things have made me very worried about OB.

First, we would find human feces, urine, needles, and other unpleasant things in front of our business door on a regular basis. It never used to be this way, even considering that this particular area was common place for people to sleep for many, many years. Cleaning up filth on a regular basis changes a person’s mind set for the worse. I have personally peed on many a bush, so it seems to me it seems unnecessary to defile my business as well as the warm, clean place where so many without homes have slept (irrespective of the general lack of public bathrooms being a real issue in its own right).

Second, many long-time residents of OB were having conversations about whether the OB neighborhood was still a fun safe place to be. One friend had his tires slashed and felt personally targeted until it was pointed out to him that cars up and down the block were damaged. He didn’t know if this was comforting news or not – being a victim as a specific target or as a random incident. If we lose the people of OB, is OB still OB?

So in February, this was a topic of discussion among my group of friends. At that time I happened to run into some of the members of the OBMA Crime Prevention committee who had been discussing similar issues. Whether you agree or disagree with current or historical perspectives of the OBMA, it is very clear that they are an organization that loves OB and plays a major role as an organizer, employer, cleaner, stuff provider, and many other things to this community. They were impressed by the positive and inclusive nature of this independent effort. I am, and will always be, very grateful to them for allowing this idea to incubate with the intent of serving the entire OB community.

I will say that for me personally, with respect to the OBMA as an organization and as individuals, there are things, perspectives, actions, and motives that I agree with, and some things that I do not agree with. For me, this relationship is about the same that I have with other people and organizations. I think that this is normal and healthy. Most important, universal agreement is not a requirement for working together in good faith to accomplish something that is valuable for everyone.

I then spent the next 60 days speaking with everyone that I could find in the neighborhood on the general topic of Respect OB. As a general matter, I consider there to be five neighborhood groups each of which have a valid claim on OB, but certainly with a different perspective and experience. Those five groups are the merchants, the residents, the churches, the homeless (and their advocates), and the City.

From my perspective, each group was able to find healing, uplift, and betterment in the Respect OB message. This was the way that I intended it and the way that the message seems to be perceived. The key is to focus on what unites us – within each group there is a sincere and well founded love of OB.

I will always be eternally grateful to Kathy, Tracie, Pat, Mike, and Noah, for being the face of this effort at the community gathering. I think that our effort is for the best, and I hope that if nothing else, the entire community shared a moment in time where all of OB was united in the common cause for the love of OB. I am also grateful for the numerous people who worked very, very hard behind the scenes to get us where we are. Together we are stronger was a slogan at the meeting and is true in practice.

I personally fronted most of the small amount of money on this effort to date. I spend lots of money on things for people that I love (flowers, gifts, meals, parties, etc.) Why should I not spend on OB for the same reasons? For those who really, really need a label — call it charity, which is a good and valid thing in its own right. It is nothing more or nothing less than that which has been done by many people in this community through employment, personal outreach, supporting causes, donating time, providing resources, as examples. In general, many good people have done much more and over longer periods than me. This was just my turn. I was hoping to remain largely anonymous in my effort, because this is not about me, but that is impossible in today’s modern world.

So where do we go from here? I think that there is a limited or no role for another centrally run committee to accomplish much. There is certainly a role for the many formal / informal neighborhood organizations that already exist and have affinities, resources, and constituencies to undertake some tangible action to improve things. There is also a role for individuals. Community involvement is like a muscle that has to get exercised from time to time, lest it atrophy.

In my opinion, apathy is the biggest enemy to our continued happy existence. As an example to fight this scourge, I would like to see a return of the block parties to make people better connect with each other and the neighborhood in an atmosphere of fun. I’m sure others have many more examples or suggestions.

I hope that the Respect OB movement can enhance the neighbor-to-neighbor connections, which was the intent of gathering contact information. Ultimately, I view the success of the neighborhood to be a block-by-block issue. If ten people on each block can link-up to make their area more fun, safe, interesting, and funky, then OB will be sustained. That is what I hope that the mailing list will be used for.

If instead we are overtaken by the malaise of the status quo, then we know how this ends. The same way that it has for most other beach front towns in California. We are not the first community to face these issues, but we may be the last. For better or worse, there will always be an OB, however, it may not be the one that we would all recognize or even care to preserve.

I hope that you will join me in this effort, not in the formal organization of Respect OB, but in the actions that we each can take to improve OB. I have seen so many relationships healed directly or indirectly from this Respect OB effort. Fresh starts and new beginnings place us on the same team of those who love OB. In many ways we are a family, bound together but not without our differences.

Perhaps we can accomplish something. Perhaps cynicism will tear this apart. Too early to tell. If people throughout the neighborhood are talking about what it means to “Respect OB” and not yelling at each other, than we have already won in many ways. I consider the OB Rag comments as just such an example.

I would be happy to personally answer any other questions that may arise from time-to-time. I prefer to do it face to face so it is a discussion, not a flame-war. See you in OB

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Shane Finneran April 30, 2012 at 12:35 pm

I was one who was wondering what Respect OB was all about, so I appreciate this explanation. The idea of a one-off rally to fire up people on community service sounds good, and sounds like Respect OB’s meeting accomplished this goal.

Also, hear hear on the idea of bringing back the block parties! Block parties rule, especially as the weather gets summery, and might be the single best way to celebrate the OB life with OB peeps…


avatar Seth April 30, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Was out of town for the big event, but ended up playing frisbee with my 4yo son and a dude I suspect was homeless in OB Park at the end of Saratoga today. He struck me as a good dude, but consider it something that you helped to influence.


avatar Citizen Cane April 30, 2012 at 11:38 pm

Welcome mats come in many shapes and forms. I’ll suggest two here.

A drinking fountain for lower Newport Avenue. Public wells have existed for many thousands of years. It’s time for OB to take a step back into the old millenium on this issue.

Designated dog restrooms. Easily recognized dog stops in the planting strips between the sidewalk and curb. It could be as simple as a post in an oval of sand. Maybe a doggie bag dispenser on the post. Of course some neighborhoods will want something more original…funky….or even something traditional, like a vintage fire hydrant painted red.


avatar Louisa Golden May 1, 2012 at 6:46 am

I love both those ideas. I would recommend a couple of surfaces for doggie bathrooms. Sand or decomposed granite is good and easy to keep clean, but some dogs will avoid it. Ivy is traditional and grass or artificial grass like that found outside DB Dog Wash is often a good choice as well. Dogs develop preferences and it can be tough to get them to choose different surfaces.

Of course, dog owners could always teach their dogs to eliminate before taking that walk in the first place…… ;-)

Louisa and Miss Mollie Pink, the Labrador Retriever.


avatar liveinob May 2, 2012 at 3:21 pm

designated dog restrooms? how about we stick to the plan that if your dog drops it, you, the owner picks it up
problem solved!
I was at the rally and was moved by all the positive words that were shared
it is all about Respect, Respect your neighbors, (even if they don’t live next door)Respect Ocean Beach


avatar Louisa Golden May 2, 2012 at 4:43 pm

I think the point would be that you only let your dog drop it in designated spots….and then you pick up after your dog in the designated spot. No allowing dogs to mark or soil every street lamp. Designated areas can help owners make the right choice to be responsible. It’s intelligent (urban) design, so to speak. ;-) They have dog potty areas downtown, though without the bag dispensers. Also, malls tend to have ivy plantings for service dogs to use. Most people don’t realize that’s part of what those areas are designed for.


avatar jim grant May 1, 2012 at 7:31 am

I would suggest a ” no drug zone” at the pier and seawall. Like they have in many other cities….Venice Beach and Encintias to name 2 …


avatar Shane Finneran May 1, 2012 at 8:19 am

How does that work? Isn’t everywhere a “no drug zone”? Are there zones in Venice B and Encinitas where drugs are okay?


avatar jim grant May 1, 2012 at 8:24 am

I posted the photos a few months ago on my FB page. The areas are designated as ” drug free and crime free areas” areas that are under special surveillance by police including undercover officers and the public , phone numbers are listed as well encouraging anyone who sees drug activity or crimes to call the police ………
The areas have been designated as high crime or drug areas and police want those types of low lifes to know the area will NOT be used as a smoke out or drug selling area and associated crimes that go hand in hand with that lifestyle.


avatar john May 5, 2012 at 7:28 am

Will the police also be shaking down soccer moms for their valiums and vicodens, in prescription bottles or not?
Or just people that look like “low lifes”? What if said low lifes have prop. 215 medical marijuana prescriptions?
Seems to me you’re about 30 years tardy for the Nancy Reagan Reefer Madness Zero Tolerance goose stepping party.
But hey you joust that windmill, Don, one of these days you might see one fall for you. Or on you.


avatar liveinob May 2, 2012 at 3:26 pm

I agree, I like to walk along the wall from the Memorial park to the Pier
they don’t even try to hide anymore, they will light up as you pass by, that’s not respecting OB
what about the cameras? the police really need to crack down on the wall drugs, if they came around often enough, the word gets out that they can’t get away with using drugs there!


avatar Sarah May 1, 2012 at 8:05 am

If we’re voting: How about a nice community restroom? A wise man once said, “A community which is willing to go without public hygenic facilities is a community that is willing to accept anything”

Or maybe that was a wise woman…


avatar jim grant May 1, 2012 at 8:06 am

Main Lifeguard tower has one…another s being built close to dog beach.


avatar OB Mercy May 1, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Wasn’t there talk awhile back about a police surveillance van supposed to park near the main lifeguard tower and spy on peeps? Wasn’t crazy about that idea, maybe it got squashed?

Hope the Respect OB Movement has another rally soon. So bummed I missed this last one.


avatar Pat May 1, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Mercy, I did shoot video and hope to have it on-line soon.


avatar Gary Gilmore May 1, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Good article Andy. You write well. Your clarification should put any cynicism to rest. Thanks.


avatar jim grant May 1, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Thanks for your efforts to clear the air And in putting forth all the efforts you , Pat and Mike have. Way more than most have .
People bitch moan and cry and never actually do anything.
Thanks , you all put your money and your energy into something productive. Well done Sirs.


avatar OB law(yer) May 4, 2012 at 10:14 am

“There is certainly a role for the many formal / informal neighborhood organizations that already exist and have affinities, resources, and constituencies to undertake some tangible action to improve things.” We couldn’t agree more…

OK….how about we get some of these people power to step up and fill out the vacancies that exist in both the planning group and town council? That’s a good start.

Andy for Town Council 2012…. Andy for planning Board….district whatever… 2012… I’ll run your campaign my friend. Kathy, Pat, Noah, whoever…. 2012 is your year!!! Do something to lead us please!

Next… Looks like it IS about peeing and pooing…. Well, let’s ask why it took the city 3 years to rebuild the restrooms at Brighton? Who is derelict in duty there? Not that I truly believe that if you didn’t have a porta-potty on every corner that some jerks wouldn’t still poop on the doorstep of the thing. The community infrastructure programs are broken….all of our taxpayer money goes to build bigger brighter flashier attractions downtown in the attempt to constantly bring in the tourist. As if this is the only way we know how to make money around here.

Next…looks like it is in there (through the proxy of pooing and peeing)…homelessness

How about we support some politicians who support a citywide and centrally focused approach to homelessness? SD still lags the nation and the even the region on approaching the issue. Even LA does it better than we do. Homelessness is NOT a community problem, nor should it even recognize the delusion that it has the capacity to affect any change in the matter. We should however, support any efforts by the city to create a permanent shelter with consolidated services onsite. Vice constantly building and tearing down a shelter, moving it all the time and continuing a half-baked approach to the issue of trying to get the people off the street who can be reached through already established non-profit efforts (notice…no taxpayer funds here).


Whoa whoa wait…. “That is what I hope that the mailing list will be used for.” — Hey buddy…If YOU aren’t in control of it…. WHO IS????? Who DID you give the email list. Please let us understand?

Last last… I promise.

The OBMA has never been truly about the community Andy….The OBMA is about itself and promoting business to its members. Now…through a proxy, you could say that they want the ‘betterment’ of the community that actually brings about….yes… more business for their members. That’s fine….you can’t fault them for that or for using the mantle of ‘common good’ as a vehicle to increasing revenue. That’s in their best interest. But it isn’t lost on us who have lived here for decades that the majority of the business that ever thrives in OB is the food and beverage service area. And let’s be frank…mostly the beverage… This village has been constantly voting with their pocketbooks that booze still sells and there appears to be no upper limit to the amount of establishments that can be created. Gotta love capitalism!

Good luck Respect OB…. whoever you are… whatever you want. Thanks for the stickers.

What isn’t good….is that the community of OB…as become so disengaged in the public discourse – that they are no longer participating. If I’m correct in quoting the Beacon article… 4 people came to vote at the last planning board election, I don’t have stats from the last town council…but I recall it was not a contested election either. That is horrific. That would imply that the citizens of OB are so pleased with how things are being run that they are no longer concerned enough to participate. I blame the leadership of both of those organizations for not engaging the public on the issues at hand that we need to have a NEW movement so that we can set up pooing and peeing zones and to make it illegal to take or sell drugs at the pier.


avatar jim grant May 5, 2012 at 10:09 am

Wow take a walk get some fresh air and exercise…


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