WHAT: Public forum on how to save Veterans’ Plaza
WHEN: Monday, Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Point Loma Masonic Lodge, 1711 Sunset Cliffs Blvd.
WHO: Anyone interested in restoring the declining park.
By Tony de Garate
Public urged to get involved at Feb. 25 forum
The tragedies of 9-11 were several years away when Obceans who knew that patriotism was consistent with the community’s laid-back, do-your-own-thing ethic decided it was high-time to do something big.
An idea to honor those who have served our country in the armed forces took hold and, with the help of the since-vacated Ocean Beach VFW, the Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association (OBMA) and others, the idea came to fruition.
In a nutshell, that’s how the Veterans’ Plaza at the corner of Abbott Street and Newport Avenue – with two its flagpoles, 6 ½-foot-high piece of granite rock and adorning plaque, and dozens of inscriptions engraved onto a brand-new, concrete sidewalk – came to be in the mid-1990s, organizers say. Ocean Beach was ahead of the curve.
But almost immediately, problems arose, remembers Denny Knox, executive director of the OBMA.
The new sidewalk was supposed to be stained with bright, vibrant colors, Knox said. “And right away, they washed out. And they were blotchy,” she said. Later, some coloring and improvements on the adjacent asphalt were paved over and forgotten after a road repair, she added.
But the most serious problems had to do with the memorials on the sidewalk. Circles of various sizes had been engraved on the new concrete, and members of the public could have an inscription etched inside the circles for a few hundred dollars.
But sandblasting the concrete proved to be tricky business, and over time, the concrete lost its ability to sustain the stress of engraving process, Knox said. When the first mistake occurred, an effort to correct it pretty much wiped out what funds had been set aside for maintenance.
“We tried so hard to tackle it, but it really was a bad design,” Knox said.
Salt air, sand and foot traffic also took their toll, eroding the engravings and rendering many of them difficult, if not impossible, to read. The majority of the circles remain empty, and no one’s purchased an inscription since August of 2008, Knox said.
Over the years, contractors have assessed the damage, but all have come to the same conclusion: start over.
“They all left scratching their heads. They all said it needed a complete re-do,” Knox said.
A coalition of community groups, headed by the Ocean Beach Community Development Corporation (OBCDC), have united to do just that. The first of two public forums to discuss design features and generate ideas has been scheduled for Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the Point Loma Masonic Lodge, 1711 Sunset Cliffs Blvd.
The effort got a big boost recently with a $20,000 grant from the county’s Neighborhood Reinvestment Program through an application supported by County Supervisor Ron Roberts. The money should pay for the design phase, and the architectural firm KTU+A has been retained for that purpose, said Tom Perotti, OBCDC president. KTU+A has worked on the OBCDC’s other big project, the Ocean Beach Entryway at Sunset Cliffs Boulevard and West Point Loma Boulevard.
All the major community groups have voice strong support in the effort, and even Mayor Bob Filner has expressed interest, Perotti said.
“The current plaza is in such disrepair, it doesn’t really honor the names of the veterans that are on the sidewalk,” Perotti said. “It’s past due – it’s time to show respect to the veterans and to define the space once again in a renewed effort.”
All ideas will be considered at the forum, but no one expects the memorials to remain on the sidewalk.
“That was the original problem – it wore down like sandpaper,” Perotti said.
Several years ago, as the engravings were becoming less legible, the OBMA took photos of the memorials and wrote down all the inscriptions. “We think we have all of that documented,” Knox said.
A five-member committee has been appointed to lead the effort, headed by Steve Grosch, who also serves on the board of the Ocean Beach Town Council.
“The intent is to create a respectful and lasting memorial while keeping in mind this corner is a signature for Ocean Beach,” Grosch said.