Local Focus: Dave Martin – President of Ocean Beach Town Council

by on March 22, 2013 · 14 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, History, OB Heroes, Ocean Beach

Dave Martin outside-ed

Dave Martin, head of the OB Town Council, in front of his Shades. (All photos by Frank Gormlie)

Dave Martin, the President of the OB Town Council, agreed to meet me at Shades at 1 pm the other day. That was easy – as he has his own table there – the one closest to the kitchen, the bar, and the serving area – for, as many know, Dave owns Shades.  Or rather Dave – along with his wife Jennifer, his daughter and her husband; they’re the four owners.

Even though it was mid-week, the inside of the restaurant was about half-filled, with a few outside in the front. The lunch hour had just passed. But everyone in OB knows Shades – it’s a fairly popular place (even the Widder Curry gave it a thumbs-up).

Dave Martin table-edYet, even though Dave’s at the restaurant from 10 am to 7 every night, as he told me, it’s apparent that he amazingly still has the time and energy to serve in the leadership of the Town Council – a very active group – plus serve on the board of the OB Mainstreet Association, be active on at least one of its sub-committees, and generally maintain a strong and visible voice for a spirited vision for Ocean Beach.

While I sipped a very decent cup of coffee, I listened and scribbled notes as Dave answered my questions about the Town Council and then some. He was just recently elected president.  This was, as he explained, his 4th or 5th term as president. “I’m just not smart enough,” he joked, “to dodge the bullet,” meaning once again he failed to avoid taking the mantle of the steward Ocean Beach organization.

He then went on to tell me that one of the key reasons he decided to take the leadership role again, was because “there’s a lot of new energy,” he said. “So I accepted the nomination to season [the council] with history and experience …, to see if we can keep the energy at a good level.” He told me there’s a bunch of new people on the council and involved.

We also talked briefly about his restaurant. “This is our – Shades’ 10th birthday ….” he said proudly. More on that later.

I said, “Dave, I know what the Town Council does, but talk to me as if I didn’t know anything,” which was not a problem at all for him, as I flipped pages on my notepad.

Dave Martin OBTC

Dave, wearing a different shirt and hat – the OB Restaurant Entertainment and Lodging Association.

What the OB Town Council does depends on the season.  Every year during OB’s Street Fair on Newport Avenue during the summer, they coordinate the famous Chili Cook-Off for the OBMA. This was my first hint that Dave likes to cook.

One of their biggest deals, of course, for the TC is the annual Holiday Festival and events, including the Parade, the Christmas Tree – and importantly their Food and Toy Drive.  Everyone in OB knows about the unique and crazy Holiday Parade and the kooky-looking tree at the end of Newport, but not everyone is familiar with the food and toy campaign.

“In Christmas 2012,” Dave said, “we served 92 families with food for Christmas week – and toys if they had kids.” This was a rather stunning number if you think about it. “That takes,” he added, “many thousands of dollars.”

I asked Dave how much the whole price tag was for all the festivities during the holidays. Just the parade, he told me, costs $12,000.  I whistled. That’s a lot, I agreed, and people should know what you guys spend on it for the community, I said.

Historically, one of the Town Council’s projects has been OB’s famous Dog Beach.

“The OBTC put in the paw print and the tiles,” Dave said. “We want to re-energize that project, get more tiles, raise money, have more clean-ups,” he said.

“We’re also re-doing the OB sign,” Dave reminded me.  The OB entry way sign – the one that greets you as you drive into the community from the freeway. The Council is holding an election – to be online for all the members of the OBTC. “If you’re a member,” Dave said, “you will get a ballot.”  So the Council and its members will decide the winning entry – “with input from the community at large,” Dave assured me.  He had seen the poll that the OB Rag had conducted a short time ago.

Then Martin told me some history about the original sign that I didn’t know.

When the sign was first intorduced, to raise money, square inches of the sign were sold – 30 years ago.  Since then,” he continued, “it’s been re-furbished and re-painted several times.”

Now, because of it is so termite-ridden, “you can punch a hole in it with your fist,” without much effort.  They hope to have it – the new one – picked, and painted and installed by summer, he said.

I asked about funding of the organization.  They apply for grants from the City and the County, Dave said.  The majority of their funds come from membership fees and money they raise. That money pays for all their events.

“Anything extra,” Dave said, “is given back to the community in grants -to non-profits, or community organizations.”

He rattled off some examples: “Little League, OB Elementary, surf teams, and Friends of the OB Library, the OB Historical Society, the planning board for their website, ….”

“We can’t fund huge donations,”  he said, “but we can give $300 to $400 at a time to help OB organizations.” “Some of the funds,” he went on, “go to beach clean-ups” and to some school-based education programs.

“Everything that comes from these events, goes back to OB in some way.”

Our conversation drifted into Shades and Dave’s background. That’s when he told me who the 4 owners are, and that the restaurant Shades is ten years old this month, March.  He bought Cecils from the  former owner a decade ago. “I spent hours in the grease pit,” he explained in talking how at the beginning he and his family did everything. He’s still very much involved in the daily minutiae of the restaurant.

Yet, his wife, daughter, son-in-law all work there, as well as two grand-daughters and a nephew. “It’s a family-affair,” I said to his agreement.

Dave Martin desk-ed

“The Control Room”.

Like he said, he’s there every day from 10 to 7. They have about 35 employees, he told me in answer to a question, and about 20 full timers.  “We have some employees who’ve been with us for the 10 years,” he said.  That’s a very good sign, I responded.

“What were you doing ten years ago, before you bought Cecils?” I asked to get him to talk about his past.  Before this, he began, “I was the regional operations director for KFC.” Wow, I had no idea. “I worked with KFC for 12 years,” he said.

I prodded him to go back even further. He gave me a mocked pain look, but continued.

Dave Martin was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee.  He went to the University of Memphis, his interests in business administration and some psychology, he said.  But there was a war going on – the Vietnam War.

Some time in 1967 or 68, he and four buddies joined the Marine Corps.  The 5 of them joined together on the condition that they get their basic training in San Diego.  That was no problem for the Navy or the Marines.  Dave ended up serving 2 years in Vietnam and got out of the military in an “early-out” for combat experience. I asked him did all 5 of them make it.  No, he replied, two didn’t come home.

When Dave got out – he returned to Memphis and worked some unmemorable jobs. “I wanted to come to San Diego,” he said. His parents then moved to Orange County – our Orange County, so he moved back to San Diego, where he had gotten his basic.

He got married and had twin boys.  But the marriage only lasted for 5 years.  Later, at some point, Dave met Jennifer – and they must have hit it off for they’ve been married now for 35 years. She had 2 kids when they met, and they are now Dave’s step-children – “they’re my kids,” he said.  Somewhere along the line, Dave became the director of training for Boll Weevil, the local hamburger chain.  He did this for 10 plus years he said.

“I think there’s only one left,” mentioning the one Boll Weevil remaining – out there in Lemon Grove. OB used to have one, right along Bacon Street where Pizza Port is now located. It was there for years and years.

In 1999, Dave moved back to Memphis and became the KFC’s Regional Operations Director for the entire mid-South region, all based out of Memphis. That’s a lot of fried chicken.

But with time and as he was retiring from KFC, he also got bored. “I wanted to come back to San Diego, to the beach.” And that’s what he and Jennifer and the family did. And it’s obvious that their venture paid off – Shades is very successful.

“Just about all the meals are my recipes,” he said, “or my mom’s.” This was an amazing fact.

We discussed how it was his initiative to open up space for his place out on the concrete in front. “It’s reclaiming space,” I said, “very European.” I am a definite supporter – as I was while I served as Chair of the OB Planning Board 10 years ago – of restaurants reclaiming the space around their establishments – providing alternatives to the concrete and gray.

Dave said, “ask me questions.” So I did. And they were all over the place.

On the issue of a maintenance assessment district – that just was defeated as an advisory proposition during the balloting of the recent OB Planning Board election, Dave said, “We already have a maintenance district – the OBMA.”

On the subject of the proposal of extending the nightly drinking deadline from 2 am to 4 am; “Not in favor of it. Would cause more issues than it solves.”

Dave was on the City Council Task Force on Medical Marijuana, and I had seen him give a report on it in front of the Planning Board a while ago. I asked him how he got involved.  “[Councilwoman] Mary Emerald put it together,” he said, “and each council district nominated someone. Kevin Faulconer’s office nominated me.”

“We had a good plan,” Dave said. “If it would have been given a chance – with the controls, it would have been safe,” he said with their main concern that patients who needed access to medical herb get it. I asked him how it compared with Mayor Filner’s new plan – just released. He hadn’t seen it, he said.

What about Filner, I asked. “I’m not sure. I don’t think he’s been in office enough time. Don’t agree with some things. Don’t know yet. Would like to see more cooperation with the City Council,” he offered, referring to the tiffs between the Mayor and the Council.

On the police trailer in the Pier parking lot – he favors it “as a deterrent,” he added.  Dave has been told by SDPD very recently, that the police signs are currently in the shop being painted.  They’re going on the trailer once finished.

I asked Dave what he thought were OB’s infrastructure needs.  He quickly rattled off a whole list: OB still has storm water problems, people still speed down Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, there’s parking issues – especially the over-sized vehicles; the streets – they don’t seem to be kept in good enough shape.

Then there’s the inadequate lifeguard station, he quickly added. The Town Council actually has been over the last few years trying to work with the City in re-designing the public restrooms as well as the whole building.  They’re working on refurbishing the restrooms both in the lifeguard station and out on the Pier. “It’s still in our headlights,” he said.

Dave was also on the Alcohol Ban Task Force, formed before the historic vote that was successful in prohibiting booze at the beach. “I was against the ban,” he said, and “I wasn’t very bashful” in getting his opinion out. He wanted the right to have a glass a wine while standing in the sand if he wanted to.

“It turned out to be a good thing,” Dave said about the ban. “I see many families coming to the beach.  More tourists, more families, especially on the holidays. I was against it but it turned out in my opinion to be a positive thing.”

On the subject of food trucks in OB, Dave responded, “I’m not neutral. I pay alot of money to be here, as a business owner.  We see the food trucks coming in, see them as an intrusion, … until recently they were not held to the same standards,” he said, referring to the recent law requiring the food trucks to obtain ratings.

“There’s a restaurant association,” Dave added, “the OB Restaurant Entertainment Lodging Association – a sub-committee of the OBMA. I’m chair. We’re very vocal on this.”

What about the issue of liquor licenses, I asked, knowing it was a contentious one between bar and restaurant owners and some residents upset about the amount of drunken behavior in and around the bars late at night. His only complaint, really, was that restaurant owners who wish to sell just wine and beer have to adhere to the very same regulations that full bars do. “ABC needs to adhere to their own regulations,” he said. “I have no problem with competition. However, with time, there’s over-saturation.”

There’s a craft beer place opening up, OB Kabob just opened, another pizza place selling beer is being worked on for its opening soon, so there are a number of new alcohol-serving places springing forth in and around Newport.

“I close this restaurant,” Dave Martin said firmly, “at 9 pm every night, because we’re a family restaurant.  First and foremost we serve locals.  Don’t want to be in the mix in what happens after 9pm,” he said.

Dave Martin  closeAnd with that, our time together was up. He led me to his back office, through a labyrinth of kitchens, hallways, employee eating areas, the freezers room, and finally to a space way in the remote confines of his establishment, we entered what I called “the control room”, his desk and computer and several others where the managers do their thing.

We shook hands and he led me out to the entrance, where the sun was trying to break through. He congratualed me on the work that the OB Rag does.  “Keep up the good stuff,” he said.

This is the kind of man who runs the OB Town Council.  And even though we don’t see eye to eye on every issue, I know Dave Martin is dedicated to keeping the community character intact and assuring that it maintains its uniqueness.  And this is the kind of person the village needs to keep OB, OB.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Christo Kuzmich March 22, 2013 at 11:27 am

Thanks for doing this interview!
It’s good to have a mix of random people (perhaps more than those who sit and drink coffee at Newbreak) and the local business owners.

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avatar Frank Gormlie March 22, 2013 at 3:41 pm

One of my motivations to interview Dave was his recent election as president of the OB Town Council, and I knew there was a new influx of young people to the Council. It was great getting to know him more fully.

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avatar Christo Kuzmich March 25, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Keep up the good work!

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avatar Barbara S March 22, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Great Article!
I’ve known Dave & the family for over 12 years and Dave is one of the reasons I’ve become involved with the many organizations and events in OB!
OB is lucky to have David Martin on their team!
having the best food and view at Shades doesn’t hurt either

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avatar dave rice March 22, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Like the rest, I appreciate the profile, Frank! And a longtime real estate client of mine owned and operated that Lemon Grove Boll Weevil for quite some time – haven’t caught up with him in a couple years, thanks for the reminder…though I believe there’s at least another one still standing in Clairemont, plus another in Lakeside. Still a far cry from the half dozen in East County alone I’d get taken to as a kid.

Dave – big thanks for all the Dave Omelets I’ve eaten over the years…like it was made for me or something. Though my family also loves the chilaquiles, benedicts, pancakes, couscous salads, paninis, “blanket” flatbreads, fish and chips, big huge moderately-priced drafts (when it’s just me and the wife minus daughter)…aw hell, might as well cut it short by saying Shades is one of our favorite spots to eat out.

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avatar Seth March 22, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Great stuff. Dave is a great guy who does much for OB.

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avatar OB Cindi March 23, 2013 at 4:44 pm

“We already have a maintenance district–the OBMA.” Thanks Dave for reminding us that OBMA is a BUSINESS not an ORGANIZATION to benefit the community. OBMA is supposed to be an agency that protects local business owners and promotes local business but instead, OBMA promote outside (of OB) competition to take up shop right outside our local mom and pop businesses that then steal money that should go to our neighbors who work in those stores and effectively steal their commissions and bonus checks. Good for you OBMA for successfully stealing money out of the pockets of those living at the poverty line. Hope you sleep well at night. OBMA conducts business behind closed doors with the members of OB Town Council who make sure they only appoint their friends onto the board. Incestuous to say the least and a cess-pool of corruption to put it bluntly. God forbid anyone ask OBMA to be accountable for how and why they spend Ocean Beach-created tax dollars. To use those dollars against the establishments who fund them is shameful. To steal money from our fellow OBecians who are economically challenged is abhorrent.

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avatar OB Cindi March 23, 2013 at 7:33 pm

I have met Dave before at an OBMA meeting and I appreciate that he was the only one who wanted to hear about the contentious threat to local business by outside businesses being encouraged to encroach. He has a problem with the food trucks coming in and encroaching on his business. All the mom and pop businesses around OB are experiencing the same issue. We hold out hope that the OB Town Council can realize the same injustice is being inflicted on small local business, and often the injustice is committed by OBMA who are receiving funding from taxes created by these small local OB businesses. Please Dave, do not read my rant as a rant on you….simply frustrated that OB tax dollars are being used to attract outside business to come in, make money in our beautiful city of Ocean Beach, and drive that money away from Ocean Beach. We are all in this together. Common ground must be rediscovered…I hope you, Dave, can be the catalyst that brings both sides to a meeting of the minds. Please Dave, please begin this discussion. Someone needs to be bold and step forward…

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avatar Gary Gilmore March 25, 2013 at 3:08 pm

I take offense at your rant. Unless you can be more specific your words are just another rant with no foundation. Anyone who has had any dealings with Dave knows that he’s a level headed guy with a passion for our little neighborhood. If you’re going to appeal to him (or anyone else) you’ll have to back up your accusations with facts that can be verified. Otherwise you just look hysterical & foolish.
On another note: Good job on the interview with Dave. It’s good that the community becomes familiar with OB Town Council, what it does & how it affects us. Thanks!

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avatar OB Cindi March 26, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Gary Gilmore = Business as Usual With Your Hand Caught In The Cookie Jar

Of course you take offense–there is MUCH TO LOSE as the nepotism and underhanded dealings by OBMA become a conversation topic in OB/Point Loma. Thanks for showing all of us that I hit the nerve of TRUTH with your reaction….

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avatar Gary Gilmore March 26, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Rubbish. You say there is too much to lose. Explain.
You say there is nepotism at the OBMA. Give examples.
You say there are underhanded dealings by the OBMA. Elaborate.
You say you hit a nerve. Yes, you’re right. It offends me when one person who can’t blame herself for her shortcomings therefore has to blame someone or something else. You blame the OBMA for your downturn in business when you should be looking inward at your lack of creativity, for your inability to change with the times, for your caustic personality. The artists & crafts people who participate in the Farmers Market are an asset to the community. The artists & craftspeople who participate at the Farmers Market deserve a chance to show off what they can do and possibly, hopefully, evolve into becoming what they dream of. The artists and craftspeople who participate in the Farmers Market are not stealing your business. People buy arts and crafts based on what appeals to them, what complements their surroundings, what speaks to them. Price is not the sole factor in their decisions. If you can’t come up with new designs your work becomes monotonous. If you can’t service their needs they go elsewhere. If you’re so consumed with anger that it exudes from your very being the public will sense it and become turned off. Don’t blame the OBMA or any of the other local organizations that promote the arts. Dig back into your head & come up with something new, something that will get noticed, something desirable. Reinvent yourself. Change your window displays. Radically. Think positive. Ocean Beach is getting know as a hub for the arts. You are a permanent fixture on Newport. You have everything you need except the right attitude. Show us what makes you worthy.

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avatar OB Cindi March 26, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Gary Gilmore — I don’t know who you think you are addressing, but I don’t own a business on Newport. I am an Obecian. I live in Ocean Beach, pay taxes in Ocean Beach and make at least 80% of purchases locally. I want to see the tax on items I purchase here in OB not being used against the mom and pop businesses of Ocean Beach whether new, or those who have been here for years. When I took a poll of my fellow Obecians at a recent get together, several Obecians who are friends with business owners in Ocean Beach but who do not own a business on Newport, sounded off on abuse of tax dollars by OB businesses that go to OBMA, being used AGAINST those businesses. Two new businesses on Newport are voicing concern that their tax dollars meant to DRIVE BUSINESS in their doors, is instead NOT being used to promote their business, and worse, is being used to drive business to Farmers Market and Flea Market style tents that crop up every few months next to the Lifeguard Tower or in the parking lot next to the pier. Ocean Beach is talking. Ocean Beach is watching. Ocean Beach is taking action.

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avatar Jon March 27, 2013 at 7:53 am

You sound silly, and this is total rubbish unless you can stop speaking in cryptic terms and actually tell people what the hell you’re talking about. Attacking Gary, one of OBs long-time beloved OB merchants and volunteers isn’t going to help your cause either. Just makes you look bitter and a little crazy. Hey I’m an Obcean too. I shop at local stores, farmers market, yard sales, craft fairs, etc… So do my group of friends and neighbors. None of us sit around coming up with conspiracies about OBMA stealing tax dollars. So either explain yourself in concrete examples or stop posting. Sheesh!

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avatar Gary Gilmore March 30, 2013 at 5:33 pm

OB Cindi, you seem to be upset & angry and I’m feeling defensive & exasperated. Nothing good can come of this so I propose we try another way of comumication. Would you be agreeable to sitting down together over a cup of coffee & seeing if we can find some common ground where we might be more productive? How about Jungle Java. Nice relaxed surroundings & not so loud that we couldn’t have a conversation. I’m looking forward to your response .

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