Good Neighborhood, Bad Neighbors.
Living in Ocean Beach on and off for twelve years, I have a unique perspective based on my military experience throughout the world. This area is rich in stories and traditions and has developed a distinct reputation. Fairly or not, inhabitants of Ocean Beach are seen by outsiders as eclectic bunch. As a result, inhabitants of Ocean Beach also need to be accepting of the diversity of background and ideas found here.
I became fully aware of this when I became a permanent home owner in the area, married and started a family here. There are wonderful things to see here in OB like the weekly farmers market and the Christmas Parade, and disconcerting things such as on-street camper habitation and open drug use. I respect that people in OB have strongly differing opinions, but that they still find a way to live next to each other in relative peace.
Sadly, I write this article about those who threaten that peace.
Peace is the freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility. I have seen war close up myself, and know peace is also the freedom from violence. Peace is something I sought after years embroiled in the conflicts of the world. Peace is what I seek for my family to raise our children in the presence of.
Now imagine my dismay after seeking and achieving peace in my neighborhood, a group of renters move in to the property adjacent to mine who only seek to cause chaos and conflict. People who have no care of the community or desire to contribute, but only to drown in alcohol and drugs. They fight amongst themselves with all the impunity of the ignorant, and celebrate from dusk to dawn.
There are many soft hearted people who will read this and make the normal suggestions of communication, parlay, and negotiation. Let me assure you I have tried all of these things, and the result has been continued and increasing aggression and deviation. Does begging a rat to stop spreading disease and cease nesting in your house work? It may hide for a time, but it will return again when your back is turned. So too do our neighbors. Going into hiding for weeks at a time under scrutiny, only to return to bad habits after a time.
So what is a responsible adult to do when dealing with such a problem? Call the Police? To date, 911 has been called on these residents over nine times, four times by our family. Long conversations with the authorities has only illuminated frustrating facts such as: A hostile neighbor waits for your bedroom light to go out, then takes to opportunity to trespass onto your property hanging over your sleeping babies bedroom, spitting and throwing food on her window, while attempting to destroy the security camera placed solely for your child’s safety after threats were made against your family by said intruder. Police respond more than 2 hours later and tell you that there is nothing they can do, as no ‘criminal act’ has occurred. Verbal threats to your life and safety, family and property require an actual weapon to be considered enough for criminal action. Yes, these are factual events.
And what does the rental property owner think? He ignores pleas, concerns and even angry calls fully knowing that nothing can force him into action. Three of the worst renters are his own family who he has sequestered after problems in other communities. To-date, we count eight total renters at this neighboring property.
Can a higher fence help? The adage is “good fences make good neighbors” falls flat in the densely populated and congested living environment we have in Ocean Beach. The city of San Diego limits fence heights to 6 feet (anything higher requires a setback), and no sharp objects (such as barbed wire) can be used that may cause injury to prevent badly intentioned invasion at night. A 6 foot fence is not much protection against a hooligan armed with a ladder, drunk and high on marijuana.
So what is a father in fear for the safety of his family and his family to do? Discussions of moving away have been repeatedly raised. Should responsible owners be forced out by renters who have no decency? I draw on my experience in conflict for an answer; running from bullies only makes them grow bolder. Lack of accountability for their hostilities also emboldens them. One decent neighboring family has already moved away, being too frail to deal with the situation. This member of the community who has actively contributed and lived in that house for 20 years reached the point where she gladly moved away to seek peace elsewhere. Her final thought to me were “Boy, am I glad I don’t have to live next to those [renters] any longer.”
Why do I write the public of my family’s woes and fears? Because I am asking for your help. You. I need you to be a good neighbor.
Have you ever seen or heard something that you know is wrong? Do you see problems around you and hope that someone else deals with it? Do you draw your blinds and hide? Do you see someone arguing on the street and stand idly by? Do you listen to loud domestic arguments and choose to close your ears and turn up the TV? Did you do something about it, or did you ignore it? I have. I chose not to involve myself in the affairs of others in the hopes that peace would soon return.
Now, I face hostility on a level that keeps me in fear. Why you ask? Because Idid call the police. I called the police, and I admitted to it. I called peace officers for help, and after they issued a warning and departed, I had to continue to live next to people that are not afraid of the law or breaking it. And I have been the only person to ask. Herein lies the problem. According to San Diego Police, action against disruptive behavior is based solely on the quantity of calls by three or more neighbors. I know other people have been bothered by the noise and arguments, but have done nothing about it for fear of being the focus of the renter’s ire. I have no doubt that I did the correct thing calling 911 the first time, and second, and third… and so on. After seeing one hostile renter perched over my daughters room in the middle of the night I do begin to wonder why I was the only one making calls.
So I beg of you to be a good neighbor. If you see something, please say something. Do not tolerate those who create chaos. Please help bring OB some peace.
West Point Loma Blvd. home owner, Military Veteran, Loving Husband and Father.