OCEAN BEACH, CA. Earlier this week I set out to get to the bottom of this July 4th OB Pier Parking Lot controversy. On Monday, July 6, the Reader ran an on-line article that we supplemented about how 26 RV owners were evicted from the Pier parking lot by police in the early morning hours of July 4th. They had arrived early to get choice spaces, set up grills and families, but then were threatened with arrest and having their vehicles impounded if they did not depart the Pier lot tootsuite. The police wanted the parking lot for their own vehicles.
As an aside, the Reader article was accompanied by a photo that showed RVs at some beach. But it was not Ocean Beach and it didn’t look like any other beach around here that I knew.
Having thought that this was strange in that, with crime going down, with less rowdiness at the beach, less alcohol-related behavior, less trash – why did the police need additional parking – as they already had the Life Guard parking lot – which they’ve taken over for years for their vehicles and other safety needs -?
Now, of course, this is not the biggest controversy to hit our beach town. I don’t own an RV, and don’t necessarily identify with their owners who were purged from their great spaces on the 4th, but I just thought it strange, as did everyone I casually mentioned it to.
So I set out to get to the bottom by making a series of phone calls.
First, I called the police – I dialed up the Western Division which oversees police in Ocean Beach. I ended up speaking with a very pleasant Lt. Kimberly McElroy, who told me that her officers did take over the Life Guard parking lot but had nothing to do with the holiday eviction of the Pier parking lot, and that I should speak with Special Events, as they were the ones who probably were in charge. She agreed that the Reader article photo was not of OB.
I talked with a friendly guy, Glen Klinger, of Special Events, who said the parking lot take-over was done “not by my people,” and that I should contact Traffic Enforcement and my Councilmember’s office.
Matt Abray, of Councilmember Kevin Faulconer’s office – always helpful – didn’t know anything about it, and told me he would contact the Mayor’s Office for info, and would get back to me.
When I set the phone down, I noticed an email from Mr. Klinger of Special Events. He advised that I speak with Police spokeswoman Monica Munoz. This made sense.
So I called Ms. Munoz, who answered surprisingly on the second ring. I could tell she wasn’t smiling even though I tried to joke around with her. She said she had no information, had “no impact” on this incident and that it was a mistake for Special Events to have told me to call her. “This was not a media event,” she said, as I could tell she wanted to get off the phone.
Back at the online Reader, I tried to leave a comment that I wanted to get hold of Grant Madden, the author of the online post. But the Reader is set up so you cannot leave comments to individual articles, and have to leave a letter to the editor. If you want to do that, you have to register. I did all this and left a note for Mr. Madden – but have not heard back from him or anybody else at the mag.
Having gotten absolutely nowhere with this budding controversy, I decided to get on the streets of OB to track things down, find witnesses, etc. First I called on the OB Mainstreet Association and talked to Jackie and Denny who staff the office. They did not know anything, and said their group was not in charge of traffic or anything of that nature for the 4th.
I talked to a couple of well-placed merchants – neither of whom knew anything.
Entering the Life Guard station, I spoke briefly with a guard who said he knew nothing of the controversy, but of course knew about the cops taking over the lot next to the station. An attractive woman wearing nothing but a bathing suit came into the station, and I immediately lost the guard’s attention, so I moved on.
At this point, I had neither a confirmation or a firm denial that the Pier parking lot was taken over by the police on July 4th.
While having a cup of joe at Jungle Java with a friend, I got a call from Lt. McElroy of Western – who in no uncertain terms, said the police did not take over the parking lot at the Pier, that the Reader article was all wrong, that the writer must have mistaken the Pier lot for some other sucker lot somewhere else in the beach area. This seemed final. I was thinking of telling Mr. Madden that he was totally out of line for having smeared OB and the police.
Then I entered a business along Newport – that shall remain anonymous – and ended up having a conversation with one of its employees (who shall also remain protected). They told me that sure enough, as they walked down Abbott Street at 9:45 am on July 4th to go to work, they witnessed the entire Pier parking lot taken over by police. No civilian vehicles were in the lot, and about 20 cop cars were resting there. Bingo! An eye-witness. They were absolutely certain about this. However, they couldn’t say what happened to the lot for the rest of that day.
So, perhaps, the police took it over initially but later opened it up but controlled the flow of cars into the lot.
Back at the office, I had an email from Matt at Faulconer’s office which said the inquiry had been sent to Mr. Pudgell’s desk of the Mayor’s office. But I never heard anything else from the city officialdom.
Looking back at all this, I had to chuckle. This was an example of the classic bureaucratic run-around. The police said no, check with Special Events; Special Events said no, check with Traffic and Council; Council said no, check with the Mayor. Now, to be clear, I did not call Traffic Enforcement, but did speak to one of their people out on the streets in OB. He told me that he didn’t know anything about the take-over.
I had an eye-witness and I assume the Reader’s Grant Madden had a witness as well. His article reported that several RV owners, angry for being evicted, planned on making complaints to the police.
Don’t know what is to come with this parking lot controversy. And I wanted to share the humor and frustration of being a citizen journalist. Again, this is not a huge issue. But still, why do the police need so much space on our Independence Day celebration when things are getting better at the beach (for most of us – but not for Chris Bowd unfortunately)? They take over the Life Guard lot on the day before the 4th usually and have that space.
Supposedly, the SDPD need that space in order to land an emergency helicopter if need be. But Denny Knox of the OBMA said that OB sees more people during the annual Street Fair (70,000 this year) than on July 4th and the police don’t ever need any of the lots for that day of festivities when there’s even more people.
The controversy still bubbles. More questions are raised than answered. And to be honest, I have more and other things to do than continue to dig into this one. But if anyone has any insight, perspective, or experience on this, please come onboard and share it with the rest of us. The saga of the Pier parking lot still lives.