The Saga of the July 4th OB Parking Lot Controversy

by on July 9, 2009 · 9 comments

in Environment, Ocean Beach, San Diego

The OB Pier parking lot. Was it taken over by police on the 4th?

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.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar BillRayDrums July 9, 2009 at 10:08 am
avatar mr fresh July 9, 2009 at 9:21 am

obviously nobody told you about the free doughnuts the cops were hoarding at the parking lot that day–mmmm— krispy kremes….


avatar r hoobler July 9, 2009 at 9:23 am

it wasn’t doughnuts, dagnabbit! it was free bacon!


avatar bodysurferbob July 9, 2009 at 9:51 am

r hoobler – yur so stuck in the seventies!


avatar Buck July 9, 2009 at 11:17 am

I’m impressed with your efforts and documentation. I would think that landing a helicopter next to all those palm trees might be kind of tricky…


avatar jim g July 9, 2009 at 12:33 pm

I was not in OB for the fourth, way to hetic for this old guy. I did however keep up on the happenings via the web cam. The parking lot was open…they were controlling traffic in and out. Called funny enough ” one in one out” just like bars do when they reach capacity.
If there are no oversized parking stalls specifically marked for ” oversized” units..RV’s……then techinally the RVs were not parking in one space. That is a violation. It would be a good guess that since Shelter Island now has signs up warning of RV’s parking in areas not marked especially for them the flock of RV’s has migrated to OB……just a thought.


avatar jon July 9, 2009 at 2:07 pm

I agree with Jim on this one. I don’t think there are many stalls that can accommodate a large RV in the pier parking lot. Could be that they were taking up more than one space and that wouldn’t be fair to other visitors. Dog Beach’s lot seems more conducive to RV parking.

I was down at the wall at the foot of the parking lot around noon time and didn’t see any funny business. I was concerned with the way the cops were patrolling the sand though. They were just walking into peoples bbq camps and flipping over tents. I guess they were looking for people drinking in the tents, but it seemed a little over the top. We watched them give some guy a ticket while he was in his tent, but I never saw any alcohol and it was too far away to hear them. We asked the cops to talk louder so we could hear why they were ticketing the guy. That didn’t go over so well, so we left.


avatar Gary Gilmore July 9, 2009 at 2:13 pm

I just left a meeting that had Kevin Faulkner in attendance and the subject of the lifeguard parking lot came up (NOT the pier parking lot) There are 60 spaces in that lot and the police took them all (something about being able to land a helicopter). It was expressed to Kevin that it seemed unnecessary to use all the spots and chances are pretty good that a helicopter won’t be needed. There is a possibility that next year only half of the parking lot will be commandeered.
One more thing…. Frank… . you are one tenacious reporter


avatar ClubStyle_DJ July 9, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Don’t any of the kicked campers folk read The OB Rag? Surely one of them got a badge number or something. What’s the chances that an anonymous officer might say “sure we kicked them for no real reason, without real bonified authority”. (I guess that will happen right after the snowball fight in hell.) However, good citizens that they are no one stood fast and/or got arrested or towed, so we may never know.

If you got such a wonderful workout in the form of “ye ole run around” and you know who to call and who to talk to…What chance have I (average joe citizen)got?


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