The Rag Once Again

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(continued from “New Blood“)

Activists Re-Formulate the Rag – Again

Beginning in the Fall of 1971, activists more closely involved in community issues took over the responsibilities of publishing the Rag. Ocean Beach, as a community was being threatened with redevelopment and organizers saw the Rag as a grassroots resource. Developers and the City were making noises about redeveloping OB’s waterfront through an urban design for the community, the Precise Plan. Locals who were outraged by this plan, joined with others who wanted to start a neighborhood “free school”, to reformulate the Rag – for the first time it was published in a newspaper format – and began using it to create alternatives to mainstream institutions.

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(click on the image to see a larger version)

The Rag staff stabilized during this period. It included the powerhouse team of Kathleen and Dennis Doyle – a young couple with a newborn boy; it included Tom Kozden – a one-person organizing dynamo; and Kenny Eason – a recent graduate of UCSD and former SDS organizer, who had been part of the previous anti-war core. There were others: Nora Nugent, Rodney Richardson, Charlie Marshall, Davis Hayden, the “hanged man”, “Thomas Paine” and mystery persons the staff box listed as “the numerous invisibles.”

For the very first issue of its second year, the Rag moved into what the staff called “the big-time world of full sized newspapers.” It was being printed on tabloid sized paper. At long last, the Rag LOOKED like a newspaper. It still appeared rough and crude, paste-up jobs evidently done in the middle of the night, the staff box had been omitted on the first issues. But it was printed on quality paper – not newsprint, three columns to a page. Twelve pages. Lots of graphics, with the back page devoted to important phone numbers and “The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers” cartoon.

Right during this transition, almost as if it was one last flash at being “revolutionary” – the first issue of the new publishing year, the September 5 – 19, 1971, was devoted to George Jackson, a militant Black Power prison inmate who had just been killed in late August apparently under very suspicious circumstances. The cover had his photos and an article – from some other publication -written by Angela Davis.

Will the “Connie” Sail to Vietnam?

The issue known as the George Jackson issue also contained a lengthy two-page spread on whether the USS Constellation (“the Connie”) was going to sail off to Vietnam. There had been a concerted campaign by local anti-war activists aligned with two Bay Area groups to stage a public vote on whether the carrier should sail off in October 1971 to war. Called the Harbor Project, the non-violent campaign was a year plus effort to raise consciousness about the Vietnam war by organizing a vote during the week of September 14 through 21 – a vote that included both sailors and civilians – on whether the Connie should sail as scheduled. Approximately 500 people ended up voting.

Typical to form, the Rag was both highly critical of the vote but also supportive of the over-all project. The vote, the Rag argued, implied that if a majority of Americans favored the Connie’s return to Vietnam, then it would be okay; it also implied the white male’s assumption that they have the right to rule the rest of the world; that the vote denied the right to self-determination of the Vietnamese, and that finally, the only way the Connie was to stop would be by the men on board refusing to go. The Rag conceded that it was a “fantastic effort to educate people about government’s lies that it is ending the war in Indo-China.” (Vol.2, No.1.)

This same issue announced the closing of the STP office on Voltaire, as it was taking up too much time of the organizers. It also included an analysis of the mayor’s race – the major candidates then were Pete Wilson, Frank Curran, Jack Walsh, and Ed Butler, all of whom were criticized by the Rag. There was another in a continuing series about efforts to get the OB Food Co-op going. The Rag reported:

There are many reasons why we’re trying to start a food co-op, but the two main ones are lowering our food costs and satisfaction. By buying collectively, we’ll be able to get fantastic prices on all organic foods. …

On Friday, September 3 [1971], we made our first run to the North County. Everyone involved is putting in two dollars, and with that money we should be able to get all of the fruit, vegetables, eggs, bread, and honey that we need to live on for one week.

The was also an article about the OB Community School “starting to come together”, announcing a October 4th opening, and calling for donations of paint, pencils, crayons, etc. But outside the OB Flashes, there was no real community news.

Precise Plan Proposal

Rag Leads Counter-Attack Against the Precise Plan

This was all to change. Never again would a front page cover article be a reprint from some other publication. Significantly, however, beginning with the early November issue, the OB Rag charged headlong into the despised Precise Plan, taking it and its sponsors, Peninsulas, Inc., to task for pushing an elitist, anti-poor plan for gentrification. It was class warfare and the Rag was leading the counter-charge. It was the early years of the seventies, and the Rag promoted the first rumblings of a grass-roots counter to the establishment’s resort plans that was then taking shape. These rumblings would later morph into the Ocean Beach Community Planning Group two years later – the forerunner to OB’s current Planning Board. The Doyles and Kozden were involved in these early days of organizing a grassroots answer to the developers.

In the Rag’s own words, from a front page article in early January 1972, (Vol II, No.4) with a giant headline of “The Rape of Ocean Beach”:

The Ocean Beach Precise Plan is an actuality but how many people have read it or even know of its existence? Well how are 13,000 OB residents expected to know of it or to have read it when the Precise Planners had only 200-300 token copies printed and made available to the public? The Ocean Beach Library thoughtfully kept a copy for reference.

But who has done this planning? An “interested” citizens group has worked with the City Planning Department for 3 years spending huge amounts (close to $50,000 annually) of tax money to devise the Plan. The group is composed of several members of the Board of Directors of Peninsulans, Inc., (who so kindly took care of Collier Park for us), augmented by residents and merchants. The members of the small group conveniently have large land interests in Ocean Beach. At the same time they have drawn up a plan to greatly increase the monetary value of that land. Are these people, who are 1/4 of 1% of the local population, a good cross-section of Ocean Beach and have they represented us well in drawing up the Precise Plan?

The article, written anonymously, described what the Plan meant for the community:

Highrises will be allowed to blossom to the west of Sunset Cliffs. The Plan has Ocean Beach Park earmarked for visitor-residential, in other words, hotels and motels. All of these big economic interests coming into the community will mean a highrise oceanfront, one-way streets with freeway on-off ramps (introducing a very high degree of overpopulation in terms of air, noise, traffic, and accidents), difficult access to the beach area and tremendous pressure on small landowners.

The same issue printed another long, full-page analysis, entitled: “Ocean Beach: Community In Crisis” which discussed the impact of the Precise Plan and how it represented a different value system than that of OB residents. It also recounted a history of “confrontation over the conflict in values of the two cultures,” citing the dawn of counter-culture OB in 1967, police-youth fights at the beach (Easter weekend and Memorial Day, 1968), the Jetty battle (July 1970), the Collier Park riot (Spring 1971), and the development of alternative services over the past several years as efforts to build a self-sustaining community. Yet the Precise Plan was a threat to Ocean Beach.

For a long time there has been a great deal of talk about the possibility of a plan by the city of San Diego to change the Ocean Beach community into a high-rise apartment district serving the interests of rich land speculators and owners of tourist-oriented facilities. That possibility has materialized itself in the form of the Ocean Beach Precise Plan. The Plan, formulated by Peninsulan’s Inc., will force the displacement of many of the people currently living in OB to make room for housing which most of those living here will not be able to afford.

The article ended by declaring that the new Rag was renewing its dedication to “the struggles of the people of Ocean Beach.”

At this critical point in the development of our community a continuous flow of information is vital. All that has been built over the past five years will not be lost. Dare to struggle and a thousand parks will bloom.

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The long battle over and around the OB Precise Plan had many twists and turns. But the “crisis” – which was very real – would eventually be resolved by the mid-seventies, with the creation of the OB Planning Board and the writing of a new Precise Plan that reflected the views of residents and local small businesses. But that’s a story for another page.

The Rag Critiques the Precise Plan - Vol. 4, No. 6 - early January 1974What is significant, however, is that here, at this time, Fall of 1971 and early 1972, the OB Rag, along with OB Ecology Action and the OB Planning Organization, were involved in waking the community up about the dangers and threats that the Precise Plan represented. Issue after issue, and over a couple year period, the Rag hammered at the Plan. Five years later, Rag staffers would be running for election to the first democratically-elected community planning committee in the history of California.

Harassment Begins to Grow

The orange-colored issue (above) reported on a police raid of a house where Rag staffers lived. It was the latest in a series of acts of harassment against Rag staffers by San Diego police. On October 21, 1971, police forced themselves into the house without a warrant and searched the premises. Supposedly, the police had received an anonymous complaint that a woman was being attacked in the house. The article stated, in the vernacular of the day:

The pigs found nothing illegal in their search. They seemed confused. Finally, one of them demanded to see our identification. Then the police proceeded to do field interrogations and warrant checks in our living room. They still could not find anything to arrest us for, so they had to leave. Our neighbors were totally freaked out. (Water pressure throughout the neighborhood dropped.)

Two days later, three Rag staffers filed a claim against the City of San Diego. Preparations were being made to sue the city and the Police Department in Federal Court seeking an injunction against the police “to stop them from carrying out their reign of terror.”

OB Food Co-op Evolves Into a Store Front

That same orange issue also included a lengthy article and update about the OB Food Co-op. The Co-op was then into its third month and had grown from an initial membership of 15 to about one hundred.

Having begun an organic food co-op, they used a backyard shed to house the do-it-yourself bulk scales, beans, rice, fruit and veggies. At that point, the Co-op had worked out a system where OB was divided up into four areas, and each week a different area was responsible for collecting the orders from the members within that area. This backyard co-op would later evolve into the People’s Food Co-op, opening up in August 1972 an actual store front on Voltaire Street, run totally by volunteers. Eventually, this store front later moved down the street and over the years, “People’s”- the organic food store – became OB’s largest employer, hiring over one hundred people.

OB Community Free School Opens

Alongside these efforts, the OB Community Free School opened, staffed by a combination of community people, parents, and new teachers. Centered in an old house on Voltaire Street, the school gave dozens of children an alternative education, where the community was the classroom. Kozden and Dennis Doyle, along with Diehl, were part of the first wave of the school’s teachers. Many of these folks later went on to teach in public schools and some became principals and superintendents.

The Rag complemented and in turn strengthened these efforts to develop alternative institutions, widening the outreach of ideas and new concepts to more and more readers of the paper, as the circulation increased into the thousands. During this phase of the paper, the staff was eventually able to connect the two currents of the information provided in its pages: community news – from a progressive perspective, and left-wing political issues. With women staffers taking on more and more responsibilities, there was the beginning of an indigenous feminist slant on the paper, not fully developed for a while, but already evident in plain view.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Settor87 October 10, 2009 at 8:40 am

Rarely do they analyze young leaders, especially youth who are not publicly recognized, but who are engaged in creating social change in their communities. ,

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avatar Madeline Lopez September 22, 2011 at 10:26 am

I know it has been a few weeks since the loss of power in San Diego but I can’t tell you how disappointed I am in Chris’s Deli on Sunset Cliffis & W. Point Loma Blvd. They were selling ice for $4.00 per bag from the regular price. We refused to buy it at that price considering that is IPrice Gouging”. They also raised the price on many other things and we were out of there. I will never enter that store again and some friends and neighbors will not also. In a time of need there is no reason to be so greedy and take advantage of others. I called Chri’s deli the next morning and being lucky I actually talked to the owner. I asked him if he was aware of the price of ice anf other things and he told me yes he was very aware and did not feel bad about it at all. Again i was so dissapointed. Thanks for taking time to read my e-mail…
M.T. DiGiacomo-Lopez

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