Ocean Beach-The Haight-Ashbury of San Diego

by on December 1, 2007 · 4 comments

in OB Time Machine, Ocean Beach, Organizing

The first OB Rag, the O.B. People’s Rag, published its very first issue, edition no. 1, in September 1970. Published by a small collection of activists who lived on Etiwanda Street in northeast Ocean Beach — most of them recent local graduates of the University of California and veterans of the campus anti-Vietnam War movement — the OB Rag came to reflect the new counter-culture and militant politics of the era. And over time, it became a media icon for a community asserting itself against the establishment.


Ocean Beach, by the early 1970s, had become the Haight-Ashbury of San Diego, home to many hippies and counter-culture fans, but also to many surfers, college students, bikers, Navy servicemen, as well as middle-aged families and retired people. It was overwhelmingly an Anglo renters’ community, yet it suffered from a disdain held by the power structure and more establishment types.Hundreds if not thousands of young people congregated on OB’s beaches and streets, often shunned by Newport Avenue businesses, while been soaked by landlords asking exorbitant rents for cottages and, at times, nothing more than beach shacks, and suffering from an inordinate amount of police harassment. Very few businesses catered to the young. The Black – a head shop, had opened on Newport, and there was the Inbetween – a drop-in center on Newport – but there were no coffee houses, no organic veggie stores or restaurants, no juice bars, no music or dance clubs, and many of the bars that existed catered to an older crowd. Unlike the current downtown OB scene any evening of the week, there was virtually no night-life on Newport Avenue. It wasn’t easy being a hippie in those early times. (For more, see below.)

Vol. 1 No. 7 page 1, Click to Enlarge

The OB People’s Rag, Vol. 1, No. 7
Click on image to see entire issue


When the Rag appeared, it was a time of social and political upheaval nation-wide as well as locally. Thousands of college and university campuses had just been in turmoil that Spring due to President Nixon’s expansion of the Vietnam war. African-American communities smoldered following decades of official neglect and police repression. Chicano and Mexican-American neighborhoods were undergoing an awakening and shaking off cultural shackles. On the gender front, militant feminists and middle-class housewives were building a movement that pressed for equality for women at all levels in society. Social unrest was in the air, at least for the young.

[see “The Early Politics]

The Persecution of the Hippies

It is perhaps difficult to understand what it was like to be a hippie, forty years after their initial appearance on the American cultural and political landscape. The hippies, the peaceful warriors of the counter-culture were seen as a threat to the mainstream culture and its values. The system – the establishment – reacted very negatively when young men and women in massive numbers discovered and asserted themselves in the new hip ways, with dress, hairstyles, and language. A whole array of institutional forces slammed down on the hipsters, from police harassment, to landlord abuse, institutional and bureaucratic blocks, and business prejudice. It was cultural suppression. A cultural war.

This war of the cultures was played out in places like Ocean Beach, where hippies lived. After the 1968 wide-spread flowering of the hip generation, housing inspectors swept through the beach community, citing landlords for poor housing conditions. But the effect was to have condemnation proceedings used to rid OB of its worst slums – knocking out housing that hippies and young people could afford.

(to read more, click HERE)

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ron May June 28, 2009 at 6:03 pm

You need to write up the Long Branch War and include photos to get this incident into the history books. The OB Historical Society had a great presentation on this event with all its colorful meaning, so why not you?

Ron (who lived in Sunset Cliffs in the 1950s)


BillRayDrums June 28, 2009 at 11:43 pm

Long Branch War? Care to enlighten us?


doug porter June 29, 2009 at 7:32 am

as grace slick once said, “anybody who claims to remember the sixties wasn’t really there”.
as best as i can remember there were several confrontations between the SDPD and the residents of the 5100 block of long branch street. the cops brought in this futuristic device that was supposed to make noise loud enough to disperse the crowds that were gathered on the street. they turned it on & not much happened…it seems as though the cops had never been to a blue cheer concert…the noise hardly bothered the crowd, except that the beat was lousy.
the city eventually prevailed on longbranch street as armies of housing & health inspectors descended upon the street…the bikers & hippies were eventually displaced by condos and a more “civilized” crowd.


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