New Fire Chief contemplates “beach closures” due to budget cuts

by on November 13, 2009 · 16 comments

in Civil Rights, Economy, Environment, Labor, Ocean Beach, San Diego

Fire chief Javier Mainer

Fire Chief Javier Mainer

San Diego’s new head of the Fire Department, Fire Chief Javier Mainer, has been tasked by Mayor Jerry Sanders to cut $34.7 million from his budget, which includes fire departments, medics, and life guards. In a recent interview with KPBS he indicated that”beach closures” are on the table.

Chief Mainer said San Diego citizens may see less fire engines and fewer lifeguards.  This could mean beach closures.

Here’s one excerpt from a transcript of the interview posted online:

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (host): Now when you say cutting units, do you mean closing fire stations?

MAINAR: Well, we don’t yet — we certainly are in the plan and those are some of the proposals that are in that $34 million menu of possible choices that the mayor and council can enact. That possibility does exist this time around. We do have some fire stations that have multiple units operating out of them. You may see closures of some of those units within a single fire station. … And the same is true of the beach. We have some staffing we’re going to have to cutback in our beach coverage with the lifeguards and in some cases you may see beach closures as a result of this.

(our emphasis.)

This deeply concerns OBceans, of course, and other beach residents and users around town.

Hopefully, the chief is just trying to frighten us, as bureaucrats and officials do every budget crisis. That can get us fighting between keeping the beach open or keeping our library open. Let’s not fall for it. But in the meantime, keep your eyes and ears open.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Shawn Conrad November 13, 2009 at 1:56 pm

How do you close a public beach?


jon November 13, 2009 at 2:53 pm

You just put up one of those “Closed Please call again” signs. Very simple. When you want to re-open the beach simply flip the sign around. The other side says “Open Come on in.”


Dave Gilbert November 13, 2009 at 4:33 pm

When my Pop was in the Marines he said that you could drive right out and onto Dog Beach.

Maybe we should start charging admission to OB ;)


lane tobias November 13, 2009 at 4:08 pm

doesnt that just mean there’s no lifeguard on duty – as it is half the year, during the off season? or does that literally mean you’re trespassing if you walk on the sand? i dont get it…..


PSD November 13, 2009 at 6:49 pm

Yeah, what he said – you can have a beach with no/fewer lifeguards, as we already do a lot of the time, but can you really ‘close’ the beach? Seems I can recall people still going out to the beaches even when they’re closed due to pollution…maybe there was even an article on it here a while back (if I knew how to speak WordPress code I could even make the ‘here’ a fancy hyperlink to the article). Are we going to cut loose a bunch of lifeguards and then hire on more police at even higher salaries to write tickets to people who visit beaches on ‘closed’ days? $250 first offense, $1000 second offense…


PSD November 13, 2009 at 6:53 pm
BillRayDrums November 13, 2009 at 6:45 pm

Closing the beach huh….as in fencing it off?


annagrace November 13, 2009 at 7:09 pm

What is significant about this article is that only the Fire Chief has so far PUBLICLY revealed possible cuts. The mayor will release his mid year budget adjustment on Nov. 22. (Remember last year? 7 branch libraries and 9 park and rec centers proposed for closure…) As far as I know, the heads of other general fund departments- Library, Police, Park and Rec, and Streets, have not publicly discussed the cuts they are proposing.

So I’m surprised that the chief discussed these potential cuts at this time. Our strong mayor keeps these people on a pretty short lease.

Lay in a supply of beans, trash bags, a flashlight, broom and reading material, then fasten your seat belt. It’s going to be a very rough ride.


annagrace November 13, 2009 at 7:10 pm

I meant “short leash.” sheeeesh.


PSD November 13, 2009 at 7:28 pm

With staff cuts and outsourcing implying the city could be ‘renting’ the time of fewer people for labor, the first way could work too…


jettyboy November 14, 2009 at 8:08 am

Never happen. One word – Tourist


Rob November 14, 2009 at 8:57 am

If they actually closed the beaches, think what that would do to our tourism industry in this city. Will never happen.


bodysurferbob November 15, 2009 at 9:47 am

jettyboy and rob – totally agree with you. how can they close a beach? they can’t rope it off – they could only post signs and then issue a few citations. like when there’s been a sewage spill. but even then obceans ignore those signs.

i really think it’s just scare tactics – trying to frighten us into getting ready to close our library or some other public institution like, the rec center, and uh …. uh…. what other public institutions are there in OB besides the schools? the public rest rooms?


Larry OB November 15, 2009 at 4:35 pm

The lifeguards don’t come on duty until 9 AM, and the beach is still open for the early birds. Perhaps Javier meant closing lifeguard stations when he said beach closures.

I don’t like having the fire chief in charge of bugeting the lifeguards. We should have a Big Kahuna to manage the lifeguards. And give them plenty of TOT (tourist taxes) to fund operations, because it seem like inept tourists are biggest problem in the water.


Brian November 15, 2009 at 6:44 pm

Ok, so there’s beach closure scare tactics because the city’s short on funds… but, at the same time we hear news stories about $500K being spent to *solicit bids* for a new library. And, I forget the numbers for the new proposed city hall.

If OB Rag wants to do some interesting reporting, launch a multi-part in-depth series into the San Diego city budget. Explain to folks exactly where their money comes from, and where it goes. I think it’s hard for some folks to really feel the pain cause they don’t sit down once a week and write a check to the city… but, spell out to them just how much money is being taken from them. And let them now how many millions of dollars are being spent on shit like rfp’s for new libraries while old libraries are being threatened for shutdown, or, hell, sidewalks are falling apart… and bring to light whatever asinine reasons they city has for that… “those are different funds”… or whatever crap they come up with.

Am I the only one who’s annoyed by hearing a story like this so close to hearing stories about spending half a million dollars to get bids on a building?


annagrace November 15, 2009 at 11:18 pm

Brian- you are so right about how difficult it is to figure out the City budget situation. I am anxiously awaiting the release of the Mayor’s mid year budget adjustment on the 22nd of November. Remember last year? We were fighting for libraries and parks. In reality, it has been an ongoing battle for the activists among for 4 straight years now.

I am convinced that our strong mayor doesn’t much care for City government- he went in with the expressed intent of downsizing the workforce, which he has been doing all along, and outsourcing City functions. He cannot distinguish between “special interests” and citizens, which should tell us something. He referred to the hundreds and hundreds of people who protested the closure of libraries as “special interests.” Hmmmmm. The local economy, as well as the national economy, are in the tank and that bad news has given him an out to do what he has wanted to do all along.

Plans for a new Central Library is an easy target, but I think it is misplaced anger and frustration for us to think that our neighborhood libraries are being ignored because of a desperately needed, THIRTY-FIVE YEARS in the planning and promised new Central library that serves all of the neighborhoods and the region.

I sat in the City Council meeting a few weeks ago in support of that library. I worked at the old, cramped Central library at 8th&E downtown for over 24 years and we served in myriad, significant ways not only the Ocean Beach library, but the other thirty four branches within a City that spans 127 miles. Central supports the branch libraries not only with the most obvious thing- it’s extensive collection of books and CD’s and DVD’s- but with technology, in depth professional expertise and unique collections like patents, San Diego History, and research materials that must be used on site. A NEW CENTRAL LIBRARY SHOULD HAVE OPENED IN 2007. It was the only significant PUBLIC infrastructure in the Ballpark Redevelopment Area. Brian, you and I and all the other tax payers are carrying the load on Petco Park and it is a damn heavy load. We are responsible for the debt service on the bonds to build Petco Park. I believe that is around $10 Million a year. That’s a serious chunk of change. What a give away to a private business, and we don’t have the library we were promised.

I assure you that when happy times are here again, there’s a better likelihood that there will be a new Chargers stadium- serious talks are underway to drop it downtown to the East of Petco Park (and wipe out the beautiful, historical Wonderbread Factory, whose owner had no idea this plan was in the works.) and a new Convention Center. And no, neither one of those will do a thing for your branch library or anyone else’s. I support both a new City Hall because the existing one is a scary, claustrophobic piece of crap and a new Central library. They are public infrastructure and they belong to the people. I’ll bet you a “hern” Brian to see what gets built first and what doesn’t get built at all.

I worked long and hard last year organizing residents throughout the City to mobilize against their branch closures. When we won- Ocean Beach and the other 6 libraries are still open today- another activist, Sandy Lippe from University Community and I continued to advocate within City Hall for adequate funding of the library system- branches and central. Our library budget is chronically underfunded and disproportionately underfunded compared to other departments. Park and Rec isn’t far behind.

People use and value their libraries and parks and beaches and open spaces. They want more. More than a lack of revenue, there is a lack of political will and a lack of a commitment to serving the citizens.

Check out the Office of Independent Management’s (IBA) web page. They have a citizen’s guide to the budget and they do a boatload of budget reviews. That office works for the City Council, the legislative branch of our City government.

When you speak before the council, or at a committee, you generally have only two minutes. I have come to think of myself as the Two Minute Citizen. My posting was obviously much longer than the two minute limitation. Another reason I love blogs…

IBA link


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