Alley clean-ups are a dirty job but they’re our alleys

by on August 21, 2010 · 16 comments

in Culture, Environment, Homelessness, Ocean Beach, Organizing


Whose alleys? Our alleys! (All photos by Patty Jones.)

It was the busiest lot in all Ocean Beach this morning – August 21st – at 7:30 on the 4700 block of Santa Monica Avenue – across from OB Elementary.  Church volunteers, homeless people, and community activists were gathering for an early morning breakfast and scheduled alley clean-up.  Patty and I arrived at that moment, half asleep but ready with our work clothes.

chowA while later and by time breakfast was served – a regular thing every Saturday morning at this site – a hundred people had gathered.  Some guys were singing and playing a guitar, med students from UCSD were taking blood pressures, and houseless people were collecting food, soaps, and other personal hygiene items handed to them by a half dozen good-natured souls who had arrived early and stood behind tables.

A good proportion of the crowd were standing around waiting for the go-ahead for the alley clean-up.  Finally, one of the pastors led us in counting off numbers to see how many were there for the work.  Thirty people shouted out numbers and we were organized into four groups.

turnoutThen, once another local pastor had given us a sermon, we were ready to go. (It was a Baptist Church and Inter-Faith organized event and they have a right to briefly hold the audience captive in explaining a Bible and Jesus story. If the Kiwanis had organized it, they would have had a right to proselytize us about the Kiwanis. Same with the Mainstreet Association, or the Masons, or the Town Council.  The churches and their coalition, the Ocean Beach Inter-Faith Community had organized it – with some kind of support from the Town Council and Mainstreet Assoc.)

blood-pressure-checkThe folks ready for the clean-up seemed to be mainly volunteers from the various churches. Colleen from the Green Store was there representing the local environmentalists. Craig Klein was there representing the merchants.  Patty and I were there for the OB Rag. Glyn Franks and Jack Hamlin were of course there. And I don’t know the names of all the folks who had showed up with work gloves and a few rakes and brooms, but it was mostly an older crowd.  I didn’t see that many individuals who had been at the first community forum on homelessness back on July 6th.

After all the ceremony was over, we were grouped into the four work crews, each given at least one alley, and set on our way – everyone had gloves and plastic bags, and some of us had brooms and hand-held “picker-uppers”.  We had one homeless guy in our group, and he worked hard.

bagginWhat can you really say about alley clean-ups?  The alleys themselves are dirty, dusty, have weeds along the buildings, lots of cigarette butts, abandoned clothing, broken glass, spilled paint, a squashed pigeon – but really – the alleys we cleaned were not as dirty or as bad as we had anticipated. They really weren’t. But we cleaned a whole bunch – right around the business district. Someone made the comment about our little group, that it was “Christians, Jews and atheists working together.”

After about an hour and half, our bags were full and we were hot and tire.  But for that time, all over the Newport Ave area, small grouplets of people bending over were seen up and down the back streets of the coastal village. Several people had thanked our group as we went about our dirty job.

pickupOriginally, the alley clean-up was meant to be a way for the community to come together – and work together on something positive. That it was. Yet it was only part of the community. But the busiest part of the community on this Saturday morning.

Here is the full gallery of our photos from today. Remember to click on the photo for a larger image.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

nunya August 21, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Good on you and Patty, Frank :)


kenloc August 21, 2010 at 5:47 pm

I had to work today but I wanted to thank all of you who were out picking up trash in our neck of the woods.) You are awesome.


Sarah August 21, 2010 at 6:33 pm


Thank you, kind folks!


jim grant August 21, 2010 at 8:02 pm

I was onsite late…..took a few snaps…
At this breakfast they hold every Saturday how many do they regulary feed ??
What was the total who cleaned n swept today ?

I walked a couple alleys…very very impressive ……


Debbie August 21, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Thank you to all for helping OB! Sound like a success and maybe it might be a good idea to have alley clean ups every season along with some breakfast yummies. Next time around I will bring some homemade cookies to share.


lane tobias August 21, 2010 at 11:49 pm

This is civic duty at its greatest; your actions speak loudly, and the sun shines through. Wish I was there…


Jon August 22, 2010 at 8:46 am

Wish I were there. I had a commitment to volunteer at the Stone Brewing Co.’s 14th anniversary beer festival. We raised more than $30,000 for charities like Surfrider Foundation and Boys & Girls Club. It was a great day. But I applaud everyone’s efforts here in OB. You know I’m up for the next clean-up. Let’s do another one soon!!


denine August 22, 2010 at 9:20 am

hhmmm…guess I’m one of those “older community activitists” types? ;-) I actually just think of myself as a resident of OB who is committed to being a good neighbor to all. This was a good event… where, together ,we took action. I look forward to continued opportunities to be part of the solution to problems we try to resolve at the upcoming community forum scheduled for Tuesday night.


jettyboy August 22, 2010 at 9:21 am

Nice report Frank. Was there any info about it put out, beside the churches? I didn’t see any.
By the way please don’t go Palin on us with stuff like grouplets


Frank Gormlie August 22, 2010 at 10:34 am

Ah, jettyboy, the mighty pages of this here website had all kinds of notices, plus the special emails I sent out about it, so yes to your first question. The OBMA did have a notice on their website.


jim grant August 22, 2010 at 9:52 am

Did the OBMA post anything ??
I know the Beacon ran a short blurb….


kenloc August 22, 2010 at 11:13 am

Wouldn’t it be great if the city would send it’s street sweepers down the alleys of beach areas a few times a year.Every other month? Quarterly? Only during the months where there is little rain? Oh yeah,we have no money.


Sarah August 22, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Wouldn’t it be great if we all just picked up garbage when we see it instead of stepping over it? Or worse, expecting some governmental agency to some along and do it for us…

Just a thought.


kenloc August 22, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Actually Sarah,I think most folks do pick up the garbage that can be picked up in the alleys.”The alleys we cleaned weren’t as dirty as we anticipated”. My neighbors and I clean the alley behind our place.What a street sweeper would do is clean the grime,urine smell,oil stains,etc. off of the pavement.I don’t own a street sweeping machine or I’d do it myself, hence the need for a government agency to do it.With water restrictions in place you aren’t even allowed to use the hose to wash it down.


Brenda McFarlane August 22, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Thank you so much for representing Frank and Patty!

Yes, we should clean up garbage, we shouldn’t litter either. But, just to point out, government agencies are US. They are hired by us theoretically, and also, theoretically, they should clean up garbage more efficiently and safely than us. If that isn’t true, we’re failing our community by not insisting it is true.

Since they’ve taken away the garbage cans at the end of Narragansett, Del Monte and gosh knows where else AND they have started charging $70 for residential garbage cans, we have less power to encourage proper garbage disposal by individuals.


Denny Knox August 25, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Many thanks to everyone who participated in the clean up of the alleys last Saturday. I know the individual merchants along those alleys were pleasantly surprised to find their alleys being cleaned.
Thanks also to Claudia Jack for providing tools, trash bags and getting a free dumpster donated for the day. Thanks again.


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