OB Town Council Report: Further Fire Department and Lifeguard Cutbacks Loom

by on October 28, 2010 · 9 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Election, Ocean Beach, San Diego

OBTC 7-28-10 001-sm

OB Town Council back in July 2010. (No current photos - sorry.)

Representatives from the San Diego Fire Department appeared at the OB Town Council meeting last night to give their grim report on the state of San Diego’s emergency service providers.  And for the first time San Diegans will start to see noticeable cuts in the department’s ability to serve the community.

San Diego Fire Chief Jeff Carle and Lifeguard Chief Rick Wurts delivered the bad news in a detailed report describing exactly how we got here, what further cuts are likely in the near future, and how it will affect Ocean Beach and beyond.

With the City of San Diego facing a $72 million budget shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year, the fire department (which includes the lifeguards under its umbrella) has been forced to find an additional $7.2 million in cuts.  This in addition to the $11.5 million in cuts that have been achieved through the department’s rolling brownouts—the policy of shutting down stations on a rotating basis and shifting coverage responsibilities to other nearby stations as a means of cutting costs.

Chief Carle said that for the first time in 8 years, San Diegans will start seeing actual cuts to the services provided by the San Diego Fire Department.  Previous cuts, he said, have been made in ways that did not affect services, and that there are no longer any areas to cut from without affecting services.

Carle pointed out that there are currently only two executive secretaries working for the entire fire department, and that as a result of having already cut the budget to the bare bones, the next round is by necessity going to have to come from services.  He said that they are currently looking at closing at least one community fire station (which has not yet been chosen), and also at the possibility of shutting down the second firefighting helicopter that has been such an invaluable tool since the devastating wildfires of 2003 and 2007.

As a result of the brownouts and budget cuts, fire department response times have gone up, having already resulting in one tragic death—a choking victim that rescuers were not able to reach in time.  Carle said that it would not be possible to cut training back any further, and that because of the current budget situation fire protection standards are likely to go back to pre-1972 levels.

The San Diego Lifeguards are being pinched back just as much, if not more:  Chief Wurts said that there will be some painful cutbacks in lifeguard personnel, including reducing the number of two-person night crews from two to one.  There will be reductions in seasonal staffing at all beaches, he said, including on Mission Bay, where he said that all lifeguard staffing will be eliminated for the spring.

Two full time lifeguard positions will be eliminated in North Pacific Beach.  However, there will still be seasonal lifeguards available.  Wurts said that in the last round of cuts, four full time lifeguard positions were eliminated and made into seasonal positions.

Carle also pointed out that the fire department may have to lay off as many as 60 full time firefighters.

The depth of the cuts to lifeguard services was put into perspective when Wurts pointed out that there are approximately 4,000 to 6,000 water rescues in San Diego per year, with nearly 180,000 preventative actions taken each year by lifeguards.  The reduction in staffing means an increased danger at San Diego’s beaches.

There was some somewhat positive news as far as the lifeguards were concerned, however.  Wurts said that San Diego will be receiving a federal grant of $385,000 to install video surveillance cameras around Mission Bay and on the Ocean Beach pier.  This will compensate somewhat for the reduced staffing levels, and allow lifeguards to better locate vessel accidents and monitor crafts entering and exiting Mission Bay.

The cameras will also be linked to the Joint Harbor Operations Center, which helps to coordinate enforcement, surveillance, and rescue efforts between the Coast Guard, Harbor Police, and U.S. Customs agents.

Local Government

Thyme Curtis from City Councilman Kevin Faulconer’s office offered the following tidbits:

The sewer project along Cable St. has forced MTS to relocate its bus routes along Sunset Cliffs Blvd., causing significant congestion along the main Ocean Beach thoroughfare.  The work affecting Cable St. is expected to last approximately six months, at which point the bus route will be restored to Cable St., along with the bus stop signs.  MTS is unable to relocate the route to Abbott St. because stops would not be convenient for riders, and the ridership numbers would be severely impacted with a move to Abbott.

The sewage project is expected to be completed within nine months.

Money has been allocated to create a new, separate small-dog park in Dusty Rhodes Park.  There have been several incidents recently where smaller dogs have been attacked and killed by larger dogs using the park.

The City of San Diego is negotiating with the World Trade Center to locate a new homeless shelter at the 6th and A St. downtown site.  There are tentative plans to place the shelter temporarily at Golden Hall, but there are several events already scheduled at the facility, and a homeless shelter would likely eliminate the roughly $175,000 in rent the city is due to collect.

Committee Reports

The Ocean Beach Restaurant Walk will take place on November 9th.  Tickets will go on sale this week at the Main Street Association.  650 tickets will be available, and the event is expected to sell out fast.  The OB Christmas Tree is scheduled to arrive on November 30th, and the parade is planned for December 4th.

OB Parade applications are available on the OB Town Council website, www.obtowncouncil.org.   Volunteers are needed:  Please contact Cyndee Hanna.  Contact info available on the website.

This year’s parade route will travel down Newport, turning on Abbott.  T-shirts will be available at the restaurant walk, Lucy’s, the Farmer’s Market, and the Sunshine Co., among other locations.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

OB Dude October 28, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Well how about getting rid of CCDC and SEDC and focus on life safety issues? NO ….can’t do that cause the fat cats want their stadium! There is alot of fat in the city budget they COULD cut before they do stupid cuts. Two very interesting pieces to read:



RB October 28, 2010 at 4:02 pm

I think you are right about getting rid of the redevelopment agencies.
Both the private ( sports teams ) and public ( Library ) people downtown are using these important tax revenues as their own piggy bank rather than for public safety and the schools.


Abby October 28, 2010 at 6:35 pm

How can they even think about building something as unimportant as a stadium when they can’t afford to fund vital services like the fire department? It’s downright shameful!


Andy Cohen October 28, 2010 at 7:45 pm

We’re getting a little off topic, but, since it’s a subject near and dear to my heart:

The theory is that it’s a business investment and that the city will recoup it’s investment in the stadium through stadium generated revenues. Hopefully, if they structure the deal right, the city will turn a profit on the stadium, particularly with a downtown location (directly across from Petco and across the street from the Convention Center, so that it can be used as an extension to the convention center). That’s the case they need to make to the public, and if they cannot adequately do so, then the ballot measure that will be required to approve a new stadium will be shot down by the voters.

A new stadium should be looked at as an investment in the business community of San Diego; as a way to bring more business into San Diego. It’s not necessarily about the Chargers by themselves, but rather San Diego’s viability as a convention and big event destination. The city makes a ton of money off of large events that the stadium can draw (in addition to the convention center). If the powers that be can prove that a stadium SHOULD be able to be a profit engine for the city, then it should be built. If that is not possible, then the city should not assist the Chargers in building a new stadium, and the team will eventually leave.

I happen to believe that due to the particular downtown location that is most recently being discussed, that it can be a revenue generator for the city (and not just the Chargers). I have attempted to make that case in a previous post, but it will be a difficult sell and the city and the Chargers have their work cut out for them.

Read my argument in favor here: http://politicsoffootball.wordpress.com/2010/06/17/build-it-its-more-than-just-a-stadium/

If you have a dispute, please dispute the facts as they’re presented. No rhetoric or anti-Chargers rants please.


OB Dude October 28, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Andy you should work for the UT! You are great at propoganda. Listen, life will go on without football. I know it’s hard to believe the rah rah shish goom bah and all the “jobs” that can be created by building a big concrete structure. The Petco Park condo owners would love it because it would push the bums and homeless to ???? Anyhow, I believe that my tax dollars should not subsidize a private business be it football, banks, or car manufacturers. Let capitalism do its thing. If Spanos Baby and all his goombas think that a stadium can beprofitable then I challenge them to put their money into the project and get more like minds to join in and finance the deal. But to do what has been done in the last hour in the name of jobs was slimmy at best. Maybe it’s time the people of San Diego said screw Spanos and we put our money into something else? I am not anti-Chargers I am anti-power by a few that made the recent development deal and think the public should have no input.


Andy Cohen October 28, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Sorry, Dude……but I think that’s a rather shortsighted way of looking at government.

By the way: The federal government did, in fact, make a profit on the bank “bailouts” and the auto-manufacturer loans to both GM and Chrysler (Ford never requested nor received any federal money). And both GM and Chrysler are stronger, more efficient companies because of it, which benefits the U.S. economy as a whole.


OB Dude October 28, 2010 at 9:38 pm

I don’t think is shortsighted to think that government does not belong in private business. I think, and it’s me talkin’ the government should help provide the services we needs and stay the hell out of everything else. I am all for public safety (police, fire and lifeguards), clean water, safe roads and defense of our country but to bail companies out because they managed their business poorly in the first place is dumb… profit or no profit. The end does not justify the means.


Andy Cohen October 28, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Perfect Tea Party argument, with a complete lack of understanding of how the real world works.

So I’m assuming you agree with Rand Paul in that private businesses should be allowed to discriminate against anyone they want? The should be free to deny any and all services to black Americans? Latino Americans? Jewish Americans? Arab Americans?

You don’t believe that there should be any regulation at all on private industry? That companies like Enron and BP and Exxon should be allowed to do whatever they want whenever they want, regardless of the consequences to the populace at-large? There should be no rules in place for Corporate America to follow? And the federal government should be left to pick up the tab when they royally screw the rest of us?

That’s just sad, man. Sad indeed……..


OB Dude October 28, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Assuming is not a good thing. I don’t belong or relate to the tea party and not actually affiliated with any party. I just have my own opinion and since you and I don’t think alike, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Don’t be sad.

Good night, Andy


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