OB Rag Editordude Kicked Off Library Lawn

by on February 13, 2014 · 59 comments

in Culture, Homelessness, Ocean Beach

OB Library NoLoit mw 01UPDATE:  Area Manager Calls to Apologize

FRIDAY: The San Diego Library Area Manager just called Frank Gormlie and apologized for what happened on Wednesday.  Bob Cronk personally thanked Gormlie for his and the OB Rag’s support of the library over the years and said on behalf of the staff, he was sorry.   He had seen the article in the Rag – thanks to Matt Beatty – and had taken serious note of the situation.

Bob did note that the library staff had just had a week or so ago a very ugly incident where an inebriated guy caused a scene and some damage. Both Cronk and Gormlie agreed that even though things like that happen, the staff can’t paint everyone with a broad brush stroke in our diverse and tolerant community.

Gormlie and Cronk also spoke about the need for at least a bench out in front of the library.  Bob would run the idea up the chain of command and Gormlie said he would see if folks around town would help donate for a bench.  “Maybe instead of a ‘Read-In’ in front of the library, we could organize a bench.”


A funny thing happened to the OB Rag Editordude yesterday as he sat on the green grassy lawn of the Ocean Beach Library reading a magazine, sipping from a coffee cup and waiting for a ride home.

He was kicked off.

Accused of “loitering” and “drinking alcohol” by private security and library staff, Frank Gormlie – who edits this website – was ordered off the lawn and out from the front of the library.

After lodging a protest and trying to reason with the security agent and staff to no avail, Gormlie left the immediate grassy area, and a few minutes later, departed when his ride appeared.

Here, in his own words, is what he reported happening:

After having left my car at a local auto shop to get repaired, I packed up what I needed from my PT Cruiser in my backpack, and took off for Newport Avenue.  I needed to kill some time until my ride arrived in a few hours.

I met with friends at that Cuban coffee and pastry shop, toured the new Cohn family restaurant about to open on Newport  – “The Warehouse” – (the old Portugalia), ate lunch at OB’s greasy spoon, drank more coffee, and decided to wait for my ride over in front of the library.

Grabbing a CityBeat and after finding a dry spot, I sat down on the grass in front of the library.  I was reading the magazine and sipping my coffee – I was getting absorbed in its stories.

Five minutes later, I’m startled by this guy in a uniform – I could tell he wasn’t a police officer or law enforcement, but a private security guy. He asks me if I intend to patronize the library and I say no.

OB Library NoLoit mw 03He then says I can’t sit on the grass as I’m loitering, and have to get up.  Wow, this is preposterous I thought.  I tried to explain that I’ve attended book sales by the library support committee on the grass, that I’ve organized rallies to save the library on the grass.  He told me his name was Brown.  Mr. Brown wasn’t listening.

I got up and feeling fairly upset, I proceeded inside the library, asked for the main librarian and once he identified himself – Matt Beatty – I tried to make a complaint about being kicked off the grass.  Beatty then says that I can’t drink alcohol in front of the library.  Alcohol? Do you see any alcohol I asked?  This is the first time this reason had come up.  So, not only was I accused of loitering but now drinking alcohol.

Brown, Beatty and I proceed outside – I’m upset and still protesting this insult. “I’m a citizen! I’m a patron of this library.” I said. “You can’t drink alcohol in front of the library,” Beatty kept repeating and then returned inside.

Brown said he saw me drinking a can of beer while he was looking through a window. I asked him where was the can? He didn’t know, but he saw me with one. I asked him if it was even possible that he could be incorrect.  He said no. I even asked for an apology – but was refused.

My ride appeared and still fuming, I left.

It was such an insult.  Did they think I was a homeless guy? I did have a backpack and a cloth brief case. I do have a ponytail but so did the judge I appeared in front of on Monday – hey, I’m a lawyer. Plus I was reading. That’s what you’re supposed to do at a library – read. I didn’t go inside to read because you can’t go in with a coffee cup.

You know, I’ve done as much as anyone else in this community to keep the OB Library doors open.  The OB Rag organized several rallies in front of the library when it was being threatened with Mayor Sanders’ draconian budget cuts.  I know that doesn’t make me entitled to special treatment.  I’m not complaining about that. And I know I wasn’t kicked off the lawn because I’m with the OB Rag either.

Still, it’s still a shame that someone reading on the lawn in front of the library has to be removed. We’re letting our fear of the homeless push us to deny others common civilities that we ordinarily would allow or tolerate.  Like getting kicked off the grass, or having no benches in front of the library.  Why aren’t there benches in front of the OB Library?

I’m gonna complain to my councilman.  Oh, wait. He just got elected mayor. Whose gonna replace him?

Back on track, Gormlie has raised several issues here.

One, the issue of “loitering”.  He was accused of loitering by the private security guard.

OB Library NoLoit mw 02There is a small sign on the exterior wall of the library on its Santa Monica Avenue side. It cites San Diego Municipal Code section 52.30.2. This refers to Chapter 5, Article 2, Division 30 of the Muni Code.  This is the Public Safety and morals and welfare area of the code.

Article 2: Police — Police Regulations — Offenses Against Government

Division 30: Loitering For Drug Activities

§52.3001 Acts Prohibited

It is unlawful for any person to loiter in, on or near any thoroughfare or place open to the public or near any public or private place in a manner and under circumstances manifesting the purpose of engaging in drug–related activity defined as offenses in Chapters 6 and 6.5 of Division 10 of the California Health and Safety Code.

§52.3002 Circumstances Manifesting Drug–related Activity

This section deals with all kinds of activities that are associated with drug dealing and begins:

Among circumstances that may be considered in determining whether such purpose is manifested are that the person:

And then it gets into qualifications, such as “(a) is a known unlawful drug user, possessor, or seller. …” Then it defines what a known seller is, such as” (3) a person who displays physical characteristics of drug intoxication or usage, such as “needle tracks”;…” and so forth.It does continue:

As used in this Division, the following definitions apply:

(a) “in a manner and under circumstances manifesting” means that, while loitering a person must perform objectively, ascertainable, overt conduct that is commonly associated with illegal drug–related activity.

(b) “purpose of engaging in drug–related activity” means the specific intent to engage in drug–related activity.

It does not define “loitering” however.

We have to turn to other sources then. What exactly is “loitering”? You see “no loitering” sides in all kinds of places. According to Webster’s:

Loiter – 1. To delay an activity with aimless idle stops and pauses; 2. to remain in an area for no obvious reason; hang around; to lag behind.

Yet we are talking about the law here. Black’s Law Dictionary – the lawyer’s bible – says:

Loiter – To be dilatory; to be slow in movement; to stand around or move slowly about; to stand idly around; to lag behind; to linger or spend time idly. Traditionally includes acts constituting vagrancy and as such, many ordinances have been struck as unconstitutionally vague.

Term as used in statute prohibiting loitering or prowling upon the private property of another, means to be slow in moving, to delay, to linger, to saunter, to lag behind.  [Our underlining for emphasis.]

Now Gormlie denies doing any of the drug-related activities, other than sipping coffee (caffeine is a highly potent drug). Plus he says he was reading.  We can’t see where he can be justifiably accused of actual loitering.  Perhaps he was mistaken for a homeless guy – he had a backpack and other carrying satchel, he has long hair.  But then – so what?

Not to mention the unconstitutionality of many “no loitering” ordinances. (See this interesting 1988 legal Memo by then San Diego City Attorney John W. Witt on the issue.)

Another issue raised is the lack of benches in front of the OB Library. Yes, why isn’t there at least one bench. The reason Gormlie sat on the grass to read is because there aren’t any benches.

Gormlie doesn’t care that he was mistaken for a homeless person.  But, far from being homeless, he insists that he had just spent close to $200 in OB businesses – $150 for a car repair, then lunch, pastries and coffees.

But he also raises the issue of society’s fear of the homeless.  We fear the homeless so much that we don’t have benches or other street furniture out of fear that they will abuse them. That’s why those benches have ridges or even separate seats – or no seats at all.  We are denying to ourselves the common civilities that we ought to be sharing with our fellow citizens, homeless or not.


{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

John February 13, 2014 at 11:25 am

Wow, that really sucks, I’d be pretty pissed off too.
I guess it’s hard for the library staff and security to differentiate from nice upstanding people who want to relax on their lawn with not so nice ne’er do wells who want to relax on their lawn. There aren’t any liquor stores immediately adjacent so I doubt drinking has been a real issue though I have in the past noticed people hanging around on the lawn. I couldn’t tell by appearance if they were ne-er do wells or people waiting for a ride.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this story is the insistence of the staff member that he saw you with an alcoholic beverage- as if he knew he was on shaky ground having you ejected and needed to embellish his story to excuse his behavior.
That’s a public servant who forgot who he’s working for. While we should sympathize that he’s probably had a lot of people he’s had to deal with to make the library attractive to families and children, he’s probably become jaded and feels a certain type of people who look a certain way are not worthy of the services of his establishment.
Like Johnny Bravo on the Brady Bunch.
“You fit the suit, man.”


judi curry February 13, 2014 at 11:51 am

If this wasn’t so sad it would be funny. Were you not asked for any I.D.? Heck – I had just talked to you a few minutes earlier. Fear is certainly a driving force – even in the middle of the day.


Frank Gormlie February 13, 2014 at 1:14 pm



gristmiller February 13, 2014 at 7:22 pm

FEAR fear!


Seth February 13, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Remember that time a couple of years ago you helped keep them from being laid off?

That was awesome.



Dave February 13, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Last Saturday, I had a similar experience.

I was sitting on the lawn in front of the library with our two dogs, while my companion returned books inside the library. I was approached by a security guard who told me I would have to leave.

A little perturbed, I explained I was waiting for someone who was returning books. After that I was left alone.

Afterwards, my companion told me that inside the library she had been approached by the security guard, who asked to confirm the story I had told a few minutes earlier.

I found the whole episode offensive, and reasonably so.


Catherine February 13, 2014 at 1:43 pm

Wow. Ridiculous. Since when can’t you sit on the library lawn?


dangents February 13, 2014 at 1:44 pm

I live next to the OB Library – Mr. Brown, a private security guard, is generally considered to be a nuisance around the neighborhood – nosing into people’s business, staring into the windows of local residents and being, ah … overly protective of the library’s grounds. Even after a year of residing next to our local house of knowledge, I still get “mean-mugged” by Mr. Brown every time I would deign to look in the library’s direction. You’re not alone, Mr. Gormlie.

Also, inre: “greasy spoon” – do you mean the Village Kitchen, out of curiosity?


Frank Gormlie February 13, 2014 at 4:31 pm

The one and same.


gristmiller February 13, 2014 at 7:23 pm

An OB plus!


Sara February 13, 2014 at 1:48 pm

I think the funny part is about getting absorbed in this week’s Citybeat articles. They’re… quite something :)

Seriously, though. This sucks :(


Colleen Dietzel February 13, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Frank, I can’t believe that someone who has done so much for this community and the library was treated like that. Matt Beatty just gave a wonderful presentation at the Ocean Beach Historical Society’s meeting. I think he is fairly new to Ocean Beach so he is probably not aware of its history since the 70’s. Also, I wasn’t aware that the library has to have security guards. It must be to control the homeless. When is this society going to start asking why we have so many people on the street and why we just keep responding to the problem with coming up with more ways to harass them.


Russ February 13, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Who cares how much Frank spent at local businesses?! Your right to simply exist on public property should be respected no matter how much $ you have or spend. ARGH! Sounds like its time to reassert the right of the commons. OCCUPY THE OB LIBRARY LAWN!!


Sarah February 13, 2014 at 2:03 pm

I have a nearly uncontrollable urge to go sit on the lawn in front of the library and read.


Frank Gormlie February 13, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Sarah, I know. Let’s organize a “read-in” in front of the library.


Sarah February 14, 2014 at 1:26 pm

I’m in. Any day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays.


gristmiller February 13, 2014 at 7:23 pm

I am with you!!!


UnwashEDWalmartThONG February 13, 2014 at 2:46 pm

It’s time for a Read-In on the library lawn, two days worth. The left has been battling the Right (actually, the Wrong) for so long I think it’s time for a little giggle. Plan the Read-In, & on the first day we all show up w/ unshaven faces, legs, armpits, elsewheres, long hair, baggy jeans, peace symbols, coffee cups, books, magazines, organic food, & beach chairs.
Frank, lucky you didn’t get Maced for opening your mouth. Remember, uniforms mean right wing, especially if the shirts are brown.
On the second day we dress in button down shirts, ironed & starched khaki slacks, wing-tip shoes, shaven mugs, greased & sprayed hair; women can wear poodle skirts, bobby socks & saddle shoes. We can harken back to the fifties & sixties when those “No loitering” signs were seriously enforced. Before pot swept into our neighborhood, we hung out, loafed, loitered anywhere we could in our Cuban heels, tighttight slacks, sleeveless shirts or T-shirts, & our hair was slicked back into a wonderful Pompadour w/ an effective DA at the top of the nape. Some smoked cigarettes, some chewed tobacco, some chewed gum–all of us were hassled by the cops relentlessly.
Today I feel like going back to my hometown & wacking some of those cops w/ my four point walker.
Get ready for the library personnel to deny everything.


Frank Gormlie February 13, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Ditto, although I don’t want to take anything out on the library staff. We all know they’ve been political footballs over these last few years.

Okay, at least 3 of us are down for a “read-in” on the lawn. Stay tuned, you subversive grass readers you. You know who you are.


gristmiller February 13, 2014 at 7:25 pm

I am in!


Brian February 13, 2014 at 11:39 pm

Just say when!


Denine February 14, 2014 at 2:28 am

I’m in!


obracer February 15, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Ready to read !


Bearded OBcean February 14, 2014 at 9:53 am

Great brown shirt reference. Unfortunately, you have no idea what you’re talking about.


UnwashEDWalmartThONG February 14, 2014 at 6:55 pm

Sometimes a joke is just a joke.


Goatskull February 14, 2014 at 10:48 am

“Remember, uniforms mean right wing,”

Hmm. That explains my life long fear of postal delivery guys/gals and even beach lifeguards.


Frank Gormlie February 14, 2014 at 11:21 am

My partner just had to start wearing a uniform at her pipe plant. She’s still not a red-neck in East County.


Goatskull February 14, 2014 at 12:27 pm

I actaully had to wear one for 20 years and as far as I know I’m not a red neck.


Goatskull February 14, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Though I had been to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert back when I was in high school.


OBJamie February 13, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Sorry to read about your experience.

Unfortunately, it rang all to clear to me. Without dragging the whole story up (its on here somewhere), the owner of Dreamgirls Boutique went on an insane yelling, pounding, swearing, and cursing tirade against my friend and I, for standing in front of her business, eating onion rings, at 10pm on a Wednesday night in 2009 or so. I was dressed NATTILY in about $250 worth of designer threads…yet that did not stop her from calling me a homeless piece of shit. I had never been treated like that in my life, I am sure you felt as bad as I did that night. I am down with whatever non-violent protest you want to do.


Will Falk February 13, 2014 at 4:53 pm

I’m with Judi. I can’t even laugh. I just want to cry.


doug porter February 13, 2014 at 5:14 pm

I love the read-in idea.


dangents February 13, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Brown is there right now(!!!) … I’m definitely in for a read-in, a lot of loitering, dangerous donnybrook’ing, or general haberdashery and the like.


UnwashEDWalmartThONG February 14, 2014 at 6:56 pm

A donnybrook I would enjoy. I’ll go get my cane.


Gail Powell February 13, 2014 at 7:17 pm

Sign me up for the lawn protest. This Library Hassle against Frank Gormlie is an affront to all the citizens of Ocean Beach. At least he wasn’t arrested like the shrubbery trimmer or the chalk artist although getting busted for sitting on the grass in front of a library sounds like something our current D.A. might just decide to arrest Frank on!


Anna Daniels February 13, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Time for some Whitman:
“I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.”

Let us loaf and invite our souls on the grass of the OB Library…. I assume that “loaf” means “loiter.” ;-)


judi curry February 13, 2014 at 10:50 pm

It’s been years since I was involved in a “sit-in”. Let’s set up a date.


Rick D. February 14, 2014 at 12:12 am

Geez, what unmitigated BS!! Isn’t our librarian familiar with that old saw, never pick a fight with someone (The Rag) that buys ink by the barrel! Not such good P.R., I’d say. Sounds like an apology to Frank is in order! Maybe this Mr. Brown could use a little re-education, O.B.-style, hmmmm?


michael-leonard February 14, 2014 at 7:34 am

Sounds to me like another case of private security guards over-goose-stepping their authority. And the library staff apparently supporting them really sucks.


Zach on the side February 14, 2014 at 8:09 am

It’s the little things that indicate the big things. The police state has established a beach head at the library lawn! Next books, magazines and newspapers will be outlawed for inciting deviance! Put down your coffee mug and hand over your last shred of diginity!


Tyler February 14, 2014 at 8:31 am

We don’t live in a Police State. I have relatives that did, and they would laugh at the notion.


Goatskull February 14, 2014 at 1:32 pm

We’re talking about a low rent security guard. Police state is a bit melodramatic don’t ya think? Also read what Tyler said below.


Tyler February 14, 2014 at 8:34 am

I don’t think a “read-in” is necessary. While what transpired was ridiculous, I think simple correspondence with the library via email asking for clarification on rules and why Frank was treated the way he was is enough. No need to exacerbate the situation over something relatively minor. I’m sure we’ve all had those incredulous moments in OB with a store/home owner, etc…. sometimes it’s better to just take the high road rather than drag it out.


UnwashEDWalmartThONG February 15, 2014 at 6:53 pm

Dang nice guy logic. I was ready for a donnybrook.


Frank Gormlie February 14, 2014 at 9:29 am

Please see UPDATE posted today Fri. Area Mgr calls to apologize to me. So, the “Read-in” is off so, how about a campaign for at least 1 bench in front of the library?


Judy Swink February 14, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Frank – I’m sure I could come up with a dollar or two for the bench. Get one with a back. And make sure it’s the kind with “bucket seats” so Security and the branch manager will have less fear of someone lying down to nap.


UnwashEDWalmartThONG February 15, 2014 at 4:57 pm

On a good day w/ a tail wind I can bench about 175, so I’d be up for a bench.


Ro February 14, 2014 at 1:18 pm

What I haven’t seen here is a call for firing Mr. Brown who seems to have let being a security guard go to his head. He should be reinstructed as to his duties. That he obviously lied about seeing Mr. Gormlie with a beer can, should be investigated. He sounds a bit too big for his britches and should be brought back in rein.


Sarah February 14, 2014 at 1:30 pm

I agree, Ro. A lie is a lie. Unless Frank really WAS drinking beer from a coffee cup. :)


want2surf February 14, 2014 at 5:12 pm

these days, a request that he undergo counseling, sensitivity training and a probationary period to “correct” his behavior seems an easy ask.
Or just tell him to stop being a DB!


UnwashEDWalmartThONG February 14, 2014 at 7:29 pm

I like the “too big for his britches” line. I tend to go right for the attack to the jugular & the uniforms & the guns— Hey, does Mr. Brown carry a sidearm? I’m hoping the subcontractor for the security positions has not required that position to be an armed guard position.
Where do the C students go? Either into security or politics!


OBJAMIE February 14, 2014 at 1:32 pm

If this was not Frank G., where would we be?

If this was just a person of non-permanent housing status, where would this issue be?

We would be nowhere, no outrage, no bench, no nothing. Just another day at the OB office.


Sarah February 14, 2014 at 1:32 pm

OK, a “read-a-thon” on the grass in front of the library, all proceeds to go for a bench. Maybe we can go for a World Record of “most pages read aloud in 24 hours”… something like that.


Goatskull February 14, 2014 at 1:34 pm

OB Library should hire this guy instead of a security guard.


SaneVoice February 14, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Methinks the security guard has been watching “Gran Torino” a few times too many


J. Stone February 15, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Longtime reader, & friend of Frank, this is one of the stupidest outrageous episodes I can remember! It’s so stupid it’s almost funny. Here’s a person that work his ass off to make this community a better place for all of us, imagine how many homeless / travelers face this kind of harassment on a daily basis? We may not live in a police state yet, but time will tell. When’s the last time a single ” person of interest” needed a fuckin’ army of police, with military weapons, & armored personal carriers mounted with machine guns, to show up so they could talk to him/her? And how many end up dead, because the police had no other choice? Go ask some people of color if they think they live in a police state. Rant over.


UnwashEDWalmartThONG February 15, 2014 at 6:57 pm

You have lovely typing.


dangentsOB February 20, 2014 at 11:10 am

I hadn’t seen the update, but I read two chapters of A Song of Ice and Fire in front of the library yesterday and was only checked on (that I was aware of) once by Herr Brown.

Nice to see the local librarians lurking about; love yas, and keep on fighting that good fight [which is to say, do not go quietly into the night] as the library remains standing testimony to the fact that current intellectual property law & practices are a modern deviation, not normal human state of affairs. Smash on ’em.


aggona March 9, 2014 at 9:45 am

I walked up the front to the library yesterday, and felt eyeballed by this security man. He followed me into the library, to the back “community” bulletin board, where he told me I was not allowed to hang a flyer. When I went to counter, the lady told me that since the flyer sold tickets, regardless that it was indeed a non-profit organization (Roller Derby) that I was no allowed to hang the flyer.

Here we go again, I have been going to this library for 14 years, my daughter went her entire career to OBE and we have been very VERY active in our community. Now, I feel like some sort of bad person for wanting to hang a flyer for a sport? The man made me feel so bad, like some sort of guilty teenager who was destroying private property or something. I would like to see the where the law states that we are not able to hang flyers on community boards.

If there is a “Read In” .. count me in!


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