Reader Rant: Have Progressives Given Up on Ocean Beach ?

by on January 27, 2015 · 15 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Environment, History, Ocean Beach, Organizing, Politics, Reader Rant

OB starbucks protest banner

Anti-Starbucks protest, circa 2001.

  Editor: The OB Rag received this interesting anonymous rant about OB progressives via an unapproved comment at the OB Rag in a fake email address. We’re posting it as a “Reader Rant” as our readers may  find it of interest.  The email by “anon” does end by asking OBcean lefties to attend the upcoming Ocean Beach Town Council monthly meeting on Jan 28; It’s at 7pm at the Masonic Center on Sunset Cliffs. We couldn’t agree more with this part of the rant.

Have Progressives Given Up on OB ?

Psst! Don’t tell the government. Don’t tell the right-wing. But progressives, radicals, socialists, anarchists, leftists … whatever you want to call them – they’ve given up on Ocean Beach.

Oh sure, there’s lots of great individuals with the different groups in OB, like the Town Council, the Planning Board, the OB Historical Society, Friends of the OB Library. There’s Gormlie and the Rag, there’s Colleen at the Green Store (all of whom I support), and there’s a small group of Amnesty International – … but that’s it.

In none of the groups I just mentioned (excluding Rag and Green Store) there’s really no progressives working within them. I mean real progressives, real radicals, with clear left politics, trying to do good things for OB but also helping to educate and mobilize other members. There’s lots of nice people, liberals, social-democrats, progressive-minded people even in these groups. But they’re not grassroots activists with clear progressive agendas. There’s no more OBGO, there’s no more “Save OB Committee”.

I know. I’ve done a quiet, personal survey over the past few months of these groups. I can confirm all that I have just stated.

OB starbucks protest corner

Starbucks protest, 2001.

I am not cynical. There’s lots of reasons people don’t get involved in the nitty-gritty politics of the community, more than just voting and sending money occasionally.

But you know OB has a long and strong history of leftwing and progressive and feminist grassroots politics. Okay, so all the radicals from the 60s/70s are retired … so what! Retired people who are radicals are just as good as young radicals. Get yourself off the couch and hook into the community. Do you remember how good it feels to be doing good, political stuff! It feels great – and it energizes. Get your grown kids involved.

You know we have to speak truth to power. And OB is a great place to do that.

Get involved. Come out to the Jan 28 meeting of the OB Town Council and give Lori Zapf your gripes.

And do more … join one of these groups – or start your own; help OB, keep peace and love alive in OB –

– anon.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Seth January 27, 2015 at 12:31 pm

I kinda always felt this way. Not necessarily good or bad. Has more to do with the society at large, I think, and how values have shifted from the 60s and 70s to now.

With that said, I think the basic nature of being progressive has adapted. Look at the FAR fight. You could accurately refer to the OBPB as being more left-leaning technocratic rather than as being progressive activists, but that’s kind of slippery. Talking about a (successful) grassroots effort to activate the community on this kind of arcane policy argument. I think it took both a well-crafted technical argument and the torches and pitchforks to get traction on that, and good on everyone who participated in that.

I also know that when I served on the board, I sometimes felt a lot of apathy out there. Hard to convince the decision-makers that the community is dead-set against a certain issue with only three people in the room. It’s a largely younger, and transient population in OB who just aren’t as politically-oriented as in times past. For many, their brand of activism might not extend beyond attending a Surfrider cleanup or using a red equal sign as a Facebook profile picture to show their support of LGBT rights. Both awesome and effective things to do, btw. But show up at some boring community meeting or stand on a corner with a protest sign? Maybe not so much.


Frank Gormlie January 27, 2015 at 1:09 pm

I have noticed that when progressives are quiet, conservatives and conservative issues dominate the public narrative.


mjt January 27, 2015 at 1:34 pm

The right, wing nuts are angry. They want blood. The police in my opinion are stepping over the line, time after time.
Check out the website of the Staten Island newspaper,
I guess I am paranoid, but man martial law seems around the corner. Staten Island, the place where Eric Garner was choked to death by the police is a strong hold of police , fireman and all NYC workers.
When these people say Liberal, or Progressive the venom oozes from their lips.

9/11 certainly contributed to this mindset. 343 fireman and about 1oo police died when those buildings came down. It was certainly a tragedy. Streets all over the Island bear names of the 9/11 dead.

Staten Island is a Republican stronghold in mostly Democratic NYC.
When I was a kid in the 1950’s I remember a sign on some ones house reading,
John Birch Society. The Koch bros father was a founder of the JBS.

The hatred that clouds the dialogue is disheartening.


Tyler January 27, 2015 at 2:26 pm

We just got the precise plan updated… seems like progressivism is still plenty alive.


Frank Gormlie January 27, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Very good point.


Marc Snelling January 28, 2015 at 10:34 am

Right but when did that process start? The OB Action Plan was out in the late 90s and the Precise Plan Update process started soon after – back in the time these Starbucks protest pictures are from. Its great so many people came out to support the plan in recent years, but the energy that got that ball rolling is nearly two decades old. OB has become much less affordable in that time. It has eroded as a beach town and been built up as a tourist destination. Many of the ‘progressives’ from the Starbucks protest days did give up on OB. Some moved to other parts of San Diego, some to other California cities, some to other countries. OB values got exported. If OB is an attitude and not an address, then there are little pieces of OB all over the world.


Scott January 27, 2015 at 4:26 pm

The precise plan is great and lots of people worked really hard to get it done and they should be thanked, but I would not use that as an example of a successfully progressive document. Instead it was created, by design, with consensus in mind and really doesn’t have a lot of “teeth” when it comes to the really difficult issues. It’s unfortunate but it was a difficult fight just to get the thing approved as is; the overall fight thus overshadowed a lot of the important little issues hidden within (e.g. specific wording stating OB was against commercial advertisements on public structures was changed by the city at the last minute and had to be sacrificed for the “greater good” of getting the entire document passed).


Liveinob January 27, 2015 at 5:56 pm

Why don’t people just start being nice to each other?! Start saying Hello to people you see on the street, Smile when you greet your neighbors. Start Volunteering! I’ve proudly served on the OB Town Council and the Ocean Beach Planning Board, & in April I will have called OB my home for 14 years! The changes I’ve seen are disheartening, I’ll share one experience just last week, my Neighbor and I were taking a walk on the beach and decided to walk the pier, when we got to the boardwalk, in front of the Police trailer there were 3 separate groups of people. All of them took over the wall and the sidewalk where no one could pass, I got as far as the first group and we decided to walk through the parking lot , a young couple had parked there car and the man said, lets walk the pier, the woman said she felt scared and they got back in thier car and left Ocean Beach,
The smell of pot was everywhere!! I felt very sad.
Which brings me back to this topic, we can’t stop all the changes coming to OB, but if we start talking to each other… And Saying Hello and Smiling at each other
& for God’s sake, share the sidewalks!!!! Shout out to Seth! You were Great for the OB community, I hope you’re sharing those strengths with your new community!


obracer January 28, 2015 at 7:38 am

” in front of the Police trailer there were 3 separate groups of people. All of them took over the wall and the sidewalk where no one could pass, I got as far as the first group and we decided to walk through the parking lot ”





Vince Adame


denine January 27, 2015 at 10:16 pm

I have been living in OB for nearly six years now. Yep, I’m a progressive leftist through and through. Although we happily live a simple life nestled among our friendly neighbors deep within the ‘war zone’, the workaday world can suck a lot of time from us. It just ain’t cheap to live in OB, despite the simple lifestyle we have chosen.

Day to day we can easily be good neighbors, to those who are housed and those who are not. Day to day we can pick up trash, say ‘hello in there’, volunteer, share a human kindness… essentially live and breathe the spirit of OB. Nope, not giving up, not for one minute. Can we join every protest? Shout through a bull horn? Be active participants in every progressive community group… unfortunately no but this doesn’t mean we give up.

Whew’, with all that said (written), I don’t have to work on Wednesday and hope to attend the Town Council Meeting. (I am a long standing member even though I can’t attend many meetings).

I love OB and plan to live out the rest of my life here.


rick January 28, 2015 at 10:04 am

A John Prine reference. Princeless!


Ponch January 28, 2015 at 11:26 am

If Obama were a republican you’d see progressive activism on the streets of OB but since he’s a fellow traveler all we have is the sound of silence.


Frank Gormlie January 28, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Ponch, a similar thing happened with Clinton was elected; donations to environmental groups fell off by a third, for example.


John February 3, 2015 at 1:15 am

Thus proving hate is a far greater motivator and joiner of masses wanting change than a shared desire for change for the betterment of all.
More often than not the only way to bring one party out and voice concern on issue is if they can blame the other party for it. If the blame falls even partly on their guy they turn a blind eye.
Assuming truth behind this we can posit a reason for the current perceived malaise may just be that the leaders that were promoted as the solution just became more of the same problem (albeit less obvious or candidly so. nobody could confuse obama with bush but did anything really change?) and accountability is beyond those who supported them.
They will simply wait until the cycle completes, the pendulum swings back and the other sides guy is a convenient bogeyman. This is as its alway been and shall be and why neither party will see a lock on power, ever.
I laughed out loud when I heard talk of the death of the Republican party. How silly. Then its opponents would have to live up to their rhetoric and promises with no one to pass off the blame to every election cycle or two.
Had Romney won in 2012 this article would not exist.


nostalgic January 31, 2015 at 5:53 pm

Oh, Anon… you were looking in the wrong place. The progressive aren’t out demonstrating with bull-horns and signs. They aren’t the meetings, although they sometimes go. Where are they? They are right here! They are the people that are UNWASHEDwallmartTHONG, Geoff Page, Jan, OB Mercy, OB Dude and Susan Peinado, just to name a few. A blog is the demonstration of today. They are sometimes at the San Diego Reader (but NEVER the Voice of San Diego). So if you are looking for them, you found them. Now you are one of them.


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