Ocean Beach Town Council Seeks Compromise With San Diego U-T Over Their Ad Circulars

by on May 29, 2015 · 3 comments

in Culture, Environment, History, Media, Ocean Beach

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe OB Town Council, led by its president Gretchen Newsom, sought to find a compromise at their meeting on Wednesday over the San Diego Union-Tribune‘s mass distribution of the newspaper’s ad circulars throughout the community.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s been a small movement in OB of late to get the plastic-bagged circulars banned from Ocean Beach – due in large part to the willy-nilly way it which they’re distributed – where many end up in gutters, in streets and on sidewalks- and then in trash cans.

Supporters of the ban, led by OB resident Mary Tolena, had galvanized the Town Council to hold a debate of sorts over the issue, some of whom were in the audience. U-T representatives were present at the meeting as well.

After a discussion over the debacle and possible solutions, Newsom seemingly forged a compromise between residents and the newspaper (just recently purchased by the LA Times owner), and came up with a resolution of the problem with 3 components:

  1. Get rid of the plastic wrapping or bag – they are not recyclable – and immensely add to the litter problem;
  2. Enhance, improve or enlarge the “opt-out” program, where residents may call or go online and cancel any distribution of the ad circulars to their residence.
  3. Tighter distribution – where they are not distributed willy-nilly.

OB resident Mary Tolena gives her presentation for banning the circulars.

Newsom asked for a show of hands among audience members for approval and most people indicated their okay of the compromise.

In reality, the success of the compromise depends on whether the newspaper bends to the community’s will and reforms their local distribution, or simply in effect ignores the resolution.

Mary Tolena had showed up with an aisle and sketchboard and gave her presentation to the near 70 audience members inside the Masonic Center on May 27th.

Tolena explained how her grumbling about the circulars turned into picking them up by the dozens for blocks around her house, beginning a facebook page on the issue and holding a survey via that facebook.

Her results? She had 287 respondents and the numbers broke down:

  • 4% said they read and appreciated the circulars;
  • 7.5% said they ignored them;
  • 30% said they are annoyed by them;
  • and 58.5% said they are angry.

San Diego U-T reps: Robert York on left; unidentified man on right.

Tolena began looking elsewhere and realized it wasn’t just an OB problem, as she found that other communities had the same problem and had attempted to limit their distribution, places like PB, La Mesa, Encinitas, UTC, South Bay.  She plotted the audience through a breakdown of who benefits from the ads, and concluded that nobody does, as the circulars are ignored by most and upset others who won’t utilize the businesses who advertise in them.

Toena pleaded, “please U-T, stop this litter.”

On the U-T side of the debate, their rep Robert York took the floor and explained that they want “to listen and look at all sides”.  He said:

“Not everyone thinks of it as litter.  Litter is in the eye of the beholder.”

York described how there’s other information besides advertisements in the circulars, that some non-profits and community groups want. He said that their distribution is organized by area codes, and in the 92107 area, they distribute 10,000 circulars.

This was a small bombshell.  Newsom spoke up and responded that she had been told that they only throw between 400 and 500 around OB. York corrected her and drew a distinction between OB and the 92107 area. Tolena jumped in and estimated that equates to 2500 pounds of trash that the system has to deal with in the neighborhood.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe City had earlier told Newsom through their Environmental Services department that the circulars did not violate any waste ordinances and that technically they are not “litter” as they are produced by a business.

Roger Kube of Surfrider advocated that the newspaper enact an “opt-in” process, not an “opt-out” one and distribute the ads via the postal service. That didn’t go over very well with the SD U-T reps.

A couple of the audience members defended the circulars, but they were decidedly in the minority. One audience member complained that she had called a year ago to opt-out and still receives the ads. York reiterated that when one calls to opt-0ut, it takes a week and half usually.

Others proposed a community-wide ban, that the circulars be distributed like The Reader – in piles where people can pick them up, that the guys who throw them be managed more closely, that the plastic be discarded – as we don’t get that much rain.

Finally, Newsom brought the discussion to a close and fashioned the compromise.

And only time will demonstrate whether the “new” San Diego Union-Tribune has listened to the community on this issue.

Other News

 “Mallow-Out” Campaign – The OBTC is revving up their “Mallow-out” campaign for July 4th, again to get the word out and heavily discourage any reappearance of the infamous and destructive marshmallows of yesteryear.

 CVS is generally “in compliance” Newsom told the crowd after being questioned by this reporter about the OB-CVS community benefits agreement. She said she’d post the CVS response on the OBTC website.

Renaming OB Skate Park – audience member Mike Ryan raised the issue and informed the meeting that city regulations on park names are fairly restrictive, that usually they are named after individuals who have contributed to the local community where the park is located. He has attempted to get Tony Hawk involved, and stated that perhaps the grieving family who wish to have it renamed ought to look into obtaining a memorial bench.

 Other news from the OBTC meeting of 5/27/15 will be covered in a News Update over the weekend.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

rick callejon May 29, 2015 at 12:37 pm

“Litter is in the eye of the beholder.” perverse poppycock


bob dorn June 1, 2015 at 10:18 am

And… how ’bout the Dept. of Environmental Services that the fliers aren’t litter because they’re produced by a business.


Don Johnson July 9, 2015 at 1:38 pm

I suppose since nobody reads the U-T anymore they had to do something to keep their printers busy.

There is no excuse not to use 100% recyclable materials. OB would be wise to pass a local ordinance requiring all mailings to be wrapped in aluminum. This way the homeless population will have motivation to collect any loose scraps as salvage income, and the litter problem will resolve itself.


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