City Snubs Ocean Beach Town Council

by on March 3, 2016 · 5 comments

in Culture, History, Media, Ocean Beach, Politics, San Diego

OB Flooded 1-6-16 Byron 04

Newport and Bacon, Jan. 16, 2016, by Byron Morton.

Troubling Trend Continues When City Departments Fail to Show at OBTC Meeting

We have to call it the way we see it. It appears that the City has once again snubbed Ocean Beach.

Point in fact: No one, not one soul, from the City’s Department of Transportation and Storm Water nor from the City department that repairs street lights, nor from the City’s PR department showed up at the most recent OB Town Council meeting to debrief the community on what was going on.

These folks – these representatives of the City’s bureaucracy and departments that serve the public – had been invited by the Town Council to discuss with Ocean Beach their measures to prevent future flooding and their schedule to repair broken streetlights.

We all know how badly OB was hit with the January storms. It very well could be, in fact, that Ocean Beach was the most impacted community in San Diego by those rains and the concurrent flooding. San Diego had other bad flooded areas, of course, but OB was the most flooded neighborhood.

Plus there’s been a string of streetlights along Abbott Street out for months, raising safety and infrastructure inefficiency concerns.

So, why shouldn’t the villagers be seriously interested in what the City had in mind to deal with the next rains and storms – scheduled I believe for this weekend – ? And why shouldn’t locals be curious when the streetlights on a major street will be on again?

But no one showed up to tell us.

Sure, ol’ Conrad Wear of Councilwoman Zapf’s office was on hand, and he had supposedly been briefed on the situations, and he tried to inform the people in the audience at the February 24th meeting at the Masonic Center. But by time he had flipped through his notes to answer one question, it was obvious that he had been set up – in a way – as the fall guy. It was too much for him to handle, it was too much for him to have to answer for.

And of course the usual representatives of the city facilities that are in Ocean Beach were on hand and did give their reports. The Police Department, the Firefighters, the Lifeguards all have their guys, and Matt Beatty showed up with lots of news for the OB Library, and Principal Marco Drapeau showed up with stuff about OB Elementary.

But no one was there from the storm water department. No one was there from the streetlight repair department. And no one was there from the PR department.

Gretchen Newsom, the president of the OBTC, told me that the City departments had been given invites 2 weeks before the meeting. She had tried to contact Bill Harris, supervisor of the City’s public information office for confirmations. Two days before the Town Council meeting, Harris contacted Newsom to inform her no one could make it.

I decided to follow up on this. On Monday, Feb. 29th, I left a message for Bill Harris at his department. No response. I called him again on Wednesday – and spoke to him.

I asked him why no one showed up to a meeting of the community that was most impacted by the storms and rains.

He said:

“Conflict of schedules. No one was available at that time.”

When I pressed him on it, he repeated himself, and added:

“We provided written material.”

It was true. There had been handouts at the OBTC meeting from the Storm Water Department. But, again, they were totally inadequate to reassure a community that had been hard hit.

This snub by those City departments who serve the neighborhoods, follows a troubling trend that close observers have noted over the years: the City bypasses Ocean Beach groups, their meetings and their representatives.

City departments with infrastructure issues and fixes routinely avoid the OB Planning Board. This writer has watched that happen for many years.

It happened when the City wanted to take down a healthy Torrey Pine on Longbranch, but residents stopped it. The City hadn’t taken it to the OB Planners. This also just happened again with the removal of 2 large Torrey Pines on Saratoga. The Planning Board was not informed. Neither was the Town Council.

It happened with the police cameras. Even though they have yet to be installed, the cameras were thrust upon the vast majority of the community, with no discussion or debate.

Councilwoman Zapf also has gained a reputation of skipping out on OB meetings. This happened during the Primary campaign when she failed to show for a Town Council meeting, and it has recurred recently when she missed a community forum attended by over 50 people.

This trend, sadly, follows a pattern that can be traced back to the 1970s, at least, when there was a clear disdain for Ocean Beach by downtown. It used to be only tales of hippies and drugs, all negatively reported, that came out of OB. This still goes on.

Whether it’s todays mainstream media with alluring tales of violence and crime from Ocean Beach, or the media either intentionally or mistakenly misidentifying Point Loma for OB (as just occurred when transients set fire to some brush; it was identified as OB, but actually was in Point Loma), there is a certain prejudice towards Ocean Beach and its residents within the media that has been kept alive for decades.

Violence sells, we all know that. It’s more exciting to report about an armed shakedown in OB then report that it was from Point Loma (where it actually happened).

And because OB is usually overwhelmingly liberal in terms of electoral issues, the more conservative and Republican politicians don’t spend much time here.

So, between the mainstream media and the politicos, OB gets dissed, and ignored, and avoided.

But that’s no excuse for the bureaucracy or for those departments that are supposed to fix the infrastructure problems. Afterall, there’s no such thing as a Democratic streetlamp or a Republican stormwater drain.

Harris, of the City, did tell the OB Rag that he would be happy to attend the next OB Town Council meeting. He’s just waiting for an invite, the poor guy.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Poppycock March 3, 2016 at 2:56 pm

Probably 75% of the businesses along Newport and Abbott had flood damage directly due to the inadequate storm drains. This is ridiculous for them to have to close shop and repair flood damage and replace merchandise every time a moderate storm hits? The last storm dropped 1/2″ per hour of rain at its peak… This is wayyyy less than San Diego’s historical (100-yr) peak rainfall of 1.5″ per hour, or the city’s 3.2″ per hour requirement that storm water systems have to be designed for. God help us if that ever happens.

Maybe if the businesses (and VEER) band together and sue the city they’ll get a working system. Also, almost all the streetlights on Abbott are finally repaired, but coincidentally not until the streets division was embarrassed on the evening news. Thank you Fox 5. But will the circuitry be damaged in the next storm when they are all underwater again? It’s throwing good money after bad.


John O. March 3, 2016 at 3:33 pm

That is pretty lame. Keep squeaking… cause as the saying goes…


CliffHanger March 3, 2016 at 5:02 pm

Sarah Boot would be representing our neighborhood.


RogueFive March 4, 2016 at 1:18 pm

Zapf learned her ways from Faulconer. He never cared enough about OB to show up at council meetings either


Groucho March 5, 2016 at 9:07 pm

For the record…the photo was taken on Wednesday January 6th, 2016


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