Midway Planners Cannot Directly Hire Private Security Firm

by on June 27, 2017 · 0 comments

in Ocean Beach

Private security patrol car in OB. Midway planners want to hire the same firm. Photo by Frank Gormlie

By Geoff Page

As seems to happen at almost every meeting of the Midway – Pacific Highway Community Planning Group, the topic of the homeless population came up again, twice, during the board’s regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, June 21, at the San Diego Community College’s West City Campus on Fordham Street.

New Police Detail for Midway

The first mention of the homeless issue came from the San Diego Police Department represented by Community Relations Officer David Surwilo and his partner Ricardo Pinon.  They announced that the SDPD has a new project in which six officers are now available specifically for calls in the Midway area and a Deputy City Attorney has been assigned to this group.

Surwilo emphasized that the SDPD was not targeting the homeless or any other group; they were there to respond to community requests for assistance.  It was clear that the effort was aimed at crime and misdemeanors that were being committed by the transient population.  Surwilo’s careful wording sounded like a legal defense if anyone comes down on the PD, like the ACLU, accusing them of targeting the homeless and violating their rights.  That the crimes and misdemeanors are largely committed by the homeless and transients is just a coincidence.

Surwilo told the board that the PD would respond to calls and encouraged people to call in with problems so they could act.  The project was very well received by the planning board and a suggestion of one board member was to have a town hall type of meeting to get the word out about this project.

Officer Pinon explained about something called a “letter of agency.”  This is a form a property owner can fill out and post with the city that allows the police to come on to private property to enforce the law without contacting the owner.  Officers can check a property address to see if there is a letter of agency on file, and if there is one, they can enter the property legally.  The letter of agency is good for one year.  (https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/legacy/police/pdf/letterofagency.pdf)

Private Security Firm

The second mention of the homeless issue was the chair’s report on the board’s plan to engage a private security firm in the area.  Members of the board made an effort to solicit bids for a security contract, interviewed the firms, and made a decision on the same security firm being used in OB today.  As reported previously about this project, the board had access to money from a defunct Midway Business Improvement District sitting in a city account they were told they could use for this purpose.

Despite having access to the money, the Midway board cannot sign a contract with a firm because the planning boards are not set up with any budgets and do not have the ability to handle anything more than a few operating expenses.  For this reason, the board went to the City to help with this and got a rude awakening.  The board was told the city would have to go through an RFP process – Request for Proposals – opening the contract up to public bidding.  This meant that all of the board’s previous efforts would be ignored.  It got worse.

The planning board had an agreement ready with the security firm and the scope of work included patrolling private as well as public property.  The city provided a draft RFP and it was limited to patrolling only public property.  When Midway planners objected and said they wanted private property included, the city adamantly refused.  The issue was obviously liability.  The chair said that without the private property component, the project was of little use to Midway and that they may scrap the idea.

The chair said there was some good information.  A deputy city attorney said they believed the board was given bad information and had some suggestions, among them talking to the Downtown Partnership.  She also said Officer Surwilo had another idea, using the money for SDPD overtime for more police patrols.  The issue is up in the air at the moment.

Affordable Housing at County Mental Health Center?

The chair had other news to report.  She said the County of San Diego is looking for places to put affordable housing and one of the possible sites was the mental health facility on Rosecrans near the freeway overpass.  The chair said having the mental health facility go away would be welcomed by the community.

Soccer City Pros and Cons

The Soccer City developers and the Public lands, Public vote people were there to do a presentation.  This same presentation took place at the Peninsula Community Planning Board meeting at its monthly meeting on June 15.  At the Peninsula meeting, the Soccer City developers were encouraging people to contact the city council to voice an opinion on the council’s planned vote Monday June 19.

At the time, the council had two choices, pass the Soccer City initiative by a council vote or vote to put the initiative on the ballot.  Soccer City wanted a special election but the voters passed Measure L last year.  Measure L requires citizen initiatives only appear in the November General Elections.  Soccer City is an initiative.  The next general election is in November 2018.  Public Land, Public Vote was for putting the initiative on the ballot.

But, by the time of the Midway meeting, city council had voted to put it on the ballot so it was not clear why both Soccer City and Public Land, Public Vote were still doing their planning board presentations.  Joe Lacava, representing Public Land, Public Vote had some thoughts on this when interviewed later by telephone.

Lacava said he believed the Soccer City people were in “campaign mode” still fighting for the special election.  He said he believed they planned to bring this back to city council for reconsideration despite the vote on June 19.  Lacava said Soccer City introduced a poll last week that showed that 60 to 70 percent of the public was “aware” of the Soccer City initiative.  He said he believed the developers planned to say that the poll results negated the argument that few people would show up for a special election, which was why Measure L was passed.  Measure L required initiatives only be placed on general election ballots because that was when the largest number of voters came out.

Lacava agreed that awareness is a broad term and did not mean that people were familiar with the details of the Soccer City proposal.  For example, Soccer City emphasizes that it does not require one penny of taxpayer money but there is a favorable lease deal for city land few people are aware of.  Lacava said he is still following Soccer City to its presentations so he can give the other side but he does not believe they plan to quit pushing for the special election despite the council vote to put it on next year’s general election.

New Parking Plaza at Airport and Flights to Europe

A few more bits of news came from the airport representative Peggy Cooper and Vicki White of the Planning Department.  Cooper announced that the new parking plaza being constructed in front of Terminal 2 will be open next summer.  Cooper also announced three new transatlantic flights, two to Germany and one to Switzerland. Lufthansa will fly non-stop to Frankfurt, Condor Airlines will also have a non-stop to Frankfurt, and Edelweiss will have flights to Zurich.

Comment Deadline Passed for Midway Community Plan

Vicki White mentioned that the draft Midway community plan was out and her main message seemed to be to let people know the time for making comments was over.  White said she has been receiving a number of requests for changes to the plan and she said it was very had to make changes now.  There was a long process that included public input that created the draft plan.  It seems these late comers are causing difficulties and White encouraged the board to let others know that requests for changes now are not really welcome.  White said they have made some minor accommodations but they cannot do so for all the late requests.


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