OB Town Council Airs Complaints About People Living in Vans and Homeless, OB Pier Trailer to Be Removed

by on March 29, 2019 · 2 comments

in Ocean Beach

There was tension in the air at Wednesday nights Ocean Beach Town Council meeting as a couple dozen people apparently had attended to voice complains about people living in vans in their neighborhoods and the homeless in general.

But cooler heads prevailed as Mark Winkie, the OBTC president, commiserated with those upset while trying to guide their frustration into action and two police officers calmed matters by explaining current laws, police procedures, the homeless outreach team and how residents can report incidents. At least 60 people crowded in the Masonic Center’s meeting room.

It was also announced that the police trailer in the OB Pier parking lot would be removed.

The Police HOT “Team”

After the usual reports, Winkie – who celebrated his 60th birthday that day – deftly maneuvered any questions or complaints from audience members about vans and homeless to the main topic for the evening, a presentation by police of the Homeless Outreach Team.

Winkie introduced Lt. Carmelin Rivera, who supervises the eight outreach teams – which the SDPD has recently centralized. He explained the 3 elements under his supervision: One, there’s HOT – the homeless outreach teams – who don’t make arrests or offer services but go with people who do offer services; two – there’s the enforcement teams, focused locally mainly on OB, the Rosecrans area and the Sports Arena area. Third, there’s the community policing element, crucial, he said, to the overall operation, as it deals with the contracts with private security firms.

Lt. Rivera blurted out, “It’s not illegal to be homeless.” He had been present as several audience members complained about the van life on their streets, the pan-handlers on Newport, and there seems to be more homeless “than ever before.” Rivera wanted to command the narrative for the evening. With help from Winkie and Community Relations Officer David Surwilo, Rivera was able to temper the tension and be the voice of not only authority but of common sense.

Rivera explained that Western Division – the police division OB and Point Loma are in – has two enforcement teams. He advised the audience that “citizen complaints drive police enforcement” and they ought to use the city’s “Get-It-Done” app. The HOT teams are very unique, he said, they’re the conduit for outreach and homeless services. They try to guide homeless folks into the dozens of service providers and beds available.

“Three of my officers were homeless themselves,” Rivera stated, so they know what it’s all about. Their goal is to get people moving, but sadly many don’t accept the services. He opened the floor up to questions.

One gentleman offered that he had heard “the biggest cause of homeless is drugs,” and asked how police deal with that issue. Rivera responded that he hears that at community meetings, but he believed people labeled homeless people into one type, and there’s different strata of homeless.

Denny Knox of OB Mainstreet queried Rivera on the Get-it-done app and whether if used does it generate an incident report or stats for funding. Rivera assured her it did.

Rivera spoke of a model network in City Heights which his teams have been part of – the Mid-City Coalition and represented it would be a good model for OBceans to follow. He said their efforts of gotten rid of homeless encampments in City Heights canyons.

He also declared, “There’s no homeless encampments in the San Diego River bottom,” to a scattering of applause.\

Police Community Relations

Earlier in the evening, Officer Dave Surwilo had given his report, and announced his partner Ricardo Piñon – who has been in the Western Division for 7 years – was being reassigned to headquarters to work in a new gang intervention unit.

Also the summer’s Beach Team was being pulled together and would be all up to speed by mid-May.

Surwilo also announced the trailer was to be removed from the OB Pier parking lot. Denny Knox of OBMA confirmed this and explained that after 19 years, it wasn’t cost-effective any more. Police officers had used it more in the past and now the trailer was falling apart. Both she and Surwilo explained police could bring in canopies, quads and other police vehicles if they needed the space. Years ago, some OB activists pressured the city and merchants to get rid of the trailer but met with stiff resistance.

Surwilo fielded a complaint from a woman in the audience who said she was an attorney but she claimed, “tickets aren’t being written, no one is being arrested” as in the old days. Surwilo countered this is just not true – police are making arrests, but things have changed. Surwilo then ticked off a number of factors and changes in the law that has decreased the number of people going to prison: the reforms to the 3-strikes law, the jails are crowded, the marijuana law has changed – and now heroin and meth possession are misdemeanors. “Not as many people are going to jail,” he said.

Surwilo also noted how San Diego police are an estimated 250 officers short; “we’re restricted with limited resources,” he said.

On the overturning of the ban on living in vehicles, Surwilo reminded everyone the mayor and city council are writing a new ordinance that wouldn’t allow people to live on residential streets inside their vans.  He then cautioned everyone to keep valuables out of sight in their own vehicles and how even though it’s now warm, lock up windows when leaving the house.

Other News & Issues

Mike from OB Hardware

OB Hardware – Mike, one of the new owners of OB Hardware stood in front of everyone and explained some of the new changes to the 100-year old business. They’re changing the name to “OB Hardware” – “everyone calls it that anyhow,” he said. Technically it used to be the OB Hardware and Paint Store. “The first month was awesome,” he said and he urged everyone to continue to support them.

In terms of changes, Mike said, “We’re keeping paint,” and the garden section is being expanded; they’ll carry organic soil and seeds. They’ve swung the register counter around and opened up the large front windows; they plan to have a wood-working section and a section on brewing. And currently they have an upright piano in the store.

OB Library Events – see accompanying post

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park – it was announced that on March 30, from 9 to 11 am, 40 native plants will be highlighted and showcased by park volunteers, to displayed south of Ladera Street.

“Nextdoor” Complaints – One woman said she was speaking for a lot bunch of people about the homeless on Newport, aggressive panhandlers; she had seen bong use, had been spit at. Chair Mark Winkie replied, “We’ve all seen the problems. It’s up to us to come up with solutions.” He urged her and others to contact the city, the Mayor’s office and the District 2 office for help.

“They’re getting more violent,” the woman countered, – and , “what else can we do?” to which Mark replied, “Report it. Always reach out [for help].”

OB Community Planning Board Meeting – Kevin Hastings, with his son Casey’s first visit to an OBTC meeting, announced the upcoming Board meeting on Wednesday, April 3, 6pm, at the OB Rec center. “We’re looking at a proposal to restrict adults without kids at children’s play areas.”

OB Woman’s Club – Susan Winkie spoke of the monthly meeting at the OB Woman’s Club, always the 2nd Tuesday of every month, from 5:30 to 7:30pm; there will be a presentation on OB History. Usually the Club serves a light meal during their meetings.

OB Mainstreet Association – Denny Knox told the audience the group has 524 members and they’re looking to publish their next OB business directory. She also said OB’s annual Street Fair is approaching – April 22 and they and their partners, the OBTC, are looking for volunteers.

OBTC Bank: the Town Council has $26,208 in the bank, said treasurer Corey Bruins.

Lifeguards – Joe said the OB Pier is still closed, and that it has fissures and cracks under the waterline; the city plans to open it on Memorial Day weekend, May 27. Lifeguards, he said, made 11 water rescues and 6 cliff calls in January. Joe also confirmed there’s been a spike in stingrays at the beach, and they’re mainly around the pier and the jetty.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Tyler March 31, 2019 at 7:00 am

“There’s no homeless encampments in the San Diego River bottom,” to a scattering of applause

Well that’s some bullshit if I’ve ever heard it. There’s 2-3 along the rocks just between the back path entrances to Dog Beach and the baseball fields.

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Avatar ZZ April 1, 2019 at 1:14 pm

Tyler, that is just a small part of it. There is a small wooded park you go through along the river bike path with at least a dozen people set up with tents. If I weren’t a large young male, I would feel pretty unsafe on the river path, especially at night. I’ve also seen deranged looking people hanging out where the path goes under bridges just staring at the people on bikes and jogging as they go by.

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