Report on OB Planning Meeting: Dog Beach Fencing, Parking Lot Limits, Del Monte Overlook, Ebers St. Park, Nimitz & W.Pt.Loma

by on October 9, 2020 · 20 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

The Ocean Beach Planning Board on-line meeting Wednesday, October 7, did not have any OB projects to discuss but did have five interesting action items for the community.

Fencing at Dog Beach

The first one they covered was the following, taken directly from the agenda:

“Action Item #1:  Ocean Beach Estuary Enhancement Project – The board will review a proposal from Parks and Rec. to improve the fencing of the estuary at the end of Dog Beach.”

The discussion that followed did not match the agenda description.  The agenda stated “to improve fencing.”  And, because it said “the end of Dog Beach,” it was assumed the estuary referred to was at the east end of the land area of Dog Beach where the river takes over.  There are no existing fences “to improve” in the area or on Dog Beach anywhere.

A more informative action item could have been written as: Action Item #1:  Proposal to Fence Off a Section of Dog Beach – Review of a proposal to permanently fence off a large area of Dog Beach to protect wildlife and endangered plants from dog encroachment.

During 40 years in OB, taking dogs to Dog Beach, this reporter knows that dog lovers who use Dog Beach are very protective of it because of past attempts to do away with it.  An agenda item, written more clearly like the suggestion above, might have caught the eye of some dog people and caused a few to attend. That did not happen as no one spoke up.  But, the meeting was well attended by members of the Audubon Society who clearly knew exactly what the item was about.

This is not to say that there was a deliberate attempt to slip one by, it is to illustrate that how an agenda item is written can have a definite effect on whose attention it gets. The way this was worded, it would hardly catch anyone’s attention.

The fencing PowerPoint proposal was presented by Parks and Recreation ranger Araceli Dominguez.  (The video of the meeting can be seen on the OBPB’s Facebook page.  The presentation starts 29:33 minutes into the video.)  It contains an overhead map that delineates five areas.

One map area is marked Dog Beach. It is shown as being north of the jetty, that borders the Dog Beach parking lot, to the channel where the river exits into the ocean.  It is also shown as being north of all the sand dunes, and ending when the dunes end.  After 40 years of walking dogs at Dog Beach, this looks like less than half the area this reporter thought was Dog Beach.  How this map was created will be researched.

The other areas marked out were Sand Dunes, Coastal Scrub, Smiley Lagoon, and Wetland. The Wetland piece was the largest section, considerably larger than the Dog Beach section and it includes Smiley’s Lagoon.  For orientation purposes, this is the small body of water along the north side of the bike path jetty adjacent to Robb Field and west past the far west playing field and dirt parking lot. The water broadens out into a small body that has the name Smiley’s Lagoon.  At the western end are two large storm drain outlets.

Dominguez cleared up the “fence” confusion.  The existing redwood posts with a rope between them is considered a fence.  This set up always looked simply to be the preferred path delineations, not a fence. The Ranger explained that the current fence was very old and was not effective at keeping people and dogs out of certain areas. It was never clear that the posts and ropes were intended to keep people out of those areas, much less dogs. If that was the intended function, someone should have sued the designer.

Then, viewers were treated to four pictures of dog crap to show that dog crap is on the ground in dog beach inside the existing fence. The slide had a textbox with the wording “Dog Feces” and “Water Quality Issues.”  The last one is notable.  Over the years, dog feces have been blamed for water quality issues by people who want to do away with Dog Beach or limit it.  There has never been any substantiation of this that this reporter has seen, but perhaps Parks and Rec has this information.

Dominguez described issues with transients that have been wrecking havoc with the dunes and coastal scrub areas camping out, damaging the environment, and leaving a mess. It was not explained how a fence was going to keep them out.

The ranger showed pictures of owners that had dogs running all over the place, which is what Dog Beach is for, and chasing birds.  The name “Dog” Beach has always meant, this little piece of the city was for dogs to be off leash and be dogs. The birds and the dogs seem to co-exist.  But, people who love birds do not agree.

The proposal is to put up “sand fencing” in a pathway pattern with three entrances off the bike path, two of those leading through the dunes. There is also a long east-west path that crosses the dunes to the channel at the east end. The design is intended to close off “redundant paths” “to increase the vegetation to make it more welcoming for wildlife.”

Redundant paths are natural paths that people have created over the years by their habits using the land.  What is redundant to one person is a better way to go to another. The design will cut down on personal choice and will funnel people into fewer lanes.  Considering that these existing “redundant” paths are usually only a few feet wide, it is not clear how much closing them will increase vegetation.

Dominguez showed an example of sand fencing.  It consisted of the same type of 4 x 4 treated posts that the old “fence” has, about 30 inches tall, with a thick rope between the posts. Behind that is a wire and wooden slat fence that would block dogs from leaving the path and supposedly people as well.

The pictures showed four rows of horizontal twisted wire with slats perhaps three inches wide slid vertically between the four rows of twisted wire.  Dominguez explained that the open nature of the fence would allow wildlife to pass through and not be trapped on one side.  This would have to be small wildlife.

The ranger also said that maintenance would be easy, if a slat broke, the old one could be pulled out an a new one inserted. After a career on construction, this actually looked like a maintenance nightmare to this reporter because it looked fragile and easy to break.  One person said it would be a great source of firewood for the transients that camp out in the dunes, after they step over the fence. It didn’t look bad.

The cost is estimated at $125,000 that they are hoping to get from the Wildlife Conservation Fund.  The work would be done by the Urban Corps of San Diego County directed by a contractor holding a California General Building Contractor B license.  It would take about a year to build.

The discussion that followed was completely favorable regarding the project, no objections were made. Considering that this project, when implemented, will considerably reduce what has always been part of Dog Beach, it would seem some of the Dog Beach lovers would have spoken up.  But, that didn’t happen because it is doubtful any of them knew about this.

The OBPB was very much in favor of the project and voted unanimously to support it.

Parking Lots

The next item of discussion was OB parking lots and suggestions of how to improve the problems people have been complaining about. One big problem is overnight camping in the lots.  Another is loud partying and fireworks.  Another was parking availability.

Everyone appeared to be in favor of closing the lots, especially the Dog Beach lot, with a physical barrier to enforce the parking at night.  It is illegal to park overnight in the lots but enforcement has been inadequate, so gates were suggested to do what the SDPD is not doing. The hours of 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. were decided on as reasonable.

There was a mixed reaction to a suggestion of restricting parking to four hours at a time.  The idea is that this frees up parking.  The OB Town Council conducted a poll recently on just that topic. The poll question was:

What is your opinion on implementing a time-limit restriction in our beach parking lots?

The parking lots under consideration are:

  • Pier Lot – 5099 Newport Ave.
  • Lifeguard Station Lot – 1962 Abbott St.
  • Dog Beach Lot – 5156W West Point Loma Blvd.

The poll provided these possible answers:

A. No changes should be made to the current parking regulations;
B. Introduce a 4 hour time limit (no cost) to the lots;
C. Introduce a 4 hour time limit in only the Pier and Lifeguard lots (no cost), but make no   changes to the Dog Beach lot;
D. Introduce a 6 hour time limit (no cost) to the lots;
E. Introduce a 6 hour time limit in only the Pier and Lifeguard lots (no cost), but make no changes to the Dog Beach lot;
F. Other (write-in)

The overwhelming favorite, 47.5% of the respondents, or 188 people, was introducing a 4-hour time limit at no cost.  The second highest number was 21.2%, or 84 people, who favored no changes at all.

The “Other (write-in)” category received 35 responses, all slightly different.

The OBTC presented its results to Councilmember Campbell and to San Diego Police Department Parking Enforcement.  The letter stressed that they received a large number of responses from people who wanted enforcement of current regulations as well as any new ones such as proposed in the letter.

The OBPB discussed paid parking in the lots and the favored idea was described as a hybrid.  A person wanting to park in a lot would pull a ticket and the first, say four hours, would be free but would cost after that.

There was also a discussion of bollards along the grassy areas that border the Dog Beach parking lot to prevent large vehicles, such as recreational vehicles, from backing into parking spots and overhanging the grass areas by several feet.

In the end, the board decided to ask the city to look at time limits, a gate closed from midnight to five a.m., a hybrid pay system, bollards, and like everyone else, enforcement.

Del Monte Overlook

Apparently, the city asked OB for an opinion about closing the Del Monte Street overlook. This location is outside of the OBPB boundary, which for some reason, the Peninsula Community Planning Board liaison, Mandy Havlik, felt compelled to point out. It is, however, a favorite spot for folks who live in OB.  It is assumed the city knows that and the OBPB boundary is only a block away, anyway.

This is a spot where Del Monte Ave. dead ends at a cliff where Del Monte Ave. and Guizot St. intersect.  It is a popular spot because of the view. The pavement ends and Del Monte continues below the steep drop off.  The spot affords an unobstructed view of OB and the ocean. It has always been a great place to watch the 4th of July fireworks.

Neighbors have complained about noise and partying and bad things happening at the overlook and the idea is that blocking it off to cars would help.  This would still allow people to park on the adjacent streets and walk to the overlook.

The board decided to recommend that the bollards presently at the location, the origin of which were unknown, be moved back 15 feet to keep cars out and the driveway easement on the south side be narrowed to 10 feet. There was a quick amendment to the motion to suggest the spot be considered a pocket park.  The motion barely passed with an 8 to 7 vote.

Ebers Street Park

The discussion was about improvements to the small park at Ebers and Saratoga.  The OBPB Parks subcommittee came up with a number of suggestions that were favorable to everyone.  These were:

  • Fencing the whole park in;
  • Building some shade structures;
  • Putting in recreation for older kids because it is currently designed as a “tot lot”;
  • A community garden;
  • A place to fill water bottles with drinking water, which would be more sanitary;
  • Solar lighting so the park can be enjoyed during the winter days;
  • A message board.

Fencing was the major concern, both to keep the little kids from running into the street and to protect those same little kids from possible predators.  Considering that this was designed as a lot for very little kids, it is surprising that it doesn’t have fencing.

Nimitz and West Point Loma

This item was on the OBPB’s consent agenda but was removed for discussion at the request of board member Kevin Hastings.  The issue is driving southbound on Nimitz and turning west on West Point Loma.  There is no right turn lane on Nimitz but there has always been enough room for cars to drive down the right side where the bike path is located.

Using the bike lane space as a right turn lane is illegal but is regularly ignored by everyone. This unintended use of the bike lane frustrates cyclists as well.  It is surprising that this has not been previously addressed as it has been a problem for decades.

One suggestion that made a great deal of sense was to move the bike path off of Nimitz and onto the adjacent, clearly unused land that borders the roadway to the west.  This large piece of land runs from West Point Loma north to the east end of Sunset Cliffs before entering the freeway.  This chunk of real estate varies in width but is more than wide enough to accommodate a bike path. This would be much safer for cyclists as well.

After some discussion in which everyone appeared to be of a same mind, the board passed a unanimous motion to ask the city to look at creating a dedicated right turn lane for cars and either a Class I or a Class IV bike lane.

A Class I bike lane is completely separate from traffic, which would be the type of facility if moved off off Nimitz as described.  These paths are shared with pedestrians and have a limited number of street and driveway crossings.

Caltrans defines a Class IV bike lane as a separated lane for the exclusive use of bicycles that requires separation between the bike lane and car traffic.   The separation has to be a physical barrier such as grade separation, flexible posts, inflexible physical barriers, or on-street parking.

The Class IV suggestion would be impossible without widening Nimitz, and, once again, there does appear to be room for that.  This alternative would be considerably more expensive and would take much longer.  The Class I idea is such an obvious solution, it should have been done years ago.

Board member Virginia Wilson shared knowledge of the City’s plans for the land where the Class I bike lane would go.  She said she had plans for the new landscaping the city is planning to put in on this same piece of land.  Wilson said the work is to begin in the spring, which added some urgency to having the bike idea looked at by the city.

 

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Tyler October 9, 2020 at 12:56 pm

Well shoot. My worry about what the “fencing” was turned out to be true. I would have certainly tried to make it had I known. My dog and I walk the back trail all summer when crowds are up. He very, very rarely goes off path. Most of the folks who take the back way are locals, from my experience doing it thousands of times at this point.

I also have to chuckle a bit at the water quality statement. Most surfers have known for a long time that it’s actually more likely the bird feces on the jetty (and what they leave behind in the lagoon) is a larger cause for concern.

Reply

Avatar Geoff Page October 9, 2020 at 1:57 pm

Tyler, I’ve sent an email to the park ranger to see if they have anything to substantiate the water quality issue claim, I’ll post what I find out.

My experience with my dogs mirrors yours. I’ve been yelled at from the bike path by bird people, one guy even called me nasty names, which was safe to do from 50 yards away.

Reply

Avatar kh October 9, 2020 at 3:49 pm

Geoff’s complaint about the dog beach issue is semantics at best.

There are currently trails through protected areas with signage saying as much, and ropes between posts. I have a hard time believing that anyone would honestly perceive this barrier as merely a suggestion. Do you step over the rope barriers at the slough? Or the airport? Yes the signage and barriers are inadequate, which is why it needs improvement. And yes, there is nothing on the dog beach side to redirect people around the dunes to the trails, that needs to be addressed as well, but was brought up by board members, that was not part of the presentation.

Reply

Avatar Geoff Page October 9, 2020 at 4:11 pm

kh. I’m not sure what you meant by your first sentence, what complaint was semantics at best? Did you mean what I wrote about the agenda item?

You said it yourself, kh, you called the existing stuff out there a rope barrier. That is not a fence. When I read about “improving” the fence out there in the agenda, nothing came to mind, I never considered what even you called a rope barrier to be the fence. If it had said replacing the rope barrier with a permanent fence, that would have been much more accurate.

You don’t think anyone believes the barrier as merely a suggestion? If that was the case, how do you explain all those redundant paths?

Do I step over the rope, sure, I have many times if one of my dogs left something on that side. The rope barrier was clearly never intended to keep dogs out. I really don’t think what is at Dog Beach compares well to airport rope barriers and I doubt that anyone else would.

Reply

Avatar Paul Webb October 9, 2020 at 2:06 pm

Geoff, as always, thanks for the thoughtful reporting.

Generally I find that you and I are in close agreement on most issues in our community, but on the fencing issue I have to disagree. I have witnessed on numerous occasions dog owners sending their pets into flocks or birds resting on the ground, sending them into flight out of fear. You seem to think this is dogs and birds coexisting, but that is not the case.

This kind of fear based flight is stressful, and can lead to health and reproductive issues for both migratory and resident bird populations. It is most serious in the situation of migratory birds, which are often stressed by the rigors of their long and arduous journeys. There are countless documented instances of entire flocks of birds falling out of the sky en mass from starvation owning to the stresses of long distance migration.

People seem to take delight in their dogs disturbing the flocks, but this a form of “fun” that damages bird populations. I’m not sure of the appropriate location and design of the fence, but I believe it is a good idea.

By the way, I’m still curious about the various forms of barriers that arrived and departed without any notice over the last six or seven months at the Del Monte street end. Anybody know what was going on there?

Reply

Avatar Geoff Page October 9, 2020 at 4:50 pm

Paul, as always, thank you for thoughtful comments, even if there is disagreement. I do want to clear one thing up first though. My main heartburn with this was that it was very one-sided, none of the Dog Beach advocates were there. This reminded me of a PCPB action recently that you may recall. The action item was whether or not to support the plan to reduce Sports Arena Blvd. to one lane in places to accommodate a protected bike lane.

The agenda item for that meeting was similarly unclear, no one reading it would have understood what it was about. But, the room was packed with cyclists who all knew about it. I don’t recall anyone speaking against it but if you look at the complaints that flooded in when it was done, there was obviously interest.

As I said, I’ve been taking my dogs there for 40 years and the birds have always been there. The presence of dogs has clearly not deterred the birds from using the area, hence my comment that they seem to co-exist, here, in this piece of geography. I think four decades of observation should count for something. Animals do learn to co-exist, often much better than people do.

I’m saying don’t do this, all I’m saying is have a fair discussion about it with all interested parties present. And bring the facts.

As for the barriers at Del Monte, it appears these were vigilante actions, not done by the city.

Reply

Avatar Paul Webb October 10, 2020 at 3:59 pm

Geoff, I agree with you regarding agenda descriptions and meaningful notice. I don’t know if these are deliberate of just thoughtless, but it has to stop.

I took my first ornithology class in 1971 on the way to a degree in zoology. I have taken numerous classes regarding ornithology and biogeography over the ensuing years. I am not a serious birder by any means, but I’m not an untrained observer. Over the course of my life I have personally witnessed the loss of bird species, particularly along the coast and coastal wetlands, which is where I live. There are simply birds that were once common but are now rare or absent. We know that some of this is from the friendly predators that live with us, i.e., dogs and cats. This is well documented.

I don’t know the exact boundary, but some portion of the area between dog beach and I-5 is supposed to be a preserve. Can’t we agree that some portion of it is needed to provide protection, resting, foraging and nesting for resident and migratory populations, perhaps with a fence? That’s all I’m asking.

Reply

Avatar kh October 11, 2020 at 11:05 am

Our OB planning board has made big improvements in the past few years to improve the public input process. Door hangers, digital posting of documents, including project documents, and a robust website. They are above what is required by the city and well ahead of most community planning groups in that respect, but there is also room for improvement.

Reply

Avatar Geoff Page October 12, 2020 at 8:55 am

kh, No one doubts the commitment of the volunteers on the OBPB, I certainly don’t. But, as you stated there is always room for improvement. All of the notification efforts you described are excellent. But, ask yourself this, if what is being distributed does not clearly describe what will be discussed, will those efforts matter? Try to take this as constructive criticism, it was not an accusation of being underhanded but it could be seen that way by some and the OBPB surely does not want that.

Reply

Avatar Dr. Jack Hammer October 9, 2020 at 2:24 pm

There is definitely a mix of both types of dog owners. However, like Paul said, they don’t coexist with the birds. In fact, it was quite amazing to witness how many birds returned to dog beach during the Lockdowns in March/April. There were numerous species at all hours of the day at waters edge. That ended when dogs returned. I don’t know if a fence would be the answer… but there are many folks who delight in the fact that their dog is romping through the water chasing birds.

Reply

Avatar Anonymous October 9, 2020 at 3:10 pm

When my grandfather moved to San Diego as a baby, there were 28,000 people, and it was renowned for duck hunting in Mission Bay, one of the largest wetlands in the U.S. before it was dredged. As a child, my mother used to swim to Shelter Island when it was a sand bar covered in birds. The Smithsonian reported last year that North American has lost a quarter of its birds (~3 billion lost) in the last 50 years. This year we witnessed an extreme red tide (a sign of poor water quality) which resulted in loss of small fish/food for our shore birds. Now, scientists are reporting a mass die off of migratory birds in the U.S. and Mexico. It is easy for each successive generation to lose sight of the changing baseline and that these birds have lost most of their beach habitat to us. They are flushed by the dogs, kites, parasailed. They are starved by the loss of bait fish. Some endangered birds in the estuary are reduced to range-wide numbers in the hundreds. One thing I love about OB is our ability to celebrate difference in others, to “share the beach”. Let’s distinguish our community from others in the news (like NY’s Central Park) where dog lovers and bird lovers can’t get along. If we can’t give these rare birds a small corner of the estuary to rest and forage we will lose them and with them part of the beauty of our city.

Reply

Avatar Eric Starr October 9, 2020 at 3:25 pm

The Del Monte Ave overlook was far more pleasant for the few days during the summer when the large rocks made it accessible to pedestrians only. With more than ample parking in the immediate vicinity, the community would benefit from treating the overlook as a park, rather than a parking lot.

Reply

Avatar Anonymous October 9, 2020 at 3:34 pm

When my grandfather moved to San Diego as a baby, there were 28,000 people, and it was renowned for duck hunting in Mission Bay, one of the largest wetlands in the U.S. before it was dredged. As a child, my mother used to swim to Shelter Island when it was a sand bar covered in birds. The Smithsonian reported last year that North American has lost a quarter of its birds (~3 billion lost) in the last 50 years. This year we witnessed an extreme red tide (a sign of poor water quality) which resulted in loss of small fish/food for our shore birds. Now, scientists are reporting a mass die off of migratory birds in the U.S. and Mexico. It is easy for each successive generation to lose sight of the changing baseline and that these birds have lost most of their beach habitat to us. They are flushed by the dogs, kites, parasailers. They are starved by the loss of bait fish. Some endangered birds in the estuary are reduced to range-wide numbers in the hundreds. One thing I love about OB is our ability to celebrate difference in others, to “share the beach”. Let’s distinguish our community from others in the news (like NY’s Central Park) where dog lovers and bird lovers can’t get along. If we can’t give these rare birds a small corner of the estuary to rest and forage we will lose them and with them part of the beauty of our city.

Reply

Citizen Cane Larry OB October 9, 2020 at 8:17 pm

Bulldoze the sand around, and make a couple of islands for the birds.

Reply

Avatar ACE October 10, 2020 at 10:19 am

Here we go again..There has never been any proven data that dogs are the reason for pollution at Dog Beach. The San Diego River and all of its pollution sources are and have been the problem for decades. It is the way the city designed it. I find it interesting, again, that no input was sought from Dog Beach users on this. I have no problem with the past compromises to native plants and bird protections. But if these things are to be expanded without input from the Dog Beach side it is unfair.

Reply

Avatar kh October 10, 2020 at 10:34 am

I’m a dog beach user. I support this proposal. It does not expand anything. It repairs and enhances the barrier that is already there.

I don’t take my dog into the lagoon and bird nesting areas to chase and displace birds.

Yes the entire river bed is polluted. It contains runoff from half the parking lots and streets in San Diego county. Luckily the birds don’t mind a little filth. The presenter showed photos of owners letting their dogs chase birds off from nesting areas. She showed homeless encampments and abandoned debris and dog feces. She showed the general disregard for this natural area despite her efforts at patrolling the area. She is a park ranger for our coastline and is an asset to the community. I’ve met her in person and she has a passion for her work (unlike many city employees.). I appreciate her efforts on this.

There were several controversial issues on agenda, this wasn’t one of them. This was also presented to the Mission Bay Park Committee with the same positive reception. I’m a little stunned that it’s drummed up so much attention from the author, after the meeting is over.

What about changes to beach parking lots? Possible paid parking? What about the prospect of blocking off a popular street end and overlook to vehicles based on resident complaints, some of which went and blocked it off in the middle of the night and now want it permanent? Any concerns there? What about the updates on the vacation rental ordinance that was brought up?

Reply

Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie October 10, 2020 at 1:50 pm

I think so much happened that it’s taking some time to filter in – geez! just look at the headline itself. So much to chew on ….

Reply

Avatar Geoff Page October 10, 2020 at 2:19 pm

Kh,

The ranger showed one set of still photos of what she said was an owner letting his dogs chase birds. I’d like to hear his side of that encounter. But, one picture does not mean this is a major problem at Dog Beach, it’s not exactly empirical substantiation. The fence will have no effect on the homeless encampments, how would a fence solve that problem? There was little substance to back up what was presented, such as the claim that dog feces are the reason for water quality issues. That falsehood has been tried for decades.

But, then you made my point when you said:

“There were several controversial issues on agenda, this wasn’t one of them. This was also presented to the Mission Bay Park Committee with the same positive reception. I’m a little stunned that it’s drummed up so much attention from the author, after the meeting is over.”

Exactly what I was getting at, it wasn’t controversial because only those in favor of the idea knew what was being proposed, the other side did not. Now look at some of the responses here that illustrate that very point. That is all I have tried to show is that it was not a discussion, it was very one-sided, merits of the project aside.

I wrote about all the other issues that were discussed and they are not controversial apparently.

Reply

Avatar Will October 10, 2020 at 1:59 pm

Dogs atdog beach are responsible for water quality problems? Not the hundreds or even thousands of “unhoused” who live and crap in the San Diego River channel from Lakeside to Mission Valley???

Reply

Avatar Jenn October 13, 2020 at 6:43 pm

I am a dog-lover and lover of Dog Beach. The fencing is a step in the right direction! It will be helpful in clearly identifying the trails for dogs and dog owners alike, doing nothing to diminish the dog beach area. This are is in need of special protection– every time I go it is very sad to see the dogs trampling the vegetation and harassing the birds. Wetlands and estuaries are few and far between– we’ve got to help protect the ones we are lucky enough to have left.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: