Complaints Raised About Police Take-Over of Ocean Beach Parking Lot on Memorial Day Weekend

by on June 1, 2021 · 18 comments

in Ocean Beach

There was a twitter storm over the Memorial Day weekend about the massive show of force by San Diego police in Ocean Beach and their take-over of the Pier parking lot.

Reporter and OBcean Alain Stephens sent out a number of tweets calling the police take-over of the area “inappropriate”, “abnormal”, a display of what’s wrong with modern policing, and that the whole scene did not honor Memorial Day but tarnished it. Stephens, who is African-American, also criticized the police show of force and take-over as part of a historical trend to restrict access to beaches by people of color.

Not everyone who responded to Stephens’ tweets agreed with him and they pushed back about the need to clean up the area and get rid of the humans they don’t like.

Also, during the evening hours, police skirmished with some people but the videos of the incident are not clear in what actually happened.

Accompanying the photos and video Stephens took, were his tweets:

This is inappropriate. This area is public beach access, typically populated by working class & minorities. It’s usually free & open, but for holiday weekend @SanDiegoPD
used it as a way to limit public parking and make a show of force.

Ocean Beach is a small and typically chill community. I wake up, to see police ATVs lined up, police patrols down every corner. This is abnormal here. Look how much parking they took to create their base-camp.

They even brought their own bathrooms, because the public bathrooms 15 steps away are apparently not good enough our public servants.

As a criminal justice reporter, I have to say: THIS is exactly the problem with modern policing. It starts HERE. With strategies like this. This isn’t being PART of the community, its a show of force. This is how the wedge is formed.

And while I’m at it, lets talk taxes. Because here we pay taxes to fix OB pier, to draw business and commerce to our community after a economic disaster – all to have the other hand of the government cordon it off and stymie access during a holiday. We pay for both.

Lastly, as a Black person, I’d be remiss to not bring up the historical heritage of blocking minority access to beaches. The images today don’t skew to far from those of the past.

History matters. And I say this as someone who has served in both military and LE: THIS. MENTALITY. MUST. CHANGE. We can institute public safety in smarter holistic ways. Not this. This isn’t honoring #memorialday its tarnishing it. Do better. I’m done here.

The reaction to Stephens’ tweets were not pretty.

It’s about time this parking lot has been taken back from the Van life tweezers. Rarely can you walk anywhere without stepping over human feces, needles, passed out drunks. Thank you SDPD for cleaning up our beach for locals and tourist Please continue your good work.

Another person wagged:

As a matter of fact I’ve lived in OB for the last 35 years and the last couple of years I won’t go near that area because it’s out of control. Now that is sad.

One person asked:

Do you live in this community? Well I do and it is about time the police showed up! The crime, the violence, overdoses, etc etc is out of control.

Stephens answered that yes he did live in OB. More scathing responses:

Anyone who actually lives in Ocean Beach is very grateful for the police presence. This “reporting” is doing the exact opposite of what we need here.

This is a pro crime position masquerading as civil rights advocacy. Tourism is a seriously valuable asset to this community. The bums, trolls and hard drugs are not.

One guy responded twice; here’s his second:

Do you live in OB ? It’s out of control with thieves and meth heads menacing our neighborhood, and have been for the last couple years. The people of OB have been begging police to step up, be involved and clean it up. They aren’t keeping the public or working class from going

Another guy –  whose avatar includes a photo of Trump and an American flag – wrote:

This will help make the area safe from the dirtbag junkies that have permanently taken over that parking lot.

Not everyone agreed to the pushback. One person responded to Trump guy:

No it won’t. It will displace them for as long as the cops are there. The money would be better spent on housing and rehab services.

One response was hesitant:

I am on the fence for this one. Last few months it is been one mass shooting after another in places where people are coming together. Logic would imply there is elevated risk in our beach communities. I wish it was not the case, but one child dying is not worth the inconvenience

And there were agreements with Stephens’ observations and comments:

I’ve lived here all my life, 48 yrs. My mom is an OB resident. This is just…. absurd. It’s not the gaza strip. It’s not the korengal gap. If public safety is so fragile that we need a police state in OB let’s just call it a day & bring out the guard on the state’s dime.

Another said:

Imagine if instead of doing this they were working on getting their burglary clearance rate above 15%

And this:

This is such bullshit. Parking down there is limited anyways. They need to get out.

One person even thought this:

I read in the news that this is part of an effort to mitigate “human smuggling” by land/sea over the holiday weekend. Pretty ridiculous

It should be noted, that the San Diego Police have taken over different parking lots on major summer time holidays for years now. Not everyone has been pleased with this development.

It also should be DOUBLY noted that drug dealers and transients (ie, houseless people) have been congregating around the Pier and the parking lot for literally decades – for at least half a century – that’s right, every since I have been a high school student. There was a recent video released taken by a local news station and aired in 1988. Guess what the complaints from residents and merchants were. The exact same as are being made in response to Stephens’ tweets. This is nothing new.


{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Webb June 1, 2021 at 3:13 pm

Frank, I respectfully disagree. I moved to OB in 1974 from Venice (LA, not Italy) and the vibe at the pier and parking lot, not to mention the “veteran’s” park and sidewalk in front of the sculpture, are far different than at that time. To me, it’s the difference between the Haight in 67-68 and Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley a few years later. The people looked the same, but there was a harder edge to everything and definitely more street crime.

On the other hand, I also remember when the policing in Venice changed from being run from our local precinct to control by the LAPD Metro Squad. Things certainly changed for the worse, so I am sensitive to the complaints of the possible overkill by the SDPD. But, crime in my neighborhood has significantly worsened. I still feel safe, but I sometimes wonder how long I will do so. The majority of crimes I am aware of are property crimes, but still it wears you down to hear about cars stolen, cars broken into, residential burglaries, etc., day after day after day.

I don’t know the answer. I remember when community policing was the in vogue police theory. It seemed better then. Maybe we need to return to something similar to that.


Frank Gormlie June 1, 2021 at 3:26 pm

Disagree if you must, but please do not leave. We need voices like yours.


Sam June 1, 2021 at 4:36 pm

All of the parking lots in OB should be converted to paid lots. The money could be used to replace/repair/maintain the pier and will have the added benefit of keeping people from congregating and partying in those lots. Nobody will lose access to the beach, it may just become a little less convenient for those who don’t want to pay.


Greg June 2, 2021 at 7:48 am

It is important to remember that accessibility does not only mean driving a car directly in front of where you want to go and parking for free.


Chris June 1, 2021 at 5:17 pm

Seems fair to say it’s a mixed bag as far as local reactions to the increased police presence. OB has always been rough around the edges and that’s kind of the appeal. That being the case it seems in recent years things have gotten worse in many cases. Not sure what the answer is to make it better.


Frank J June 1, 2021 at 6:08 pm

One thing I notice in PB with a Monday holiday is the police presence is greatest ON the holiday… Overtime all day???… The day that is usually the quietest of the weekend, the day before most people go back to work. I think it is wrong to take away so much public parking, when so much has gone to street seating for the restaurants already.


Dr. Jack Hammer June 1, 2021 at 6:12 pm

There is a lot going on these days in OB. Violent crime is on the rise. Homelessness is on the rise. The community has been gutted by air bnb, and more police isn’t the answer. In my opinion… The city lets these issues fester and then they are completely out of control. The police do this every year for July 4th, Memorial Day, Labor Day… it’s certainly not new. Probably racist, but I can’t call that one with the limited understanding I have of the situation. I don’t think it’s effective, as the police just walk around in groups of four, ride ATVs, and probably talk about how much overtime pay they are getting. At least I didn’t see horses this year… However, I did see a cop write a ticket for a guy riding a scooter on the sidewalk, talk about effective policing!

It’s at a point for me that pretty much every day is a mess on Newport, regardless of holiday or not. Up next, summer… should be a hoot!


Sam June 1, 2021 at 6:24 pm

I’m having a hard time trying to understand how it is racist for the police to commandeer a parking lot. Please explain it like I’m 5.


Chris June 1, 2021 at 7:11 pm

I’ll be so bold as to say he doesn’t really believe his own words with that statement. Yes there is racism in the PD (as there is with PDs in most cities) but simply having an increased police presence in OB during a holiday weekend in and of itself is not a racist action and I really don’t belive anyone truly thinks that. Whether it’s necessary or a good idea is a whole separate topic.


Frank Gormlie June 1, 2021 at 7:45 pm

Stephens’ point – whether you agree with him or not – is that Memorial Day weekend is when people of color and working class people come to enjoy the beach (and pier when opened). Only to find access – the parking lot – taken over by police. Which he argues is part of an historic trend of keeping Black and other peoples of color off the beach or on a separate part – you know, segregation. He offered photos of past incidents in other places as part of his presentation. This is not a salute to Memorial Day, he says, but a trash of it.

Hey, it’s not like racism is a stranger to these parts, pardner. OB has had its share of white-sheeted klansmen, nazis, and other white supremacists – but it is also has what Stephens called the “chill”. For the last half century some OBceans have worked against that racist mindset that befuddles true solidarity with others.


Sam June 1, 2021 at 8:04 pm

I hear that Frank, but I think it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that taking over 1/2 of the parking lot is somehow denying people access to the beach, moreover that it was designed to prevent POC from beach access.


triggerfinger June 1, 2021 at 11:03 pm

Will Alain also be attacking the businesses next that block far more public street parking every day of the week? What about all the RVs taking up half the lifeguard lot every day all day? Or does he just hate seeing cops?


Chris June 2, 2021 at 6:49 am

I have to agree with Sam on this. No one denies the existence of racism in the Police, but to say the increased Police presence in the parking lot was somehow targeting POC to lessen access it kind of far fetched. More likely than not, it was in anticipation of increased rowdiness due to the three day weekend. Fair or not, OB has that reputation for that more so than lets say La Jolla Shores (which is even more touristy) or Moonlight Beach. Yet I always see lots of POC during a summer weekend in LJ Shores. Often more than OB. That’s why it’s hard for me to believe anyone thinks racism is behind the decision to increase police presence during the Memorial day weekend.


triggerfinger June 1, 2021 at 11:00 pm

Lol welcome to the neighborhood Alain. Maybe you should chill out and learn wtf you’re talking about first. And save the race baiting bs.

There are definitely issues with the policing here, and lack thereof, but you seem more interested in building your Twitter following than actually learning what’s up.


Frank Gormlie June 2, 2021 at 9:10 am

Yeah, everybody, let’s pile on Mr Stephens.


Chris June 2, 2021 at 11:44 am

I hope I was not part of the “everybody” piling on Alain Stephens. I was simply giving my opinion about Dr. Jack Hammer’s speculation.


Dr. Jack Hammer June 2, 2021 at 11:54 am

For the record, I was saying that I don’t have enough info to call it racist for the cops to set up in the lot. I said it happens every year around big holidays.


Chris June 2, 2021 at 12:53 pm

Fair enough but what made you even bring it up then? Yes there’s racism in SDPD but what made you speculate there was some racist intent for increased presence during the MD weekend?


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