City to Clean Out Homeless Camp Along Sports Arena Blvd Tues., Feb.1 – But Will It Be Another Case of ‘Whack-a-Mole’?

by on February 1, 2022 · 12 comments

in Homelessness, Ocean Beach

An encampment of nearly 100 tents and makeshift structures along a section of Sports Arena Boulevard has been the home for many houseless citizens, but has drawn the wrath and concerns of local neighbors, businesses and the local planning committee – for valid reasons.

But Tuesday morning, Feb. 2, the city will send crews to the sprawling tent city, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria announced Monday. In a press release, Gloria stated:

“The situation on Sports Arena Boulevard in the Midway community is wholly unacceptable. The potential for an outbreak of disease and the threat to public safety compels us to act now. As we continue to provide shelter and wide array of supportive services to unsheltered people living in the neighborhood, we cannot wait for something terrible to happen before we take decisive action.”

As the San Diego Union-Tribune reported:

The homeless encampment scheduled to be cleared is on a stretch of Sports Arena Boulevard that runs east of Rosecrans Street and to Pacific Highway. The stretch is in an industrial section with far less traffic than other sections of Sports Arena Boulevard, leaving the large encampment unseen by many in the area.

The action will please many, but not all.

Homeless advocate Michael McConnell said the encampment cleanup will result in people moving from one site to another, with no real long-term help. “This is nothing new,” he said. “It’s just pushing people around. It’s what they do.” The U-T reported:

McConnell said that he had heard people living in the Sports Arena Boulevard encampment previously had lived on Caltrans property or along the San Diego River in Mission Valley, but moved because of cleanup actions in those areas.

He believes Tuesday’s action will be just another case of “whack-a-mole,” with people merely moving from one location to another. McConnell questions why the city doesn’t open a secured, safe camping site for homeless people who decline shelter as a way of providing them a safer environment away from city streets.


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page February 1, 2022 at 1:38 pm

Keep in mind folks, this is the second time for this clean up. They did this last year and as soon as it was over, it began to reform. When asked where the people would go, the city had no answer. They are offering outreach services but very few have taken them up on it.


Vern February 1, 2022 at 3:01 pm

The fence line at Dusty Rhodes Park along Sunset Cliffs Blvd was looking a bit more “populated” this afternoon than it was early this morning.


Will February 1, 2022 at 10:19 pm

The UT said 183 people were encamped on that stretch of Spots Arena. 7 transitioned to some sort of sheltering offered. I believe our society does not take care of our working poor and staying afloat financially for many poor and middle class Americans is precarious. Medical bills are the #1 cited reason for foreclosure. Rents in our region are insane although with prop 13 they should not spike as immediately and dramatically as home prices. There are plenty of greedy landlords exacerbating the crisis.

To the 176 other people who refused shelter, please don’t lay down and die on our streets. Get help or go away. Stop jaywalking and look up when you do. Unfortunately living in proximity to such entitled homeless had hardened my heart to their plight.


Geoff Page February 2, 2022 at 10:39 am

Great comment, Will, well said. The landlord thing is the one that gets me. People who have owned property for many years, and probably own it out right, are charging ridiculous rents because the market will bear it. Yes, they are entitled to do this but where is the morality in that?

And your last sentence resonated with me and many others.


Frank Gormlie February 2, 2022 at 9:58 am

U-T today: “About 100 homeless people were told to pick up their tents and move from an encampment on Sports Arena Boulevard on Tuesday, but they didn’t go far.

While some people who watched the action said they expected the encampment to be dismantled and cleared-crews and police officers directed residents to move their belongings across the street to allow a crew to clean the south side of Sports Arena Boulevard between Rosecrans Street and Pacific Highway.”


Geoff Page February 2, 2022 at 10:56 am

When the mayor’s rep, Kohta Zaiser, came to the Midway-Pacific Community Planning Group meeting on January 19, he explained that seven people had agreed to go into a shelter from the massive outreach effort the week before. He stressed that the number was from the previous Friday and that the new numbers would be available on Friday the 21st.

I emailed him asking for the figures that Friday and he replied that he would release them to the group either over the weekend or on Monday a week ago. So far, no numbers. The chair of the Midway group has not received the numbers. I emailed him again today. I have a hunch that number will not improve by much.


Paul Webb February 2, 2022 at 11:50 am

Okay, we went from “whack-a-mole” to “wash-a-mole.”

I’ve heard people say many times that people don’t choose to be homeless, but if only 7 out of 183 accepted shelter during this cleaning, then I have to believe that there is a choice involved. I understand that homeless shelters are not a great place to live, and I hope never to be forced by circumstances into one, but there is a choice involved when you are offered housing and refuse to accept it. I know that some have pets that are not allowed in shelters, and others cannot live with other people because of emotional or behavioral issues, but, come on!

I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Michael McConnell for his advocacy and efforts on the part of the homeless. Our city officials, however, seem to want to treat this as some sort of Noh drama – put on a mask of concern and sing and dance around the problem. I am slowly coming to the conclusion that the homeless will not be sheltered until they are forced to do so. We don’t have any mechanisms to do this, so I do not know of a solution to the problem.

I came home this morning from breakfast and a walk on the pier (I realize I am privileged to be able to do this – no one needs to remind me) and found a man passed out on the sidewalk on my block. I roused him to see if he was indeed having a medical emergency that needed attention, and you wouldn’t believe the string of hostile invective I got from him.

We just shouldn’t have to put up with this. Something, and I don’t know what, has to change.


El February 2, 2022 at 1:33 pm

I imagine the shelters as rows of cots and lots of bed bugs. Difficult to sleep with many coughing. Covid transmission.

I would prefer a tent.


Geoff Page February 2, 2022 at 1:34 pm

El, unless you actually know something, those kinds of imaginings are not helpful.


Paul Webb February 2, 2022 at 3:53 pm

Geoff, El is actually not far off. One year, Trolley Dances was held in East Village, with dances performed in places like the Faultline Park, Imperial Ave trolley station, etc. As part of the movement between performance venues, the organizers of Trolley had participants walk through one of the tent structure shelters downtown. I’m not entirely sure what their intent was. I don’t know if it was to raise our awareness of the problem, evoke sympathy for the homeless, or make us feel guilty. I do remember that the tents were filled with bunk beds arranged in rows, with some of the tenants placing curtains over the sides of their beds. I have no idea if there were bedbugs, but all in all it was a manifestly uncomfortable way to live.

I felt bad for the tenants. Whatever the motivation of the event organizers, it had the feel of putting the zoo animals on display. I know I would not have liked my living situation put on display like that.


Geoff Page February 2, 2022 at 4:22 pm

Thanks, Paul, for first hand information like that. Eli may have been partly correct but he was not offering concrete information like that. The accommodations you described do not surprise me, it was the city’s way of trying to shelter as many as possible.

Adding in the bed bug comment had the effect of condemning the whole enterprise. Yes, sleeping might be disturbed by coughing and such nighttime noises but I can’t see that it would be much worse than the sounds coming from the Midway encampment cheek by jowl at night. As for COVID, where they came from is clearly a more toxic environment, the city’s people are probably at least trying to deal with COVID.


El February 2, 2022 at 4:02 pm


Perhaps I’m wrong about the bed bugs? Maybe people entering the shelter scrub in a shower and all clothing is washed and dried on high heat. Other belongings cleaned.

San Diego Union Tribune had photo of rows of cots.


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