‘The City Has Done a Lousy Job of Setting Up the First Camping Site’

by on July 12, 2023 · 16 comments

in Homelessness, San Diego

By Geoff Page

By now, most folks have probably heard about the tent camping site the city set up for the homeless. The reviews have not been favorable. The Rag decided to have a look.

The site is located at the city’s Central Operations Station, 20th and B streets. This is a long facility as can be seen in the photos. The camping site is at the far northeastern end, 1,145 feet from the front entrance. That is how far a resident would have to walk just to reach B St.

It is not possible to see the site from B St. or from the streets to the east that rise very sharply uphill. There is a ramp to Pershing Drive on the west side of the Operations Station. Pershing runs east and a glimpse of the site is possible from there, but not much can be seen. There is a cyclone fence covered with green privacy fabric around the site.

Turning right at the intersection of Pershing, 26th St., and Florida Drive leads uphill to Golden Hill Park. This is a quiet little park with green grass and trees and a good breeze from the west. The park is relatively flat and the land falls off sharply on the southwest side ending at the Operations Center below.

The hillside is covered in trees and wild scrub growth. As this reporter journeyed through all that, I encountered quite a number of littered camping sites among the bushes.

The only way to get a view of the site was to traverse this jungle down the hill to a fence surrounding the entire Operations Center property. From there, it was possible to see the camp site fairly well.

It was everything that has been reported. A flat asphalt area with 28 tents pitched within a fenced area set up for 131 tents. The tents are small, a person could do nothing more than sit inside one.

As the photos show, there are two delineated areas. One is for the resident tents. The other area has a mobile trailer set up.  There are five portable washing stations, two large ADA compliant port-a-johns and three regular ones.  There were, perhaps, a half dozen more port-a-johns within the tent area too.

The trailer appears to be an office with two doors and two sets of stairs. It is not ADA compliant with any ramps. It did not appear to be set up for showers. The presence of the wash stations by the trailer seem to confirm that. The city said there were showers but none were seen.

The site has been reported to be hot — that was easily confirmed. It sits in a low area, the land rising on all sides. Rachel Laing, the mayor’s Communications Department chief, has defended the place saying it receives lots of breeze in the afternoon. It is 1.7 miles from the bay and the entire city blocks any bay breezes. All the breeze that is present just moves around the hot air. Hardly refreshing.

The only shade in the whole place are the tents and four small, maybe 10 x 10 canopies with a picnic table under each. One of the canopies is in the tent are and the other three are in the fenced area where the trailer is. Altogether about 400 square feet of shade. Not much coverage for an area of about 45,000 square feet or 131 people, if there was only one person in each available tent site.

In an hour of watching the site, only one person was seen within the enclosure. That person appeared to be working there holding a clipboard and walking slowly up and down the line of tents. No one else.

Laing chastised members of the media who requested access to the site to get a good look and talk to some residents. She said the media was not allowed because it was a privacy issue.  Laing said the media could talk to people as they entered and left the site. There was no telling how long a wait that would be to talk to a resident, considering no one was at the site.

That is it. The safe camping site is as it has been described, hot and minimally provisioned. The site sits within the confluence of a lot of traffic as the photo shows. The air at this location cannot be very good.

It will be a bit of a walk for a resident to just leave the site and then more walking to access transit or find food places. The homeless choose places to camp out on the streets that provide immediate access to things they want. This place will not, and it looks incredibly boring to boot.

The city has done a lousy job of setting this up, but perhaps it has something to do with the recent story by Dorian Hargrove at Channel 8. Hargrove obtained the site permits that stated the site must be closed by December 28, 2023.

As Hargrove points out, the city never mentioned this when the mayor and his minions marched out in front of the cameras to pat themselves on the back for this “success.” With only 28 tents and 131 sites, it hardly passes for a success. It is only a temporary, very temporary fix, a way to force people off the sidewalks for a few months.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Vern July 12, 2023 at 11:43 am

Wondering if there’s a transit center within 1/2 mile (or 1 mile) of this “tent camping site”?


Ester July 12, 2023 at 11:59 am

The closet public transit is 12th & imperial transit center almost 2 miles away


Frank Gormlie July 12, 2023 at 1:18 pm

There’s nothing within a mile, unless they walk up the hill to Golden Hill business district.


Sam July 12, 2023 at 6:12 pm

There is a bus stop 1/2 mile away at 20th and Broadway. A little further afoot is the trolley station at Broadway and Park, which is just under a mile.


Sam July 12, 2023 at 1:48 pm

The lack of shade is the most striking thing to me.


Geoff Page July 12, 2023 at 2:32 pm

Me too, Sam. And it is a simple thing to set up. Every time I have a big chore in my backyard, I build shade first, nothing to it.


Greg July 12, 2023 at 4:10 pm

No shade, on asphalt, in tents. Those are SWEAT BOXES.


Vern July 12, 2023 at 4:13 pm

Perhaps OddTodd and the OddTodd Squad should live for a few weeks in this “tent camping site” to make sure they’re on the right track. Oh yeah, and they can use existing transit to get to “work” and back.


Frank Gormlie July 12, 2023 at 4:43 pm

No other reporter has gone to the length that Geoff did to take these photos and get an overview of the compound.


sealintheSelkirks July 12, 2023 at 8:49 pm

Read today that the heat is heading into Cali like it has elsewhere. Can you imagine anybody in those tents if it soars to the Texas 117’F that has never happened before in Texas?

El Nino is coming. If I was homeless I’d be heading for places with shade and tree cover next to water…



Gravitas July 13, 2023 at 6:16 am

Great job, Geoff. Gloria and team do not govern. They do press conferences and press releases. Spend a night there himself? Not a chance.


Martha Sullivan July 13, 2023 at 9:44 am

THANK YOU for this essential reporting!


virginiamae August 1, 2023 at 12:41 am

It will be like sleeping in a cast iron skillet! Asphalt reaches 140F, or more, on a sunny day, and that heat radiates out all night. Is staying there meant to be torture?


Allison Prater August 8, 2023 at 10:44 pm

I live here now and would be glad to talk about it with anyone – reporters, concerned citizens. My first night here I became violently ill with heatstroke and am still not well. I am safer here than on the street I suppose.


Geoff Page August 9, 2023 at 4:46 pm

Call me if you want to talk. 619-694-7993.


Geoff Page August 9, 2023 at 6:34 pm

Call me if you want to talk. 619-694-7993.


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