The crowds of people visiting Sunset Cliffs have been growing larger for the past 5-6 years and bringing with them more garbage, noise, and traffic, much to the dismay of many residents in that neighborhood.
But after reopening the park on April 27, which was closed for about a month due to the Covid-19 pandemic, neighbors claim the situation has become unmanageable and are calling on the City to close the state park down and block access to it at night.
“It has now been about 10 days since the city opened up Sunset Cliffs Natural Park for walking,” said neighbor Glen Volk in a letter to City officials. “Since then we have seen enormous crowds that have never ever been seen here before.”
Added Volk: “Please consider making an emergency order to temporarily close the Sunset Cliffs area after dark or place a curfew on the area. You could set up roadblocks and check identification for entry into this area. If you do not have a Point Loma address, then you should not be allowed to pass into Sunset Cliffs after dark or some other sensible hour. It is not safe to allow this activity to continue.”
Sunset Cliffs neighbors have been putting up with at times disrespectful visitors watching sunsets in the late afternoon for the last six years, which Volk said that’s something people have learned to live with.
“But now we have a whole new problem with partiers at night that come to watch the bioluminescence (red tide),” Volk said. “And they do not leave until after midnight, often partying until 2 or 3 a.m. This is a very disrespectful crowd, and it is really ramping up tensions here. It is a sh*t show like the 4th of July on steroids. And it happens every single night.”
While acknowledging most passive beachgoers have been observing social-distancing regulations, the City admits Sunset Cliffs has been problematic.
“Sunset Cliffs remains a trouble spot,” said District 2 Councilmember Dr. Jennifer Campbell. “That’s why I am calling on everyone, wherever you live, to obey the orders around social distancing and beach access. Remember that the City’s ‘stay at home’ order is still in place and that beach parking lots are still closed.
“We do not want to follow the example of other California counties and risk losing what we’ve worked so hard to gain. Do not gather in groups, respect your neighbors, and remember it’s now mandated that if you do leave your place, you must cover your face,” Campbell said.
“This past weekend, the beaches were fantastic. We did not issue any citations to anyone who did not use the beaches passively,” said San Diego Police Department spokesperson Lt. Shawn Takeuchi. “All SDPD did was educate and remind people of the order and got compliance. On Friday (May 1), we placed new parking signs in the Sunset Cliffs area and that seemed to help.
“I am not aware of any problems we had there. However, I’d continue to urge community members not to go to that area to watch the bioluminescence. When many people think the same thing small areas, such as Sunset Cliffs, cannot appropriately accommodate the crowds,” Takeuchi said.
At midnight on Saturday, May 2, San Diego Fire Rescue saved a Navy sailor on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard who fell off the cliffs into the ocean, underscoring the need for greater security in the area.
Volk thanked Councilmember Campbell and SDPD Police Chief David Nisleit for beefing up the police presence at Sunset Cliffs. But he warned it isn’t enough.
“The pandemic has made things worse,” said Volk. “Now that they’ve closed our bars, restaurants and beach parking lots, and kids are out of school, there are few or no places where people can enjoy the ocean and be near their cars.”
Volk has heard from several Sunset Cliffs neighbors who are reaching their breaking point.
“It’s almost as if some people coming here have a sense of entitlement: This is a beach area and it’s OK to blast my music and throw my trash on the streets,” he said. “I haven’t talked to a single resident who’s not disgusted with what’s going on. We need to wake people up.”
Dedicated in 1983, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is a 68-acre resource-based park stretching along the ocean bordering the western edge of Point Loma. The 18-acre linear section of the park lies to the west of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard between Adair and Ladera streets.
The 50-acre hillside section, a designated multiple species conservation area, links to the 640-acre Point Loma Ecological Reserve beginning at the Navy property to the south. The park's topography includes intricately carved coastal bluffs, arches, and sea caves. It affords inspiring panoramic ocean views.