Leaving 2017 by leaps and bounds – Beach & Bay Press looks back at last year's top stories for Pacific and Mission beaches
City Ballet dancer Kimberly Green executes a grand jeté on the Law Street beach as the sun sets on 2017. THOMAS MELVILLE / BEACH & BAY PRESS
It was an eventful year in 2017 for Pacific and Mission beaches, which grappled with a number of vexing issues.
Coastal communities tackled everything from community beautification to sea-level rise and wetlands protection. Beach residents groped to cope with growing homelessness issues, as well as a proliferation of short-term vacation rentals, and crime. The area also celebrated the 90th anniversary of Crystal Pier, plans to substantially upgrade Mission Bay Park, and the opening of exciting new businesses.
The following is a month-by-month chronicle of what the Beach & Bay Press covered in Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, and Mission Bay throughout 2017.
- Planned Parenthood completed plans to modernize and double its Mission Bay Health Center.
- County officials were working with “feral cat folks” to save, rather than exterminate, felines trapped in a federal program to preserve endangered coastal bird species by culling their predators.
- A series of storms roared through beach areas Jan. 19 - Jan. 24, depositing about 2.4 inches of rain and causing some flooding, downed trees and power outages.
- City Attorney Mara Elliott alleged several San Diego restaurants, including some along the beachfront, were adding questionably legal, 3 percent surcharges to customers' bills without proper notice to compensate for a minimum-wage pay increase.
- San Diego lifeguard “legend” Bill Bender retired after 35 years service with “countless” rescues to his credit.
- Volunteers created a “peace garden” at Mission Bay High.
- The rebuild of the historic Plunge Pool at Belmont Park was ushered in at a Jan. 30 public tearing-down ceremony with Mayor Faulconer. The event included a plaque unveiling dedicated to Maruta Gardner, a Mission Beach educator tragically killed in 2016 by an intoxicated driver while painting out graffiti near the Mission Beach jetty.
- Pacific Beach Planning Group sent a letter asking that the beach community be considered as one of 10 proving grounds being sought nationwide for so-called driverless vehicles. A “driverless” car, also known as an autonomous, self-driving or robotic car, is a vehicle capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input.
- Public officials, businesses and residents collectively launched a “clean and safe program” to remove trash in Pacific Beach and make the community safer, while offering the homeless a hand up.
- PB made Circulate San Diego's ignominious “The Fatal Fifteen” list of most dangerous intersections for pedestrians, with its problematic intersection at Mission Boulevard and Garnet Avenue. That crossing, No. 3 on the list, had 16 total collisions, with 17 serious injuries recorded between 2001-2015.
- Two Mission Beach businessmen pled guilty to conspiracy to sink a 57-foot boat used for charter sport-fishing trips in order to collect insurance money. A judge later placed them on 18 months federal probation after they paid the U.S. Coast Guard $18,000 for rescuing them.
- A motorist pled guilty to committing attempted murder and two assaults in hitting three pedestrians in Pacific Beach in which one suffered brain damage and was in a coma.
- Family-run Saska’s steakhouse in MB reopened Feb. 23 with an updated design and feel as Saska’s Steak & Seafood. The popular eatery first opened in 1951.
- Sprouts natural and organic grocery enlarged its space from 19,000 to 23,000 square feet adding a new salad bar, deli and juice bar.
- A flamenco festival debuted in PB showcasing internationally acclaimed and local performers.
- PB planners heard distressing news that the beach community ranked second to East Village, out of 125 city of San Diego communities, in violent crimes, with 216 reported the year before in the beach community. Then-PBPG chair Brian Curry characterized statistics as “simply unacceptable,” describing the status quo as “Apocalypse now.”
- Approximately 245 trailers were removed from the former De Anza Cove mobile home park while the city was midway through the De Anza Revitalization Plan, a three-year comprehensive outreach and planning program to re-imagine, re-purpose and revitalize De Anza Special Study area within Mission Bay Park.
- MBHS girls soccer had a record-setting season finishing with 23-4-1 mark (15-0 at home), ending as champions of the City League.
- Cornerstone PB business Crest Liquor celebrated its 70th anniversary. The liquor store, deli and convenience store at 3787 Ingraham St. started as a dozen vacant lots in Crown Point in 1947.
- New City Attorney Mara Elliott issued a March 15 memo opining that short-term vacation rentals were “not specifically defined, expressly permitted, or listed in any of the zone use categories … essentially making them illegal in residential areas.” Her memo buttressed arguments by a growing tide of detractors seeking more restrictions on, and enforcement of, short-term rentals.
- PB breweries Karl Strauss Brewing Co. and Amplified Ale Works teamed to help raise funding for the PB Pathways project to make PB more cycling- and pedestrian-friendly.
- San Diego Fire Chief Brian Fennessy refuted allegations by the life- guards’ union that a change to how water-related emergency calls was being handled slowed down lifeguard response times jeopardizing public safety.
- In a complete reversal of the Lower Superior Court, the Fourth Appellate District Court of Appeal ruled construction of a long-delayed new lifeguard tower for South Mission Beach was valid and had not expired, as project opponents had claimed. A lawsuit by tower opponents contended the project was outdated and needed to start over.
- A proposed Mission Beach MAD was placed on indefinite hold following push back from community residents questioning its specifics, most notably its costs and purview.
- Transforming its decades-old business model, SeaWorld San Diego, after rebranding its killer whale shows, announced it would end its nightly summer fireworks displays.
- The Red Bull Air Race over San Diego bay thrilled huge crowds.
- An informal meeting by PB residents outside PB Taylor Branch Library discussed “taking the park back.”
- Campland on the Bay upgraded and renamed its full-service restaurant appointing Clare McKevitt as restaurant manager.
- Stakeholders heard what's going on with baseline studies of existing fish and other marine species in Marine Protected Areas, including La Jolla and Pacific Beach, at a public meeting at Marina Village Conference Center.
- PB Planning Group April 26 voted in favor of moving the weekly farmers market from Bayard to Garnet in the heart of the beach community's business district.
- Beach residents got their last chance on April 25 to weigh-in on proposed alternatives for reclaiming marshland in Mission Bay at a fourth public workshop hosted by ReWild Mission Bay at MBHS.
- Fifteen years in state prison was the sentence handed down to the motorist who ran down three people in PB, causing severe brain damage to one of them.
- St. Andrews by-the Sea Episcopal Church converted part of its front lawn for garden space bolstering community gardening efforts.
- Plans were announced to convert the long-dormant Mission Bay Visitor Information Center into a waterfront restaurant/event center while preserving the existing building's marine theme. The $3 million redevelopment project was dubbed Shoreline Mission Bay.
- The site recently inhabited by Guy Hill Cadillac and San Diego Jet Ski Rental at 4275 Mission Bay Drive was demolished to be replaced by a three-level, mixed-use project with one level of retail/parking and 172 residential units.
- The fourth annual Taste of Mission Beach progressive dinner fundraising event May 11, sponsored by Mission Beach Women’s Club, raised funds benefitting Shelter to Soldier, a non-profit that adopts dogs from rescues and trains them to be psychiatric service dogs for post-9/11 combat veterans suffering from PTSD.
- The city kickstarted its long-delayed public planning process for the future of Fiesta Island, presenting two different options for a road bisecting the manmade island. Fiesta Island dog owners favored “Option B,” which keeps the fenced-in dog park intact, while Option A would put a road down the dog area.
- May was National Hamburger Month and May 28 was National Hamburger Day. BBP profiled some of the best spots to grab a burger at the beach.
- The less redevelopment the better was the takeaway from dog owners packing a May 23 scoping meeting at MBHS to hound the city about what they'd like — and not like — to see with long-range planning on Fiesta Island.
- The Pacific Beach Parking Advisory Board sought public input on what visitors and residents thought about the community's parking and traffic situation via an online survey.
- The city approved funding for a roundabout at troublesome Foothill Boulevard and Loring Street intersection.
- MB activists lobbied to get more money in the city budget for additional summer trash pickup to combat fly infestation during the busy tourist season.
- SeaWorld debuted its new education-oriented “Orca Encounter” show replacing the old Shamu shows lobbied against successfully by animal-rights activists.
- PB residents began fighting back against bicycle thievery, documenting the growing illicit repurposing and resale of stolen bikes.
- MBHS’s Class of 2017's graduation ceremony June 14 was an ending – and a beginning — a familiar theme cutting across speeches in the commencement program.
- The iconic Coaster Saloon in MB was sold for an undisclosed sum to Davies LLC, led by David Cohn of the Cohn Restaurant Group.
- Following Coastal Commission review, the City Council approved zoning changes to a slightly downscaled project, with somewhat larger park space, that would redevelop the former Mission Beach Elementary School into condominiums.
- The iconic building on the corner of Garnet Avenue and Fanuel Street in PB was named The Rose Center after the late Dr. Nathaniel Rose.
- Thieves were warned by SDPD during a June 29 press conference that the bait bike program was in “full effect,” and that criminals caught stealing would face certain punishment.
- Crystal Pier celebrated its 90th anniversary. Since it was dedicated in 1927, the landmark at 4500 Ocean Blvd. has had numerous owners, two names, a ballroom, a carnival and 270 more feet.
- The public weighed-in on an environmental impact report for a Balboa Avenue trolley stop, one of nine planned for the Mid-Coast Trolley project extending trolley service 11 miles from Sante Fe Depot downtown to University City, ending at UTC and serving major activity centers including Old Town and two stops at UC San Diego.
- San Diego Audubon, spearheading a wetlands reclamation effort in the city’s ongoing De Anza Revitalization Plan, credited the city for backing habitat restoration — but claimed it wasn’t enough. “What is missing is the long-term view to ensure wetlands can continue to create cleaner water, buffer communities from sea-level rise, provide habitat for wildlife and get people out in nature,” said Audubon’s Rebecca Schwartz Lesberg.
- Some PB residents near Kate Sessions Park were upset about the city's plans to sell the old 4.76-acre reservoir site in north PB, one of the beach community's last remaining developable open spaces offering views to the west.
- The city and DecoBike both backed off on boardwalk bike-sharing, a sore spot with MB and PB small businesses complaining bikeshare was directly competing with them by taking away business.
- Catherine Jolley, former PB Town Council president, was named Citizen of the Year for Pacific Beach. Jolley received the honor for the continued support she has provided and for the season-opening breakfast she organized for all lifeguard divisions together.
- A Pacific Beach man, Matt Phillips, launched a petition drive on change.org calling for coastal churches to end homeless “feeds,” a practice rekindling public debate over whether homeless need a hand out — or a hand up.
- PB Town Council held its annual heartfelt salute to local emergency workers who make a difference in the community during the Police and Emergency Services Appreciation Night (PAESAN) Sept. 27.
- Miller's Field in PB, which celebrated its 10th anniversary earlier in the year, announced the prime retail space on Mission Boulevard was sold to Breakfast Republic, a fast-growing chain.
- The annual Pacific BeachFest marked 20 years of celebration with music, beer and fish tacos along the boardwalk.
- Responding to a petition drive by a PB man asking churches to stop feeding the homeless, local church leaders said the free meals are part of their mission, and a convenient way to provide outreach services to the needy.
- An ongoing City of San Diego project to replace and rehabilitate aging water and sewer infrastructure led to road closures throughout PB – specifically Ingraham Street and bridge, along with other side streets in Crown Point.
- Larissa Miller created Balinese-inspired PI Yoga Pants, the newest sensation in namaste apparel.
- The first meeting between church leaders and concerned neighbors over problems surrounding churches feeding the homeless in PB was described by both parties as encouraging, though no action was taken. Stakeholders agreed to meet regularly.
- Gordon Walker, one of San Diego's new homeless “czars,” was on the receiving end of some community angst surrounding the complex social issue during an Oct. 18 Q&A session at PB Town Council.
- In a tribute to late educator Maruta Garder, nonprofit beautifulPB held a multi-project, community-service day Nov. 3 cleaning throughout the beach community.
- A hepatitis A outbreak had 16 cases reported in Pacific and Mission beaches, 11 in OB and Point Loma and three in La Jolla.
- The City Attorney’s Office Nov. 2 defeated a lawsuit that sought to invalidate the City of San Diego’s lease of Belmont Park in Mission Beach to a company that has invested more than $20 million in improvements to the oceanfront amusement park.
- A plan nearly two decades in the making to replace the decrepit West Mission Bay Drive bridge over the San Diego River was unanimously approved Nov. 14 by the City Council. The $155 million project will replace the 1950s-era four-lane bridge that connects the Midway area and Mission Bay Park with two three-lane bridges.
- PB resident Mildred (Millie) Stuart celebrated her 100th birthday at St. Brigid Parish Hall. She has resided in the same home she and her husband built in the early ’60s.
- Officials unveiled plans to spend $117 million during the next decade upgrading Mission Bay Park providing new amenities, restoring marshland and creating additional habitat for endangered species.
- After more than five hours of public testimony, and an impasse among its nine members, City Council failed to approve new regulations to regulate short-term vacation rentals.
- Signaling it may be time for a change, the San Diego Lifeguard Union voted overwhelmingly Dec. 6 to split from the San Diego Fire Department and become its own separate “Marine Safety Department.”
- Mission Bay Park Committee voted Dec. 6 for a preferred alternative for the De Anza Revitalization Plan that pleased recreationalists but few others, especially not environmentalists who decried the decision as “token,” claiming it doesn’t do nearly enough to preserve, protect and expand native wetlands habitat.