YEAR IN REVIEW – Ocean Beach Pier repair, scooters, land use, and vehicle habitation were major stories in 2019
King Tides are coming Jan. 10-12 and Feb. 8-9. When King Tides occur during floods or storms, water levels can rise higher and have the potential to cause damage to the coastline and coastal property. Last year, King Tides and rough surf in January damaged the Ocean Beach Pier, which was then closed for five months while under repair. San Diego residents can help by taking and sharing photos of the shoreline during King Tides to create a record of the changes to the coast and upload them at coastal.ca.gov/kingtides. Above, big surf pounded Sunset Cliffs on Dec. 15 creating huge wave splashes and a little rainbow flare.
Land use dominated the Peninsula scene again in 2019, with residents continuing to react negatively to increasing densification of their coastal community.
Point Lomans protested for open space/parkland, and against a new affordable housing project. They also warned that more development will bring more traffic congestion further restricting access, which poses a threat during a possible emergency
The addition of new, safer bike lanes on West Point Loma Boulevard, the ubiquitous scooters, the damaged and then repaired Ocean Beach Pier, and use of North Chapel in Liberty Station for other than religious purposes also emerged during the year as major stories.
Following is a month-by-month recounting of news happenings in Point Loma and Ocean Beach during 2019:
• As of Jan. 1 new state laws: made surfing California’s official state sport; required dogs, cats, and rabbits sold in pet stores to be obtained only from animal shelters or rescue groups; required kids meals in most restaurants to have a milk- or water-based beverage as the default choice; removed the requirement for people over age 18 to wear a helmet while riding a motorized scooter; and added a new law mandating repeat DUI offenders or those who receive a first DUI offense and have caused injuries, to install a breathalyzer on their engine ignition for 12 to 48 months.
• The two Catholic congregations that have shared use of North Chapel in Liberty Station for years were not granted a lease extension, and the chapel was closed for future remodeling.
• As part of ongoing efforts to address aging park infrastructure and improve the visitor experience, Cabrillo National Monument increased entrance fees for 2019. The Cabrillo National Monument daily vehicle pass was increased from $15 to $20; daily person pass from $7 to $10; daily motorcycle pass from $10 to $15; and annual pass from $30 to $35.
• “New year, new opportunities” was the theme for the annual Ocean Beach MainStreet Association marketing breakfast Jan. 8. OB merchants were given a primer on how best to use social media and other technology to promote their businesses.
• A series of winter storms tore away an estimated 200 feet of railing and planks from Ocean Beach Pier, which caused it to be closed for inspection and repairs.
• The Beacon highlighted some scrumptious pizzas in Point Loma and Ocean Beach.
• OBMA held its annual awards dinner Jan. 24.
• Residents complained of flagrant illegal drug dealing and use at Robb Field in Ocean Beach, prompting increased foot patrols in the popular recreational area.
• Peninsula residents reacted negatively to the City Council’s unanimous vote to repeal a 1983 ordinance prohibiting residents from living in a vehicle on streets within city limits.
• A Peninsula Beacon feature profiled Adam Sutton and his leashed 9-month-old Bengal cat Damnit. Since the pair first got together in May 2018, they’ve been inseparable, entertaining locals and tourists during their walks in OB.
• Point Loma High’s fourth annual Unity Game celebrated the high school's special needs students by making them the stars, even if for just one night.
• Fifty-year-old Ocean Beach core business The Black continued to gather acclaim
including being named by High Times magazine as one of the nation’s top-10 “legendary head- shops.”
• Mayor Kevin Faulconer and District 2 City Councilmember Jennifer Campbell announced that significant repairs would be required to restore and reopen the iconic OB Pier landmark by Memorial Day.
• Ocean Beach Library started its own seed library to promote seed and food sovereignty and to cultivate community connections.
• In response to severe winter storms that wreaked havoc on San Diego’s roadways, Mayor Faulconer March 14 announced a major expansion of the City’s pothole repair program to fill thousands of potholes that developed during heavy rains.
•Transportation think tank Circulate San Diego released a report March 6 finding that a Metropolitan Transit Service ballot measure could raise much-needed revenue to help the city meet its ambitious transportation- and climate-action goals.
•Ocean Beach bid adieu to the police trailer in the pier parking lot, which was a community landmark for 20 years. It was removed and replaced by more parking.
• A judge determined on April 8 that a man suspected of a fatal baseball bat attack on Rosecrans Street was mentally incompetent to understand court proceedings. Christian Louis Ewing, 29, was sent to a state psychiatric facility where he was given medications to help him regain his mental competency. He is suspected of killing Gregory Freeman, 57, who died days later after being struck repeatedly with a baseball bat on Dec. 5, 2018.
• Three OB residents — Adam Hiner, Andrew Clark, and Todd Kent — took home-brewed kombucha to the next level creating Boochcraft, a new, higher- alcohol product brewed and distributed like beer.
• The City Council voted unanimously in favor of new regulations for electric scooters
and other shared-mobility devices instituting fees for operators, decreasing allowed speeds and designating where they can park.
• Peninsula Community Planning Board overwhelmingly supported a protected bike lane for West Point Loma Boulevard, creating a new cycle track along sections between Nimitz and Sports Arena boulevards. Cycle tracks are protected bike lanes that erect barriers – plastic posts, planters, parked cars – separating motorists from bicyclists.
• It all began when Anne Jackson Hefti and friend Amy Ryan were walking their dogs in Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, and claimed they were exposed to wind-drift toxic herbicide sprayed by workers there. The incident started them on a quest, which they’re calling “Campaign Non-Toxic San Diego.” The pair began lobbying the City and County of San Diego to adopt an integrative pest management strategy to replace commonly used herbicides and pesticides containing cancer-linked glyphosate with other, safer organic products.
• There was a change of the guard in San Diego Lifeguard Union Teamsters 911 with Chris Vanos replacing Ed Harris as head steward.
• A judge on May 16 rejected probation for a surfer convicted of assaulting another surfer with a paddleboard, and instead imposed a five-year state prison term.
• The City Council voted 6-3 on May 14 to draft a new ordinance making vehicle habitation illegal once again in residential areas and near schools. The new ordinance recriminalized residents living out of their vehicles from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. in neighborhoods, or at any time within 500 feet of a residence or school excluding colleges and universities.
• Ocean Beach Pier was reopened during a May 24 ceremony.
• Community planners, the Navy, police, City Council District 2 and the San Diego Airport Authority fielded audience questions on airplane noise, homelessness, traffic and other hot- button issues at a May 14 community conversation.
• After 26 years, ownership changed hands at Dog Beach Dog Wash, with Jane Donley and Mindy Pellissier handing the leash over from the business they created in 1993 to new owners the Stokes family and friends.
• Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group vetted a controversial proposal to turn part of the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR) site into a regional transportation “grand central station.”
• A jury on May 31 found a young man guilty of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of the “Incense Man,” a transient who sold scented sticks. The eight-man,
three-woman jury deliberated for 11 hours over three days before convicting Noah Mitchell Jackson, 21, of Ocean Beach, in the 2017 slaying of Walter (Ras) Riley, 65, who was stabbed five times.
• A Point Loma High School junior, Timothy Fraher, a student in Anthony Palmiotto’s cinematic arts program, won a contest for his “See Something Say Something” video graphically depicting how it’s easier to buy a gun than it is to get a driver’s license.
• By most accounts, the 40th annual OB Street Fair & Chili Cook-Off was a rousing success.
New this year to the annual event was the Dirty Birds Wing Eating Contest won by Anthony Vasquez, $2,200 in proceeds from which were donated to OB’s Clean and Safe Program.
•What started as a quest to earn his own money morphed into a humanitarian crusade by 9- year-old Dylan Rodrigues of Ocean Beach to help others in need. One recent recipient of Dylan’s lemonade largesse was his life-long friend Kalel Hamilton, who was stricken by muscular dystrophy.
• Major upgrades began at Point Loma High. The largest of those is a three-story classroom building/media center along Chatsworth Boulevard. It will replace the 800 building, a round, outdated structure that holds the current media center and all of the site's electrical grid, computer networks and telephone system in its basement.
• The San Diego Housing Commission determined that a controversial five-acre lot at Famosa and Nimitz boulevards was suitable for the development of affordable housing.
• With the goals of modernizing the Navy’s physical presence in San Diego and improving transit connections to the airport, Mayor Faulconer July 10 was joined by regional planning and transportation agencies and the U.S. military to announce Navy Region Southwest and the San Diego Association of Governments had signed an agreement to explore possible options for the redevelopment of Naval Base Point Loma Old Town Complex.
• New scooter regulations took effect on July 1.
• Target’s new Ocean Beach store at 4864 Newport Ave. opened to the public on July 17.
• La Playa Trail Association received the prestigious “Keeper of the Flame” award at a Save Our Heritage Organisation ceremony. SOHO is San Diego’s leader in preserving and promoting architectural, cultural and historical landmarks that contribute to the community’s identity.
• John Rudolph, son of Harry Rudolph Jr. who founded La Jolla’s Harry’s Coffee Shop in 1960, purchased The Venetian Restaurant in Point Loma. The Venetian is Rudolph’s fourth restaurant. He also owns Mike’s Taco Club at 5060 Newport Ave. in Ocean Beach.
• The group that owns the San Diego Gulls minor hockey league team, Anaheim
Arena Management (AAM), was selected by the City of San Diego to replace Pechanga Arena’s current operator, Arena Group 2000, as arena manager following a request for proposals (RFP) process.
• A lawsuit alleging Ocean Beach’s Dog Beach has a non-ADA compliant ramp led to a proposal to create a pricy replacement, which some Obecians derided as the “ramp to
nowhere.” Ocean Beach Planning Board voted 13-1 to deny support for the City’s proposed new ramp replacement.
• An all-day celebration for environmentalist Jim Bell, 77, who died Aug. 2 of complications following a stroke, was held Aug. 25 at his Ocean Beach home. His remembrance included an afternoon ceremony at sea.
*Arguing that cumulative impacts of several ongoing housing developments hadn’t been properly evaluated, some Point Lomans called for a Peninsula-wide traffic study to be done at a special meeting.
• A new, stylized updated Point Loma High School logo created by PLHS alum and graphic designer Josh Utley was unveiled.
• Several local surfers and shapers were among legends of the sport inducted Aug. 13 into the San Diego Surfing Hall of Fame at a ceremony at Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach. The event was hailed by organizers as “the greatest gathering of surf legends San Diego has ever seen.” Those honored included John Holly, veteran OB surfer, and board shaper.
• Peninsula Community Planning Board voted 8-3 Aug. 28 to send a letter to City officials supporting open/park space and opposing a 78-unit affordable housing project proposed on a five-acre lot at Famosa and Nimitz boulevards.
• OB restaurateur Steve Yeng began mass marketing of Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey, a 70-proof, vegan- and gluten-free beverage that smells like praline pecan caramel swirl ice cream and tastes like a liquid peanut butter cup.
• Point Loma students held a gender-neutral homecoming election, during which two senior boys were elected as "homecoming royalty" instead of the traditional "king" and “queen."
• San Diego International Airport’s development plan update drew criticism from a local watchdog complaining of its community impacts at Peninsula Community Planning Board’s Sept. 19 meeting. Planning is underway for up to $3 billion worth of improvements to the airport, including replacement of the aging Terminal 1 building.
*Community activist Casey Schnoor challenged the airport’s estimate for when maximum operating capacity will be reached, claiming it will happen sooner than the airport’s 2030-2040 projection. “What are you going to do for the 15,000 residents and 7,300 homes in the area that are going to be impacted dramatically?” asked Schnoor.
• Hamburger haven Hodad’s fans got a double treat: a celebration of the iconic restaurant’s 50th anniversary, and a birthday remembrance for late family patriarch Mike Harden on “Bossman Day” Sept. 30 at OB Pier parking lot. Festivities included live bands, food, a skateboard ramp, brews, booths, and a kids zone. Mike “Bossman” Hardin, the unofficial mayor and “Burgermeister” of OB, died Feb. 5, 2015.
• On Oct. 6, Surfrider held its 28th annual Paddle for Clean Water event on Ocean Beach where hundreds of surfers, paddle boarders, and kayakers paddled their way around the pier to show their dedication to keeping beaches in San Diego thriving.
• Urban Corps members got paid while earning their high school GED equivalency and the environment got cleansed while workers spent several days restoring Famosa Slough. “We received a $15,000 grant,” said Lauren Welch, Urban Corps development manager, and grant author. “They put in some new trails, barbed wire, removed invasive plants, cleared brush and provided water-quality improvements and restoration activities.”
• An Ocean Beach ad hoc group calling themselves the “troll patrol” seized the initiative in attempting to reign-in bad characters behaving irresponsibly.
• The 15th annual OB Oktoberfest featured a beer garden, live music and fun contests Oct. 11-12 on Newport Avenue and Abbott Street.
• Peninsula Community Planning Board shared stories and accolades about late community activist Jarvis Ross.
• The Point Loma Association received a $60,000 grant from the County for their upcoming transformational project in the community, themed Anchor Lights, on Rosecrans Street. This multi-phased project includes the installation of a series of string lights across Rosecrans Street from Talbot to Cañon Street.
• Major upgrades are planned for Peninsula Family YMCA. The existing building is to be renamed the Ryan Family YMCA and will include: a 22,000-square-foot facility with expanded parking; a Child Discovery Center and outdoor play space; fitness studios; modern locker rooms and amenities; an enrichment program and event space; and a 3,200-square-foot rooftop deck.
• The seventh annual Bike For Boobs fundraising bicycle ride for breast cancer awareness on Nov. 9 started and ended at The Wine Club on Shelter Island.
• Community planners failed to thwart City plans to build a new estimated $1.1 million, ADA-compliant ramp at Dog Beach in Ocean Beach. The City Council voted unanimously Nov. 19 to deny an appeal brought by Ocean Beach Planning Group, which voted overwhelmingly in August against the City’s proposed replacement ramp.
• The grand marshals for the 40th anniversary of the OB Holiday Parade themed Miracle On Newport Avenue, were the family that started it all: the James brothers of the James Gang Co. printers. “Actually, it was my late brother, Rich James, who started it,” said Mike James of his family’s business and their historic contribution to the beach community’s annual holiday tree planting and festive parade.