Planners renew permit for police trailer near OB pier — for now
by Tony de Garate
Aug 21, 2013 | 1529 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Some say the view at Surf Check Alley has been hindered by the police trailer in the Ocean Beach Pier parking lot. Others say the presence of the trailer and view obstruction doesn’t matter. Photo by Tony de Garate I The Beacon
Some say the view at Surf Check Alley has been hindered by the police trailer in the Ocean Beach Pier parking lot. Others say the presence of the trailer and view obstruction doesn’t matter. Photo by Tony de Garate I The Beacon
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Many seem to agree that an office trailer smack-dab in the middle of the pier parking lot is not the ideal place for a police presence in Ocean Beach. But the fact remains that the trailer rented out by local business owners for use as a mini-police station has been sitting right there at the foot of Newport Avenue for 14 years — all the while without a permit.

The Ocean Beach Planning Board (OBPB), for the second time this year, has voted to allow police to keep the trailer in place, but only until a “more suitable” location becomes available.

Planners further stipulated in a 10-1 vote Aug. 7 that the permit expire five years after its issuance.

The matter came before the OBPB because the state California Coastal Commission last year rejected the city’s claim that the trailer was temporary and determined it needed to have a coastal development permit or be moved.

The OBPB, like the other 40-plus neighborhood planning groups in the city, makes recommendations on permits and other matters having to do with land use and quality-of-life issues.

The board thought it was finished with the issue in January when the police department first applied for the permit and the board similarly approved the use. But police officials failed to notify everyone in a 300-foot radius as required by law, conceded police Lt. Natalie Stone, forcing the need to start the process over again.

Stone said the mistake occurred because the department’s crime analysis unit, which had been tasked with determining the size of the area to be included in the mailing list, failed to measure from every corner of the parking lot.

The Ocean Beach MainStreet Association (OBMA) has been renting the trailer to police since August 1999, the year after the police department lost its lease at a storefront in the 5000 block of Newport Avenue.

Though the trailer is not regularly staffed, police go there to work on reports, use the restroom, microwave snacks and store equipment, Stone said. Having police spend more time around the parking lot reduces crime and response times, she said. Without the trailer, police would have to leave Ocean Beach and complete routine tasks at the Gaines Street headquarters or storefront on Sports Arena Boulevard.

Craig Klein, a local property owner and former OBPB board member, was among the speakers who agreed with the trailer’s benefits.

“Unless we have a police presence … there, the whole area is going to be overrun with travelers, dope dealers, gang members and other people engaged in harmful activity,” Klein said.

But Vince Adame, a resident who lives east of the parking lot, said he’s been trying to get the trailer moved to a better location for five years and charged that police have not pursued alternative locations. He said the trailer is rarely used, takes up too many parking spaces, and is “sitting there as an eyesore.”

A speaker who identified himself as a 10-year resident named “Raymond” agreed. He said the view behind the trailer, known as Surf Check alley, had been ruined by the trailer.

“On my balcony on the second floor, the only thing I’ve ever seen is trailer roof alley. Why can’t they move that against the east wall and let us have our view back? Simple as that,” he said.

Stone said other locations would require the extension of utilities hookups or lack protection from being jumped on.

“If a merchant came along and said, ‘We’d like to give you a space’ somewhere along Newport, we would abandon the trailer,” Stone said.

Several speakers pointed to a

$4.56 million city plan to replace the existing 33-year-old lifeguard tower on Abbott Street as the long-term solution. The new building would be more than double in size and allow joint use for police and lifeguards. But no funding has been identified for the project, according to city documents.

Until that project is built, it makes no sense to remove the trailer, said OBMA executive director Denny Knox.

“If we say it’s ugly and it’s got to go, what have we gained?” she said.

Board member Scott Therkalsen cast the lone dissenting vote.

“Seems like we’re just kicking this down the road. If there’s not going to be a new lifeguard tower in five years, (the trailer) isn’t going to move in five years,” he said.

But board member Peter Ruscitti said the board’s action expressed both desires: to maintain police presence, but make it clear the trailer is not to be permanent.

“We want that police trailer out of there, but right now, with no other option available, it’s better than turning police away from Ocean Beach,” he said.

The permit must be approved by the San Diego Hearing Officer but may be appealed to the California Coastal Commission.

In other OBPB news

• John Ambert has been appointed to represent District 1, the northernmost section of Ocean Beach. Ambert described himself as a 30-year resident and son of a local chiropractor. He listed three areas of concern: the fate of the former Apple Tree Market, the long-vacant lot at Voltaire Street and Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, and an “atrocious” project at the corner of Ebers Street and Santa Monica Avenue that resulted from lot-splitting. He also expressed interest in eco-districts and improved access for pedestrians and bikes.

• The board still has a vacancy available by board appointment in District 3. To qualify, a citizen must be at least 18 years old and have lived, owned property or run a business in the Ocean Beach planning area for at least 30 days. In addition, candidates must collect 35 signatures from eligible voters in District 3. More information is available at oceanbeachplanning.org.

• Obeceans seem to like the idea that lifeguards who get injured in the line of duty get compensation benefits equal to those of police officers and firefighters. A recently passed bill (SB 527) to do just that, sponsored by state Sen. Marty Block, takes effect next year, said Block aide Roberto Alcanzar. The news was greeted with applause by audience members.

• Block also wants ideas for next year’s legislative agenda, said Alcanzar. A town hall meeting will be scheduled next month to allow citizens to make suggestions. “Our goal is to have our legislative package for next year be completely community driven,” Alcanzar said.
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