A dash of research places the girls somewhere around the turn of the 20th century, when OB was a mere teenager. All these years later, the rock at the bottom left sits stubbornly at the base of Del Monte, an unwitting axis between the ocean’s enormity and the timelessness the neighborhood represents.
Give it totally up for “Ocean Beach: Where Land and Water Meet,” a collection of more than 200 locally donated photographs and maps that chronicle OB’s development from the 1900s to the 1990s. From the neighborhood’s founding in 1887 to its present-day build-out among 28,000 residents, the sea has governed a significant chunk of commerce, and historical society creative director Kathy Blavatt, the book’s author, will speak on this phenomenon at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 19, at Water’s Edge Faith Community, 1984 Sunset Cliffs Blvd.
The title, she said, is more than a slapdash inscription.
“Everything in Ocean Beach,” Blavatt said, “derives around water. We have the San Diego River. We had the 1916 flood that wiped out part of Wonderland (amusement park). We’ve had buildings that were taken away by floods here. We have the Famosa Slough (wetlands). The ocean; the waves; the cliffs; the tourism; kids growing up at the beach: Everything here has pretty much been affected by its location surrounded by water.”
The book is an extension of “Ocean Beach,” a 2014 historical society production. Like the 127-page new book, “Ocean Beach” was published by Charleston, S.C.’s Arcadia Publishing, the country’s largest publisher of local history books and regional content guides. Unlike the original, the sequel is designed to reflect both the blessings and brickbats involved in the neighborhood’s aquatic heritage.
As it turns out, maybe not that much has changed.
“A lot of people have always had gardens in OB,” Blavatt said, “and the book shows how long back that goes.” As if on cue, she pointed to an image of a rocky succulent garden from 1937 – and the irony wasn’t lost. “Here we are today,” she explained, ”and we’re going back to that, cactus and succulents and low-water plants.”
Then there’s the seawall flap of the 1970s, wherein water was central to aggressive beachfront construction. Seven bankers boxes contained reams of lawsuit-related documents from anti-build residents who’d done colossal due diligence and had warned of construction’s harmful side-effects on the aquatic environment – and to this day, Blavatt said, “the city is always trying to do something to get around the (’70s) restrictions,” which impose a 30-foot height limit within a certain proximity to the beach.
Eric DuVall, the book’s co-author and historical society president, holds out hope.
“The area has always been a mecca for freethinkers and nonconformists,” he writes in his foreword, “and OB’s activists, business community, young people and radicals have come together again and again to save her public parks and beaches and to ward off unwanted development.”
Indeed. This is the same volatile ilk that once turned former President Nixon out from the area and that looked the other way as the neighborhood established a clothing-optional residence. They may be losing numbers through attrition, and as their children sell their houses and leave the area, but Blavatt said that OB will surmount the obstacles in its own way, as it always has. Her book lends a fascinating historical context to that end.
Kathy Blavatt, the book’s author, will speak on this phenomenon at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 19, at Water’s Edge Faith Community, 1984 Sunset Cliffs Blvd.
For more on the book, visit arcadiapublishing.com. More information about the meeting is available at obhistory.org. The historical society phone is 619-226-8125.