Pacific Beach Town Council in October heard from local law enforcement about everything from homeless encampments to bike theft, sidewalk vending, and illegal beach fires.
Attendees noted issues with homelessness in the area are ramping up, particularly encampments in Rose Creek and around Rose Creek Cottage, as well as the boardwalk.
“Homelessness is not going to be solved overnight,” responded SDPD Northern Division Lt. Lisa McKean adding, “The latest count shows homeless is down 12%. The City has purchased a couple of hotels and these hotels are going to be made available within six months. What this is going to allow us (police) to do is we’ll be able to have more of a law enforcement arm when it comes to our officers who are daily contacting individuals who consistently refuse services.”
Addressing ongoing bike theft, McKean said, “Our beach and criminal suppression teams continue to do bike bait operations.”
McKean added a 42-year-old suspect was recently caught due to a bike-bait operation. Bait bikes have a GPS device and, when stolen, police can track the theft happening in real time to apprehend criminals.
Asked about the legality of maskless patrons in local bars, McKean replied: “Bars are allowed to be open because they’re selling food. Once seated and consuming food and drink, patrons can take their masks off. For the most part we’re seeing compliance in terms of distancing between tables. When those (mask violations) are reported, we send those reports along to our vice team and the ABC.”
Asked how citizens can help Mckean replied, “What we really need is constant vigilance and reporting from the community.”
Regarding problematic street vending, PBTC president Brian White noted, “The City has really dropped the ball here 100%. Everyone in OB, MB and PB, we’re all pestering the mayor’s office (for enforcement).”
Brian Curry, former PB Planning Group chair, concurred that law enforcement’s hands need to be untied when dealing with homelessness and problematic street vending.
“The problem here is not policing, but our administration at City Hall, which won’t take control and solve the situation,” Curry said. “We’ve been reporting it (encampments, vending) and reporting it.
“It’s actually gotten to the point where we shouldn’t have to report it: It’s just there. Hats off to law enforcement. Right now we feel like you’re the only ones who might pick up the phone and respond to us. It’s a horrific situation and it’s dangerous.”
Addressing illegal beach fires, Capt. Rich Marcello from Fire Station 21 in Pacific Beach said, “We did a public service announcement. That’s one of the biggest issues we’ve been dealing with since COVID. People have nowhere to go but the beach, so they end up digging holes in the beach, in the sand, and starting all these bonfires.”
But Marcello noted calling the fire department first for response to illegal beach fires serves only to “tie up one particular engine company. When people dial 911 for a so-called emergency bonfire, we have the obligation to respond/ though we don’t have the ability to triage those call as they come in. So we have put out a PSA asking people to notify PD and have them come out and respond. That’s getting a lot of good press, as well as just educating people on what is legal versus illegal.”
Marcello noted illegal beach fires are those which “are dug into the sand and not in approved City fire rings. If somebody brings out a personal fire ring-style device and lights that fire, and then removes them after, those are legal fires. The illegal fires are the fires that are dug into the sand and actually lit in that capacity.”
Marcello added a second PSA on illegal beach fires is coming out soon with details about proper public response.