The ban will be in effect in 2008 as a pilot program.
The permanent, 24-hour, 7-day-a-week ban sought by District 2 Councilmember Kevin Faulconer went down in defeat in a 4-3 vote before Faulconer accepted the compromise to limit the ban only to 2008.
District 8 Councilmember Ben Hueso voted against Faulconer's proposal initially, but he quickly added he would vote for it only if it was a pilot program for a year.
After the first vote on Faulconer's proposal drew only four aye votes, Faulconer quickly accepted Hueso's proposal and amended his motion to add a "one-year sunset clause." The compromise drew the minimum 5 votes needed to pass.
If another alcohol ban is sought in late 2008, the City Council would have to vote to vote again.
District 6 Councilmember Donna Frye seconded Faulconer's original motion for the permanent alcohol ban and councilmembers Toni Atkins and Scott Peters also voted for it.
Councilmembers Hueso, Tony Young and Jim Madaffer voted against it. Councilmember Brian Maienschein was absent and was reportedly working in Rancho Bernardo to help wildfire victims in his district.
More than 300 people attended the meeting, during which the proposed ban was the sole topic. People in favor of it vastly outnumbered those opposed to the ban.
The catalyst for the vote was the brawl between beachgoers and police on Labor Day in Pacific Beach, during which mostly young males fought and threw water bottles and beer cans at police officers.
Fifteen people were arrested, but only three people have been charged so far with misdemeanor counts alleging they participated in a riot.
Madaffer asked a police captain to tell the council the number of alcohol arrests that occurred in the city on Labor Day. The captain replied that 65 people were arrested on charges ranging from driving under the influence of alcohol, minors possessing alcohol, reckless driving and other alcohol-related charges.
But when Madaffer asked how many of those 65 people were arrested for alcohol-related offenses at the beaches, the captain said 17 people.
Consequently, Madaffer said he could not support Faulconer's proposal for a permanent ban. He said he preferred a measure that would ban "beer bongs, beer luges, and drunken people from the beach."
Young offered no explanation for his no vote.
The compromise to have the law exist only in 2008 may halt any effort by residents who are opposed to the ban to put it on a 2008 ballot measure. If the measue was placed on the June ballot, the law would only be in effect six more months. And by the November election, the law would have only two more months of enforcement.
Mayor Jerry Sanders favored another proposal of limiting alcohol consumption only on the weekend holidays for Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. Peters and Frye both criticized Sanders for not backing a complete alcohol ban.
No one on the council made a motion supporting Sanders' proposal.
A second reading of the law will have to be passed within three weeks, putting the law into effect in early January. Signs reflecting the new law will have to be erected.
Enforcement of the ban will mean mostly citations and not arrests, said Police Chief William Lansdowne. It will be a misdemeanor offense to drink at the beach, with a six-month jail term and/or a $1,000 fine as the maximum penalty.
Frye said she seconded Faulconer's original motion because she has seen how the image of Pacific Beach has changed since she and her husband opened up a surf shop in 1988 on Felspar Street near the beach.
"It's promoted as a place to get drunk. It's nutty that people don't know how to behave," said Frye.
Frye said she moved the surf shop in 2000 because "it wasn't fun anymore; it wasn't safe anymore." She said she recalled having "to pick up garbage, really disgusting things we had to pick up" outside the store.
A video was presented to the council that showed beachgoers using beer bongs and beer luges that helped drinkers indulge more quickly. One device involved the use of alcohol being poured down an ice sculpture with people at the end putting their mouths to a hole in the ice at the bottom.
Frye made reference to that, saying "who knows what else will be invented to show how much a young woman can drink with (a bunch) of young men around."
Faulconer defended his proposal, saying it was "a public safety issue for all San Diegans." He added: "Beaches belong to everyone ... I can't tell you how many times I've been told, "˜I don't go to the beach anymore. Too many knuckleheads have ruined it.'"
Several people in the audience said Faulconer was overreacting to the Labor Day incident. One man told the council the incident was called "a crisis because something happens on TV."
Television newscasts have repeated scenes of shirtless men fighting on the beach that day.
"Kevin Faulconer, shame on you," said Larry Leon. "I'm sorry, City Council. We have other problems like drilling holes in La Jolla and fires."
Mark Smith, a Pacific Beach homeowner, opposed the ban, saying it would be more effective to limit beach parking.
"Don't ban alcohol "” just reduce the people," said Smith.
"Enforce the laws already on the books. Prohibition won't work," said Bill Barlow, a former surfer.
Ban opponent Sheila Ford added: "It's a small minority of people who cause problems. We need a lot more education to the public."
Jason Baron, a Pacific Beach homeowner, said he preferred the council reject all four versions of the law and select "none of the above."
"I'm an attorney. I live downtown," said one speaker. "I'd like to enjoy a beer on the beach. Please don't make that a crime."
Yet there was plenty of support for the ban as well.
"PB has become a craphole," said Joe Wilding, a Pacific Beach resident. "It's out of control. It's possible to enjoy the beach without alcohol. I do it all the time."
Robert Ard, of Ocean Beach, agreed. He said there are problems with the "chronic homeless alcoholics who drink all day at the beach." Ard added that segment of the population often breaks into cars in Ocean Beach and Pacific Beach.
Rick Strobel, a lifeguard, said some drownings are linked to swimmers who have been drinking. He also suggested the council ban beer bongs and ice sculptures with hoses that are made for guzzling alcohol.