Alcohol issues return to the top of the PBTC's docket
by SHANNON MULHALL
Published - 07/30/08 - 03:25 PM | 2340 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alcohol-related issues, including liquor licenses and the beach alcohol ban's impact on local July Fourth celebrations, dominated the Pacific Beach Town Council's (PBTC) July 16 meeting at the Earl & Birdie Taylor Library. The advisory board also discussed revisions to a proposed maintenance assessment district (MAD) that would charge area business owners for gum and litter removal, sidewalk power washing and other services.

"The July Fourth weekend, from our standpoint, went very well," Lt. David Nisleit of the San Diego Police Department's (SDPD) Northern Division said.

Though a stabbing occurred at Belmont Park, Nisleit said there was a significant drop in violent activity.

"There were a lot less arrests, a lot less violence," he said. "The only thing we saw an increase in was house parties."

With alcohol banned from the beach, some revelers took the party inland. Nisleit said officers responded to numerous house parties at night and during the day.

"On Oliver Street, it was party city," PBTC Vice President Rose Galliher said. "The whole street was littered (the following morning) with rockets, red cups and beer cans. It was awful."

Some town council members expressed frustration over slow response times to house parties and other noise-related disturbances.

Staffing shortages are not limited to officers in uniform, said Nisleit. Dispatchers who take calls citywide are also affected.

"It's not an excuse but you've got to be patient," Nisleit said. "We're not going to be perfect, we never will be, but it was much better than years past."

Sgt. Darrell Esparza of the San Diego Lifeguard Service agreed.

"In my 30 years of lifeguarding, Pacific Beach is finally returning to what it used to be in the '70s," he said. The "rowdy crowd" of previous years was replaced with children and families, he said.

Fog also played a role in the smaller crowds, the veteran lifeguard added. This year, he estimated roughly 25 to 30 percent fewer people celebrated Independence Day on local beaches.

Many town council members would like to see a similar decline in the number of liquor licenses issued in the area. The city, however, only has limited control over who receives a license and who does not.

"It's a state thing," Detective Sgt. Howard LaBore of the San Diego Police Department's (SDPD) vice department said. Though vice conducts its own review of applicants, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) ultimately determines whether a license is issued.

The city is notified of all new or transferred licenses. It also conducts investigations of all condition modifications, including expansions, hour changes and the type of alcohol served.

Some town council members questioned why there was not more public notification of the Pacific Beach Shore Club's expansion, which includes a 1,600-foot deck.

A notice is posted on the outside of the establishment, but some town council members felt that was not enough.

Owners are not required to notify the public about modifications to alcohol licenses, LaBore said. 

PBTC director Rick Oldham asked how Pacific Beach ended up with twice the bars of other areas in the city.

Though Pacific Beach is widely perceived as party central, the city's highest concentration of liquor licenses is actually in the tony Gaslamp District, according to LaBore. However, one of Pacific Beach's three main census tracts is home to more than 50 bars.

"No more bars is not the right answer," LaBore said. "Opening the floodgates is not the right answer. Somewhere in the middle is where we need to meet."

Community input is crucial, he added.

"It's not the community's function to approve (the license), but I want your input."

The community will also have a chance to weigh in on a proposed maintenance assessment district (MAD) that would charge property owners for litter removal, sidewalk power washing, security patrols and other services.

"My goal is to get gum off the sidewalks on Garnet and find a way to make that permanent," Discover Pacific Beach executive director Benjamin Nicholls said.

The first MAD proposal presented to the town council distributed the program's estimated annual costs of almost $194,000 among residents and business owners.

The map has been redrawn, Nicholls said, to exclude as many residents as possible. "I think we're going to have a system where people pay their fair share."

Property owners in zones that generate a lot of traffic and trash, such as Garnet Avenue, would pay more, he said.

Nicholls would like City Council to vote on the proposal by the end of the year.

"I would love to provide services by next summer," he said.

A series of public meetings is planned to get input from the community. Nicholls said a new survey will also be distributed to property owners to gauge their feelings on the MAD.

Though everyone seems to agree that Garnet needs attention, not everyone believes that a MAD is the best solution.

Some attendees asked why Discover Pacific Beach, the area's business improvement district, doesn't foot the bill for cleaning and other services since the proposal does not include residents.

Individual contributions to Discover Pacific Beach are very low, Nicholls said. Business improvement districts typically don't clean, he added.

Others questioned whether the estimated budget of $194,000 would be enough to guarantee quality work and service.

"These budget numbers take into account professional people," Nicholls said.

The cleaning crews would be employees of Discover Pacific Beach.

The PBTC"ˆwill meet again Wednesday, Aug. 20, at 6:30 p.m., the Taylor Library, located at 4275 Cass St.
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