“There is no way we can think of to control it. It’s a runaway train,” said Town Council chairman Dave Martin during the board’s Sept. 25 meeting.
Detractors of the tradition have become increasingly vocal since July’s marshmallow fight, which left the sand and streets around the pier looking like a cotton field and caked sidewalks with enough goo to cause pedestrians to get stuck and break their shoes.
At a July Town Hall meeting sponsored by the Town Council, people complained of property damage, bystanders being targeting and a free-for-all mentality that attracted outside revelers to descend upon Ocean Beach and make a mess without cleaning up after themselves. A Facebook page has also cropped up calling for a ban to the event, which typically begins after the Fourth of July fireworks display but has never been officially sponsored nor organized.
Others at the Town Hall meeting, which attracted more than 60 participants, said the tradition should be continued by creating formal boundaries, time restrictions and similar measures. But Town Councilmembers are unconvinced those alternatives are realistic, Martin said.
“We had four or five really good ideas. But until we can slow it down, we can’t implement them,” Martin said.
Martin said he didn’t rule out trying to revive the tradition in a few years, but, “We’ve got to slow it down before we can do anything. It’s total chaos,” he said.
The Town Council’s resolution calls for a public-relations campaign to notify the public of the event’s cancelation and enforce littering and vandalism laws. Police Lt. Natalie Stone said law enforcement would do its best to accommodate the desires of the community.
“We support what the Board wants to happen,” Stone said. “We’ll do the best we can.”
The resolution also calls for businesses to stop selling marshmallow launchers and promotional T-shirts. Vendors who have sold marshmallow paraphernalia at the annual Ocean Beach Chili Cook-off and Street Fair Festival won’t be permitted to set up shop next time around, Martin said.
At least one citizen who previously supported continuing the tradition has since had a change of heart. Local jeweler Gary Gilmore had presented a plan he called “Keep it on the Sand” at the Town Hall meeting to encourage voluntary restraint.
The plan called for an aggressive campaign to stay out of the streets and sidewalks and promote a family-friendly fight using traditional and social media and loudspeaker reminders.
“I was hoping, perhaps naively, that we could keep both the fireworks and the marshmallow fight. In retrospect, I now think that the Town Council’s decision was correct,” Gilmore said in an email. “To have a year or two where the marshmallow fight is banned may well cool the event down to its proper niche.”
But Frank Gormlie, editor of obrag.org, questioned the Town Council’s authority to cancel the event.
“The marshmallow wars are a community tradition and a community problem, and the community has to deal with it. We cannot simply declare it ‘illegal’ and force the issue into being a ‘police problem,’” Gormlie said in a Sept. 26 obrag.org posting.
Though the resolution was presented Sept. 25, the actual vote was taken
Sept. 11 at the Town Council’s monthly closed-door meeting. Results of that vote were not disclosed.
Other Town Council news
• Lt. Brian Goldberg, supervisor of investigations at the police department’s Western Division, has been named interim captain, Stone said. Western’s previous captain, Andy Mills, has left to become police chief in Eureka.
• Citizens concerned when they saw a SWAT armored vehicle known as a BearCat last month parked on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard can breathe a sigh of relief. It was there for a photo shoot for recruiting publications, not a police action, Stone said.
• State Sen. Marty Block has named Martin “Veteran of the Year” in the 39th District for work in the community, said Block aide Roberto Alcantar. Martin, a former Marine, will be honored at an awards dinner in November.
• Congressman Scott Peters “tried not to like” Nathan Fletcher when he met the mayoral candidate but has since wound up endorsing him in next month’s special election to replace Bob Filner. Peters, a Democratic freshman who represents the 52nd District, stopped by hours before taking a red-eye flight to Washington as Congress was debating the passage of a continuing resolution to fund the federal government.
• Designs are under way by the Ocean Beach Community Development Corporation for an exercise area at Saratoga Park that is intended for firefighters at Station 15 but would be available to anyone, Martin said. The OBTC has pledged $1,000 for the effort, he added.
• It’s still legal to park oversize recreational vehicles, trailers and boats on city streets overnight, even though the City Council banned the practice last July. The ordinance can’t go into effect until it is approved by the California Coastal Commission. That won’t happen this year, said John Ly, aide to District 2 City Councilmember Kevin Faulconer
• Sarah Boot, a candidate in next year’s election to represent District 2 on the San Diego City Council, introduced herself to the board. Boot is a Democrat and federal prosecuting attorney who lives in the Midway area.
• Even though annual elections were held just last month, openings have already cropped up on the OBTC’s Board of Directors. Candidates have until Oct. 9 to apply. More information is available at obtowncouncil.org.