“[The alcohol ban] worked well at the beach, but we have seen some spillover,” said Police Chief William Lansdowne. “The largest congregation is showing up at Kate Sessions Park. [On the Fourth of July] there were 300 people last year and 1,200 this year. We’re paying very close attention to it. If it continues to build we’ll have to look at the alcohol drinking ability there.”
Police and park and recreation staff responded to the July 4 crowds by adding more portable toilets and sending more police officers. Someone had tapped into a public water line and set up a Slip ’n‘ and Slide, which was illegal given the water restrictions. A YouTube video shows people happily sliding down the plastic with beers in hand. At 8 p.m. a helicopter flew over the park to announce the drinking must stop; the park only permits alcohol from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Soledad Road resident Mary Christian-Heising is worried the neighborhood is losing the community park to the whole county. She said she was disturbed by the number of men urinating on the grass instead of waiting in line for the portable restrooms on July 4.
“We don’t want to be after the fact,” Christian-Heising said.
District 2 City Councilmember Kevin Faulconer’s office has received only two complaints about alcohol usage at Kate Sessions and will continue to monitor the situation, according to Tony Manolatos, communications director for Faulconer’s office.
“The [alcohol] ban was just for beaches and bays,” Manolatos said. “Alcohol was banned at most of the beaches and bays in Southern California, so we had become a magnet for the problem. The city handles the parks on a case by case basis.”
Richard Crider, director of the PB Recreation Center which oversees Kate Sessions, said he did not receive any complaints about July Fourth festivities at Kate Sessions.
The Beach & Bay Press, however, received three letters in July from people concerned about the shifting culture at Kate Sessions Park (see page 6).
“Kate Sessions Park in north PB has been ‘discovered,’” wrote Christian Winkle, who has lived a block from the park since 1986. “It is no longer the place for a picnic, a walk or sunbathing on a blanket. Now every Saturday people are ‘roping off’ areas with police tape and ‘reserving’ their areas early in the day for stand-up cocktail parties with amplified music. Thirty or so ‘friends’ show up and bring the beach with them to Kate Sessions.”
Winkle said he does not want the city to ban alcohol at the park, but he would like to see amplified music restricted and a limit on the number of permits given to large groups.
The city permanently prohibited drinking alcohol on beaches and around bays in San Diego in January 2008, including adjacent parks like grassy Scripps Park in La Jolla and Sunset Cliffs Natural Park in Point Loma.
Bill Klees, chair of the Point Loma Association, said the situation at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is calmer but he attributes that to the installation of a gate that locks people out of the park at 10 p.m. Klees doesn’t approve that the majority of residents were penalized for the minority that abused alcohol at the beach, although he does recall his own tenants saving old couches to drag down to the beach to leave on the sand.
“All that the beach alcohol ban has done is created problems in the neighborhoods now,” Klees said.