By Ken Williams | Editor
North Park debates whether to ban people from parks overnight
Should North Park impose a nighttime curfew for certain public parks?
The North Park Recreational Council is spearheading an effort to get city officials to establish a curfew from midnight to 6 a.m. at the following locations:
- North Park Community Park, bounded by Howard Avenue, Idaho Street, Lincoln Avenue and Oregon Street.
- Montclair Neighborhood Park, located at the foot of Nile Street, south of Quince Street.
- Cedar Ridge Park, situated at the southern end of Pentuckett Avenue, west of the Escondido Freeway (Interstate 15 bypass).
- North Park Mini Park, the future park planned on the south side of the Observatory North Park, facing 29th and 30th streets and North Park Way.
Lynn Elliott, chair of the North Park Recreational Council, asked the North Park Planning Committee (NPPC) at its Nov. 21 meeting to support the effort to persuade city leaders to amend Municipal Code Section 63.0120(a) and establish a nighttime curfew at the four parks.
Currently, a midnight-to-6 a.m. curfew only applies to Children’s Park, Gaslamp Square Park, Pantoja Park, Children’s Museum Park, Fault Line Park and Cortez Hill Park — all located Downtown.
Curfew supporters traditionally cite peace of mind for nearby residents and community safety, because it would presumably prohibit drug and alcohol abuse, and deter sex crimes. Detractors contend that curfews create a false sense of security, and are discriminatory and unconstitutional because they violate people’s right to privacy and punish law abiders.
Other than Morley Field, North Park Community Park is the largest city park in the North Park neighborhood. Elliott described incidents of gang activity, drug dealing and prostitution. She also cited two instances where razor blades were found in the children’s play area. And she noted that a tourist was murdered in the park within the past five years; San Diego Uptown News searched local news archives and could not confirm this information, and neither could the NPPC chair.
This summer, residents who lived near the park circulated a petition, demanding changes, and it caught the attention of local TV stations.
The main goal, it would seem, is to drive the homeless out of the park after dark and make it a crime to violate the curfew — and that made some folks question the wisdom of taking this course of action.
“Where would the homeless people go?” one woman wondered.
“I don’t want them camping in my backyard or alley,” another person said.
Lt. Ben Kelso of the San Diego Police Department said a curfew would give officers another enforcement tool at the parks. But some residents questioned the value of ticketing homeless people for curfew violations when they cannot pay for a misdemeanor offense, much less afford rent. Lt. Kelso said a judge has the discretion to allow offenders “to work off their fines.”
On the other hand, some audience members said a curfew doesn’t resolve the homeless problem. “They will just migrate to another location,” one resident said.
After hearing the lively discussion, a man who lives next to the park and had signed the petition said he changed his mind.
NPPC board members were largely skeptical of the curfew request.
Daniel Gebreselassie passionately defended the rights of the homeless and said imposing a curfew would only force them to find new places to sleep, such as backyards, alleys and storefronts. Criminalizing the homeless is something you would find in a dictatorship, not in a free society, he said.
Sarah McAlear said she had a problem with curfews, as did Kathleen Ferrier and Dennis Campbell, the vice chair.
Brandon Hilpert, the treasurer, grilled Lt. Kelso about the need for a curfew, saying it would not solve the problem. Eduardo Velasquez and Megan Kurcharski echoed Hilpert’s comments.
Tim Taylor, Kate Callen, Peter Hill and Dang Nguyen voiced their support for a curfew.
In the end, the advisory board voted 8-4 against supporting the curfew request. The issue will still be presented to other local groups and agencies, and the curfew request could still end up being decided by the City Council.
The Public Facilities/Transportation subcommittee of the NPPC had thoroughly debated proposed locations for bike-share stations in North Park, so the matter was placed on the consent agenda at the Nov. 22 meeting. But board member Megan Kurcharski pulled Part B of the motion for further debate.
Kurcharski, who is a nurse, said the board should be encouraging bicycling in North Park and believed that the language of the motion could be improved.
The city’s bike-share contractor DecoBike San Diego is relocating a number of bike-share stations that have smaller ridership. DecoBike is working in conjunction with the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), which recommended sites near busy bus stops.
After a debate, the board voted 12-1 on the following motions:
Part A: Support the installation of stations at:
- 2011 El Cajon Blvd. at the southeast intersection with Florida Street, against Dunn Edwards Paint.
- 2711 El Cajon Blvd. at the southeast intersection with Oregon Street, adjacent to the bus stop.
- 3001 El Cajon Blvd. at the southeast intersection with 30th Street, next to Tiger! Tiger!
The Part A recommendation came with the stipulation that the advertisement be placed farthest from the intersection and that the location not impact existing street trees.
Part B: Recommend alternative locations to those proposed by the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) at:
- 3011 El Cajon Blvd. at the southeast intersection with 30th Street, near the T-Mobile store. There is a large, covered MTS bus stop there.
- 3409 30th St. at Upas Street. The intersection is extremely busy and a dangerous crossing.
- 4683 30th St. at Adams Avenue. The intersection is a high-traffic area.
The Part B recommendation was amended to show that the NPPC board encourages relocating stations perhaps one block away or on a nearby side street to mitigate traffic concerns.
Part C: Support the Adams Avenue Business Association proposal to move the station proposed for 4683 30th St. outside a tattoo shop, next to a driveway and a street tree.
Part D: Defer to the University Heights Community Development Corporation for a proposed station at 4619 Park Blvd.
In a related issue, the NPPC voted to support in concept the use of Lime Bike in the city. The Lime Bike is a dockless bike-share program that targets the first and last mile of transportation. Users can use a smartphone app to find and unlock bikes. The program is already in use in Imperial Beach with plans to expand statewide.
Angela Landsberg, executive director of North Park Main Street (NPMS), briefed the NPPC board members and the community on the new North Park Property & Business Improvement District (PBID).
The program launches in January, she said.
Property owners along the transportation corridors of University Avenue and 30th Street recently voted in favor of an annual property tax for maintenance and upkeep in addition to services already provided by NPMS and the city. The property owners pay this special tax to the county, which then turns that money over to the city before it is paid out to the PBID.
The PBID district runs along 30th Street from Polk Avenue to Upas Street, and on University Avenue from Park Villa Drive to 32nd Street.
Landsberg said the PBID will get $340,000 annually for sanitation, such as picking up litter, scraping gum off sidewalks and monthly steam cleaning. Some of the money will go toward recruitment efforts to bring new businesses to North Park.
The extra money will also pay for a full-time employee and a part-time worker.
The PBID will also provide landscaping and irrigation for the new medians that will be installed when the long-awaited University Avenue Mobility Plan gets underway. The City Council approved $5.8 million for the mobility plan on July 27, 2015. The project was expected to begin by early 2017, but was delayed as the city tore up University Avenue to replace aging waterlines. The water pipeline project is nearly finished, and the city expects to begin the mobility project after that.
To read San Diego Uptown News’ report on the University Avenue Mobility Plan, go to bit.ly/2zuH4nz.