Wednesday, April 10, Bill Allen – owner of the Crystal Pier Motel – and other residents called a press conference at the pier to help expose a simmering problem in Pacific Beach to the larger community. Allen and many other concerned residents have over the last while voiced their complaints about Scott Slaga – owner of the 710 Club (ex-Blind Melons) near the Crystal Pier – in his efforts to obtain a sidewalk encroachment variance for his establishment.
Allen and the complaining residents have issues caused, they contend, by encroachments for bars, problems such as the high crime stats and high noise impact, to lowered property values to no room on the sidewalks for people to walk to the beach.
This is all in preparation for the city council vote today, April 11, on whether or not to allow Slaga to obtain his sidewalk encroachment variance.
Apparently the City of San Diego Planning Department was issuing permits last November without first passing by the local planning boards for advice, as required. These are ‘small things’ like sidewalk encroachment deviations for bar-restaurants to erect substantial outdoor patios in the established public right of way.
Sure, everyone likes a nice sidewalk café, and fond memories of hanging out in one, watching the passers-by, sipping a beer or coffee with friends, in lovely places like Paris or San Francisco, and San Diego too, live forever in our hearts.
Our chamber of commerce and city planning department are anxious to please developers in America’s Finest City, so why the uproar at the recent Pacific Beach sub-committee and planning group meeting for residential/commercial development over the latest permit?
Because it all means another extension of another bar on Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach, the highest crime zone in our fair city, concerning one of the noisiest popular live entertainment venues, the 710 Club at Crystal Pier. This was Item #3 on the sub-committee agenda.
No laws are being broken, and many of the other bar-restaurants on Garnet Ave. and around PB have obtained their sidewalk encroachment deviations, so longtime tenant operator, Scott Slaga, requested one too. Who wouldn’t?
Unfortunately, the excessive number of local neighbor complaints and police calls concerning the loud rowdy behavior of his and other bars close by customers who occupy the streets and beaches as well as the bars to the limit of the night, have emboldened the PB Planning Group sub-committee.
The sub-committee voted unanimously to recommend to the larger local planning board that it advise the city to refuse this demand for extension permit. This all came down in a tense meeting on Valentine’s Day. Gosh, Valentine’s Day…you gotta love your community to be here… The planning board meeting on February 27 also voted 10-5 to not approve this permit.
No love lost between Mr. Slaga and his neighbors at the million dollar beachfront condos across the street, “See the Sea”, represented by the condo association treasurer, Joanie Liberman and local resident, Ellie Fellers, and the Crystal Pier Motel’ Allen, who showed up, with many other concerned residents, to voice their numerous complaints.
Bill Allen expressed outrage at the need to hire permanent security guards (over $300,000/over 10 years) to help control the late night turbulence. This was all for the sake of their motel tourist clients paying top dollar for a beach vacation (but rarely returning because of the rowdy noise and late night activity), and numerous other renovations of sound-proofing. Allen also was outraged at the loss of renter revenues for his and other neighboring popular beach bar-club businesses.
Mr. Slaga’s impassioned appeal didn’t seem to convince the planning board or the neighbors present. He claimed to be one of San Diego’s standards of live entertainment (he also runs Winston’s in OB) having been a continuing business operator for 25 years – before the apartments became condos and the property values started rising -.
Slaga noted efforts of his to arbitrate the “noise of existing business” which was signed by the neo-condo buyers, of his civic engagement in planning boards and establishing the local BID (business improvement district), of his concessions to “arbitration” demands on his business activities, and finally, his spending mucho dollars renovating and expanding his business and “trying to do the right thing” by including a restaurant.
Slaga maintained that he is not necessarily to blame, nor are other bar operators, for the current violent trend of entitlement to “get blasted” in neighborhood venues and streets (now that the beach is off limits to booze) that partyers today seem to have adopted. He is reaping the profits nevertheless. Coupled with the increase in population density, it creates, as Mr. Slaga says, “the paradox” of him operating his business within all “the laws”, but still being cast as a public “enemy,” and having his sidewalk patio extension denied.
We are led to this point in time – blaming the alcohol licensing laws and the liberality of the ABC (Alcohol Beverage Commission) over-distribution of permits, and that “47/48 thing” which allows restaurants to easily morph into more profitable alcohol serving venues, and the general loud and rowdy manners of the current population of “customers”.(“47/48” is a type of permit allowing different kinds of alcohol from serving just wine and beer in a restaurant environment, to serving all types of hard alcohol in a bar environment)
The president of the Pacific Beach planning board expressed satisfaction that the City, to clear up this discrepancy of organizational by-laws, sent the project back to the local board for approval and advice. The Pacific Beach Planning Board stated that they will be happy to educate the city planners and managers about the real effects of a few square feet of sidewalk encroachment deviations in the case of Mr. Slaga.
Fat Sal’s Sandwich Shop – which recently opened on Garnet Ave. next to Filippi’s, – item #2 on this sub-committee agenda (no alcohol license for the moment), WAS approved for a sidewalk encroachment variance, with which many of the present neighbors also expressing discontentment, including the honorary mayor of Pacific Beach, Marcella Teran, stating that the encroached sidewalks are becoming too narrow for strollers, wheelchairs, two people walking together in some places, (because of trees and trashcans and newspaper stands and signs) obliging pedestrians to walk in the street.
The planning board also advocates the start-up of a maintenance assessment district (MAD) to impose special permanent taxes on the (many absentee or corporation) business property owners, mostly NOT renting to bar-restaurants, mostly to clean up after the sidewalk parties, make superficial beautification street “improvements,” and repairs from the weekly vandalism and party activity AND widen the over-crowded encroached sidewalks…
The violent crime statistics provided by Scott Chipman, longtime planning board member and community activist, indicate that North Park and Hillcrest, which have maintenance assessment districts in place, rival Pacific Beach for first place in “violent crime” in the city of San Diego, followed by the other “party places” in the city.
Laws abound on the books about public drunkenness, lewdness and vandalism, yet all the neighbors present at this sub-committee meeting, planning group meeting, and recent press conference, agreed that little is being done to curb the “real” problem, and a lot is being done to expand it … or hide it … or beautify it…and as long as “alcohol and drugs rule,” so will violent crime, and encroachments into the sidewalks and streets of our neighborhoods.
Sub-committee is the nom de blog of a Pacific Beach activist.