Ocean Beach Town Council meeting: Progress slow on homelessness, short-term rentals

District 2 City Council member Jennifer Campbell talks about homelessness and short-term vacation rentals at OB Town Council’s meeting Oct. 23 at the Masonic Lodge. She can be reached at (619) 236-6622 or
(Savanah Duffy)

Homelessness and the Short Term Vacation Rentals were the focal points of OB Town Council’s final meeting of the year, which took place on Oct. 23 at the Masonic Lodge, 1711 Sunset Cliffs Blvd., with special guest District 2 City Council member Jennifer Campbell arriving at 6:30 p.m. for an informal meet-and-greet and a Q&A session beginning at 7 p.m. Campbell’s talk was followed by reports from San Diego Police Department Western Division officers, OB Elementary updates and a re-run of the OBie Awards.

Fighting Homelessness

Campbell expressed pride in City Council for making the vote in June to allow Father Joe’s Village’s homeless residents remain at Golden Hill, 202 W. C St., where they had been relocated in April after Father Joe’s Village decided to build an apartment for the homeless in place of the industrial tent where they had previously been living.

Though City administration attempted to have the homeless individuals moved to a new tent site which was being built at 17th Street and Imperial Avenue, the Council voted in favor of allowing the homeless to remain at Golden Hall, out of concern that the new tent’s location would not be safe for women and children. The City, having already started building the new tent, finished the project, completing the City’s fourth bridge shelter. (According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, the large tents are referred to as bridge shelters because they are meant to be a bridge between life on the street and permanent housing for homeless people.)

Additionally, Campbell said the City of San Diego Community Action Plan on Homelessness, authored by the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) was passed Oct, 14. The CSH identifies three goals that are within the City’s reach within three years:

1. Decrease unsheltered homelessness by 50 percent.

2. Finish the job of ending Veteran homelessness.

3. Prevent and end youth homelessness as outlined in the San Diego County Coordinated Community Plan to End Youth Homelessness.

Campbell acknowledged that keeping a home in San Diego can be a challenge—even for those working full time jobs.

“Some people are paying half their income just for their rent,” she stated. “The American dream to buy your own home is crushed for a lot of people.”

She further observed that the San Diego Housing Commission’s federal Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, in which rental assistance is offered to households with low incomes, has not had its funding increased in at least 15 years. According to her, the waiting list to receive Section 8 housing is longer than 10 years.

Short Term Vacation Rentals

One audience member asked: “What is the City Council’s stance on Short Term Vacation Rentals?”

Campbell reported there are about 16,000 STVRs in San Diego, 80 percent of which are full home rentals where no one lives permanently, taking around 12,000 units off the market for buying or renting.

“That represents almost 20 percent of our needed housing stock, so that’s got to stop,” she said.

She clarified that until the City of San Diego settles on an official definition for STVRs, nothing can be done.

“To tell you the truth, the people in other districts are not faced with the (STVR) problem as much as we are,” she added. “They don’t understand.”

Referencing the hearings during the City Council meetings for the Vehicle Habitation Law, Campbell addressed critics’ comments regarding her methods.

“Calling me criminalizing homeless people because I want to help them and get them into a safe parking lot—that’s ridiculous,” she opined. “I just want to help them. I’m a doctor, I want to heal them. The pushback is unbelievable.”

Campbell closed by informing the community that she had voted to put the convention center on the upcoming March ballot to allow the public to vote on extending the center. The convention center is missing out on big conventions like Apple and IBM because it’s not large enough, she said, and considering 30 percent of tourist taxes go to homeless programs, a bigger convention center to bring in more tourists will be beneficial.

Police business

A member of the public (Frank Gormlie of “OB Rag”) inquired as to how information is transferred between patrol officers, as he had asked an officer on duty about the hit-and-run that occurred on Sept. 6 at 4000 block of Nimitz Boulevard, but the officer hadn’t heard about the incident.

Western Division Officer David Surwilo responded that due to the large area the Western Division deals with—including, but not limited to, Hillcrest, Loma Portal, Midtown, Mission Valley West, Ocean Beach, Old Town, University Heights—and the hundreds of radio calls per neighborhood every day, officers keep focus on their particular jobs. The sergeant in question’s focus is not on the every-day patrol duties, Surwilo explained, but on certain special projects that are going on. Therefore, she may not be aware of each incident in the area.

Surwilo suggested that those interested go to the SDPD Western Division, 5215 Gaines St., fill out the required paperwork and ask to go on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday-night ride along to experience first-hand how much is going on in the neighborhoods.

OB Elementary

Principal Marco Drapeau informed the public that OB Elementary School was this year’s beneficiary of Kearney Mesa Subaru’s program Subaru Loves to Read, and received a donation of 150 brand-new books to build a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) Library.

He added that OB Elementary School has yet to find out if it has below a 40 percent population of students who are eligible for Title 1 funding (K-12 program that helps schools with large concentrations of low-income students receive supplemental funds to assist in meeting student’s educational goals). If the school has below 40 percent, it will still receive Title 1 for one more year, but if it’s below 40 percent a second year in a row, they will lose the funding.

OBie Awards

For those who missed the OBie Awards, hosted at Wonderland Ocean Pub on Oct. 22 to honor award recipients for their service and community commitment, the winners are as follows:

· Humanitarian Service: Dylan Rodrigues

· Community Partner: Wow Café

· Cultural Contribution: Electric Waste Band

· Programs for Youth: ZenTotz

· Volunteer Service: Stephanie Logan and Holly Treppa Strum

· Clean beaches: Surfrider Foundation San Diego

· Community Preservation: OB Hardware

· Lifetime Service Award: Jim Bell (Posthumously)

· Citizen of the Year: Giovanni Ingolia

Certificates of Recognition were given out by Todd Gloria, who was present to speak, and reps from Jennifer Campbell’s office, Toni Atkins’ office and Scott Peters Office were also on hand to present the awards.

OB Town Council doesn’t meet in December, and will next meet 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020 at the Masonic Lodge, 1711 Sunset Cliffs Blvd.


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