4. Case Study: Pacific Beach

There are a number of contributing factors that may be identified as components of the bigger picture we seek to improve.

Demographic Makeup

One major element to consider is our existing demographic composition. Here’s an analysis of the 2000 vs. 2010 US Census [i] for the zip code of 92109 including Pacific Beach as well as Mission Beach and Mission Bay.

Notable results include:

  • 51% of residents are between 20-34 years old – an increase of 2% over year 2000
  • 88% of residents are aged 21 years and older
  • The number of family households (consist of a householder and one or more other people related to the householder by birth, marriage, or adoption) declined by 2%
  • Numbers of households with children increased over year 2000 by 1%
  • The number of renter-occupied dwellings increased by 2% to 72% of all available units

Civic Engagement Apathy

PB’s younger audience is a rich resource of stakeholders that very likely want to see an improved Pacific Beach business district. It is often argued that this age group is rarely represented in civic or resident-based groups that work on policies that affect the greater community, such as the beach alcohol issue. This may however be rooted in a more systemic issue of general apathy in civic engagement. As a result younger generations are rarely directly polled to learn of their needs and vision.

Declining Levels of Civic Engagement

“…reductions are apparent in the numbers of volunteers for mainline civic organizations, such as the Boy Scouts (off by 26 percent since 1970) and the Red Cross (off by 61 percent since 1970). At all educational (and hence social) levels of American society, and counting all sorts of group memberships, the average number of associational memberships has fallen by about a fourth over the last quarter century.

In America, at least, there is reason to suspect that this democratic disarray may be linked to a broad and continuing erosion of civic engagement that began a quarter-century ago. High on the nation’s agenda should be the question of how to reverse these adverse trends in social connectedness, thus restoring civic engagement and civic trust.”

- Robert Putnam, Author – Bowling Alone [ii]

Perception and Reputation of Pacific Beach

Although many consider San Diego as a relatively conservative city, perhaps its military background, beach atmosphere and sunny climate has contributed to a more liberal alcohol-tolerant culture.

The community of PB has a diverse reputation. Many people believe PB is the place to let loose, get a little crazy, and later head back home back to normalcy. Many people comment ‘well, that’s just PB’ or ask, ‘why would you move to PB?’ as if it’s common belief that the environment in PB is somewhat less sophisticated.

This is not a new trend. We have met residents who recall a bulletin board on Garnet Ave. twenty years ago proclaiming “8 blocks – 44 bars – Welcome to Heaven”.  However, issues seem to have become much more significant and complex over the past decade.

When researching reviews about PB in common social marketing tools such as Yelp.com [iii], one can find many references to disappointingly negative reviews. Here’s a sampling of posts found today:

  • “PB, I salute you for the vital service you provide San Diego. Like a “roach motel” attracts unwanted bugs, you provide a hangout for the douchebag bros of San Diego so that more interesting areas of the county remain untainted by the infestation. Thank you!”
  • “The mere mention of P.B. makes me shudder.”
  • “People who come here every once in a while for a day at the beach may really enjoy the area. But for people who have to go through this junk of a community every day? Holy crap.”
  • “Totally awesome…if you’re a douchebag.”
  • “PB, sadly, has become a neighborhood of drunks and freaks. It’s sad to see a once family town now the home for a large population of losers. I feel sorry for the decent, respectful people who live there and who have to put up with the increasing number of morons.”
  • “Three words: drunks, sluts and bro-dudes… I stay away at all costs.”
  • “…unless you live there or are in your early 20′s who doesn’t mind the frat house environment of booze, booze, and more booze; don’t bother going there at night. The fights, noise and level of disrespect for others is enough to drive the munks (sic) at the Hare Krishna temple mad. “
  • “Obviously its douchebag-zone since you’re in PB.”
  • “…If you are young, immature, horny, like to drink and get drunk-then PB is for you. Once a nice, family-friendly beach town back in the good ole days, now PB is full of tatted Ed Hardy-wearing douche-bag men. “
  • “I love PB. I used to live in PB. I wouldn’t mind living in PB again. … However…Factor in frat guys, bros and drunk knuckleheads,,, and PB automatically becomes one of the worst places to hang out at or visit in San Diego.”
  • “It’s really too bad since the beach is so nice and there are some cool businesses that have been there forever, but I just can stand to put up with the people anymore.”

Yes, absolutely, there are far more positive reviews about Pacific Beach. Yet, when one asks around, PB is not typically stereotyped as ‘beach community’ without some mention of issues like the chronic alcohol-related crime problems and the disrespectful and immature nature of the evening clientele. As is common, typical complaints about most popular beach destinations include those around issues such as parking or traffic.

Just Move!

Many people retort that “anyone not happy with the environment in PB should just move because we knew what we were getting into”. This simple, current example of the sheer insanity of the argument that this woman should ‘just move because she doesn’t like PB’ illustrates this point succinctly:

The first story is from this weekend, and others are representative police calls for service:

  • Elderly Woman Finds Chargers Fan Sleeping On Couch [iv]

“An elderly woman in Pacific Beach woke up Friday morning to find a man in a Chargers jersey sleeping on her couch.

The 81-year-old woman, who lives in the 1300 block of Thomas Avenue, called San Diego police around 7:30 a.m. to report that man that was asleep in her living room.

The man was woken by officers and taken into custody.”

  • San Diego homeowner finds naked man asleep on sofa [v]

“San Diego resident awoke to a shocking discovery: a naked stranger passed out on his downstairs sofa.

San Diego police Lt. Jim Filley says the Pacific Beach homeowner called police after wandering downstairs Sunday morning and finding the snoring man.

Filley says the naked man was drunk and thought he was in his own home in Mission Valley, some 20 miles away.

The man, whose name wasn’t released, had taken off his clothes outside the house and walked in through the unlocked front door.

The homeowner declined to press charges. And since the intruder had sobered up, he was released to find his own way home.”

Perhaps the resident and police thought it better to release this man to not inconvenience him or draw any negative attention. Unfortunately the story made national news.

  • “Surprise bathroom guests…”

In an online video [vi] police responded at 4:23 a.m. to the home of a startled resident who reported a passed out drunk on his bathroom floor. Although the resident chuckled about the incident he reported the man had a pair of scissors, removed from the resident’s kitchen drawer, in his hand. Why would this man have picked up a pair of scissors after breaking in? Wouldn’t it make sense that the man had intended to rob or harm the resident?

There are myriad recent examples of drunk pedestrians breaking into people’s homes and vehicles, passing out in their yards, in the street or, in many other locations… far too many to mention here.

By blaming the residents on chronic alcohol-related issues the industry and their supporters are essentially deflecting the responsibility of every stakeholder to participate in building their community. Put another way, this argument is akin to saying that much of our Logan Heights residents should move away because they have a gang and crime problem. However, most Logan Heights residents believe their community fabric is far more important than their own individual needs and they persist to stay and work together to build a safe, vibrant community. Their improving crime numbers and the level of personal safety their visitors experience proves that point.

Citations and Resources

[i] US Census General Population by year for entire zip code 92109 [including Mission Beach]: Year 2010 and Year 2000

Note: [7] “Family households” consist of a householder and one or more other people related to the householder by birth, marriage, or adoption. They do not include same-sex married couples even if the marriage was performed in a state issuing marriage certificates for same-sex couples. Same-sex couple households are included in the family households category if there is at least one additional person related to the householder by birth or adoption. Same-sex couple households with no relatives of the householder present are tabulated in nonfamily households. “Nonfamily households” consist of people living alone and households which do not have any members related to the householder.

[ii] Bowling Alone
[iii] Yelp.com search for Pacific Beach 92109, Nightlife category
[iv] Elderly Woman Finds Chargers Fan Sleeping On Couch
[v] San Diego Homeowner Finds Naked Man asleep on Sofa
[vi] Drunk Man Armed with Scissors Passes out after Break-In

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