We love making fun of local TV stations. Especially when they whip into OB chasing down the latest controversy or scandal, usually having to do with people who are homeless or drugs – or better yet – both. The newscasters often project a total lack of institutional memory when they report on the latest, but they certainly know the expression “Ocean Beach is in the news again,” will turn heads towards thousands of TV sets across the city.
So it was last week when reporter Dan Plante from KUSI News set up his camera on the OB Pier and fashioned the latest scandalous story from his own hometown – the rampant and open use of drugs by the Ocean Beach Pier.
And Plante was looking for not just pot, but meth, coke, oxy and everything else. He and his camera people took stills on people doing drugs right there on the beach, next to the sand berms, or near the wall. And then KUSI published them on the nightly and daily news.
But guess what? They only found weed. That’s right, the only drugs being consumed that day – or at least out in the open – was the ol wacky tabacky, cannabis, marijuana.
Plante has residents saying ‘this is the worst it’s even been’, and his written report stated:
Now that pot is legal in California, the wanderers are flaunting it. Even though it’s still illegal to smoke in public, they don’t seem to care. … Even though this kind of thing has always been a subtext of Ocean Beach, the blatant use and sale of drugs in the open is fairly new.
(His video report was a little more hysterical.)
Hey – we have news for Dan – it was “worse” in the late Sixties and Seventies. Believe me. And by “worse” I mean more open, more blatant – and I wish to retract any negativity. It was what it was.
Drug use – mainly pot – has been synonymous with “Ocean Beach” for decades. That’s where northwest OB got the nickname, “the War Zone,” due in part to the rampant drug use and sales in the corner of the neighborhood. But the beach was particularly vulnerable in those days. What surfer wouldn’t come in from the challenges of the waves and rest on the sand enjoying a joint. Who didn’t take late night walks on the Pier smoking a joint?
Ocean Beach was one of the major drug centers in San Diego, especially for white people. People would stream into OB to get their high and retreat to the more reactionary confines of the rest of the city. Drugs and the counter-culture went – and still does – go hand in hand. (Why did you put counter-culture in quotes, Dan?)
Now, of course, there are plenty of valid concerns about the use of the hard stuff – (no, not that brown hard liquid stuff) – the meth, coke, heroin and oxy. Whether taken in the open or not, these substances suck the life out of their user, and their open use is certainly an ugly sign of addiction, and we should be concerned with our neighbors going south with addictions. It’s a medical issue.
And good citizens of OB, like Mark Winkie, president of the OB Town Council, have a right to be concerned. Due to the lack of substantial and sufficient response by our various levels of government, his community is inundated and its residents and businesses victimized by the lack of adequate resources.
And sure, who wants to have their kids – oh, also the tourists – see all this? Not a good scene for the little ones. And, of course, it’s bad for business – unless the tourist is actually looking for drugs themselves. So, yes these are genuine concerns.
Often, however, the concern over open drug use is a euphemism for concern over how the community looks with all the people who are homeless everywhere. Another TV station took this approach recently with the headline: “Some embarrassed by homelessness in Ocean Beach during bodyboarding festival.” Yet 10News could only quote one resident complain about it: “It was terrible. It was like looking at LA’s Skid Row right under our pier.”
You know when your city has the fourth highest homeless population in the nation, there’s gonna be lots of people on the streets. And at the beach, and under and near the pier, and by the river. And yes, many of them take drugs and alcohol. Until we as a society figure out how to house all of our people, there will be people living on the streets and sand. We cannot continue to criminalize homelessness and when we have our politicians and police push them off the streets, they have to go somewhere else, so don’t be surprised when they show up in sunny and warm OB.
The station’s report about people being embarrassed during the bodysurfing contest, did conclude with an upbeat tone:
Spectators and athletes seemed unfazed by the issue.
“You just try to go with the flow here and try not to let them bother us too much, it’s getting pretty bad,” said Ryan Ohr, a competitor from Huntington Beach.
“I personally don’t mind it because it is OB, and it is a part of the world no matter where you go, there’s people from all walks,” supporter and local Kristen Brantley said.
The folks who ran the bodysurfing contest didn’t seem to mind either. In fact, the competition’s director signed the permit for next year’s competition in the middle of the gig. In one year, it will happen again – on Nov. 21-22, 2020 at the same location. OB. Home of the counter-culture.
Sorry, Bill, to take the shot. But people have been smoking weed openly in OB for over half a century.