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Ocean Beach Residents Feel ‘Disrespected’ By Crowds Flouting COVID-19 Rules

Police speak with people in Ocean Beach, August 5, 2020.

Credit: 10News

Above: Police speak with people in Ocean Beach, August 5, 2020.

Some Ocean Beach residents are concerned about what they call a lack of respect for COVID-19 guidelines.

For weeks now, a large group has been gathering with music and food on a small patch of grass near Veterans Plaza. Dubbed a 'drum circle,' the group has been coming to OB for the last two years or so. But residents say they are fed up with the parties continuing during the pandemic.

Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

"They haven’t been practicing any social distancing or mask-wearing at all — which as you know has been mandated by the county," Ocean Beach Town Council President Mark Winkie said. "The community is quite frankly fed up with it.'

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Ocean Beach Town Council Pleads For Help

Ocean Beach Town Council Pleads For Help

Responding to an influx of complaints, this week OB Town Council sent a letter to city and county officials pleading for help with large crowds of people not physically distancing or wearing face coverings.

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Responding to an influx of complaints, this week the OB Town Council sent a letter to city and county officials pleading for help.

"They’re just so close together, and they’re just mingling around this area," Winkie said. "As a community, we’ve worked to be socially responsible with the pandemic, but to see these people not abiding by the rules is frustrating."

Wednesday night, San Diego police officers responded to the gathering by the pier. A spokesperson said no one was cited for violating state or county health orders, and the department is trying to find a solution that respects both sides.

"It was actually very well received in the community that they did come out and took care of the issue, but that’s really the Band-Aid," Winkie said.

San Diego City Councilmember Jen Campbell, who represents OB, in a statement yesterday suggested the crowds are coming from the Wednesday farmers market. She called on the Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association, which puts on the market, to consider options that would “make a direct and positive impact for concerned OB residents.”

Reported by Matt Hoffman , Video by Andi Dukleth

OB Mainstreet Association officials say they are not ruling out the possibility of including the drum circle in its farmers market.

"We haven’t met (the association and the drum circle) — so we need to talk about it and the community needs to have consensus," said Denny Knox, the association's executive director.

Knox also wants to see officials doing their part.

"The city needs to figure out how they can operate the beachfront without going back on what the county is requiring. These are COVID restrictions. We’re not making them up," she said.

Knox said to put on the Wednesday’s farmers market, they are limiting capacity, handing out masks and checking vendors' temperatures. She said it’s not fair that this other group doesn’t have to follow the rules.

Councilmember Campbell's office issued a statement Thursday saying "it's clear that the gatherings... are out of control."

The statement also said, "We're working with everyone involved, from the mayor's office, the county, public safety officials and Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association (which has a permitted event the same evening) to ensure that public health is prioritized. We've had a great working relationship with OBMA and this morning (Thursday) District 2 staff discussed potential solutions to these issues with them to get their feedback and ideas. Everyone is committed to finding a permanent solution to this problem while the pandemic continues."

After the weekly gatherings, trash is left all over. Residents come together to pick it up, Winkie said.

"We as a community feel disrespected," he said. "You know we’re asking them to respect OB, come down have fun in a safe way with social distancing. Just don't leave your trash all over the place."

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Matt Hoffman
General Assignment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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