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Jim Bell,'Environmental Designer,' Dies

Jim Bell, a long-time Ocean Beach resident and ecologist, is pictured in this undated Facebook photo.
OB Rag
Jim Bell, a long-time Ocean Beach resident and ecologist, is pictured in this undated Facebook photo.

Jim Bell, who died last week at his home in Ocean Beach at the age of 77, was known as a visionary environmentalist who ran for mayor four times.

Bell called himself an "environmental designer." He envisioned a San Diego-Tijuana region that could be self sufficient with renewable water, food and energy, by doing such things as covering one third of all roofs and parking lots with solar panels.

Jim Bell,'Environmental Designer,' Dies
Listen to this story by Alison St John.

He helped develop a prototype wastewater recycling plant in Tijuana, that is still operating, to convert sewage into irrigation water and compost.


When I first interviewed Bell at his home in Ocean Beach in the early 1990s, he talked about building an offshore porcelain reef with recycled toilets and replacing those toilets with low flow systems. He said the reef would become an environmental asset and a wonderful place for snorkeling.

Bell’s manifesto, published as a pamphlet, was called "Consciousness and Knowledge; Achieving Peace, Prosperity and Life Supporting Sustainability.” It was written for all inhabitants of what he called spaceship earth.

“I’m sending this out because I care,” he wrote. “I believe that when enough of us care about the well being of our descendants and theirs, it will be easy to create world peace and bring everything we do for work or play into prosperity and life supporting system harmony.”

Bell never won public office, though former mayors of San Diego tapped him for their task forces or to be their “environment czar.” He had a reputation for being unfailingly optimistic, compassionate and kind.

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