DEL MAR — With varying spring breaks about to get under way, City Council unanimously approved a municipal code amendment that will put the existing alcohol ban into effect about three months early.
At the Feb. 23 meeting, council members opted to forgo a staff presentation and public comment and moved to the consent calendar an agenda item banning the consumption and possession of alcohol on public property from March 1 through Labor Day.
Alcohol contributed to a 2001 fight in Del Mar that involved hundreds of people and resulted in three arrests and at least two injuries. The following year, the city instituted an annual alcohol ban during the July Fourth weekend. But a tripling of alcohol-related problems on two weekends in May 2008 prompted City Council later that month to broaden the interdict from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
The result was a marked decrease in alcohol-related problems. “The general behavior patterns that had once led to objectionable and disruptive activities at the beach were minimized,” the staff report states. “The adjacent residential areas were once again quiet and problem free. Most importantly, Del Mar lifeguards were able to concentrate on their primary duty of watching our waters and keeping swimmers safe.”
Alcohol-related violence — or fear of it — prompted all coastal cities to enact similar restrictions during the past 13 months. Last year, one-year bans took effect at all city beaches in San Diego in January, at Torrey Pines State Beach in April and in Solana Beach in June. The ban at city of San Diego beaches was made permanent by voters in the November election.
Until last month, Silver Strand State Beach in Coronado was one of only two areas in the county where drinking was allowed on the beach. But on Jan. 8, the state adopted a six-month ban there, prohibiting alcohol consumption from March 16 through Sept. 30.
The alcohol ban amendment was originally an agenda item, but council voted to add it to the consent calendar, where items are approved in one action without discussion unless pulled by a member of the council or public.
Mayor Crystal Crawford said all letters and e-mails sent to City Hall supported the ordinance amendment. She said resident Scott Bloom had positive comments regarding the current ban, but he did not want to see it made year-round.
Crawford said resident Christy Hahn stated that March 1 seemed a little early, even with spring breaks about to begin.
Two or three residents attended the meeting to speak in favor of the amendment, but they agreed to relinquish their time to address council when it was apparent the ordinance change would pass.