Spurred by Latino residents concerned about an increase in drug-dealing in the Eden Gardens area, the Solana Beach City Council Monday night approved an ordinance aimed at cleaning up city parks and beaches.
The strongest part of the ordinance prohibits drinking and possessing alcohol in La Colonia Park and on the streets, alleys and sidewalks adjacent to the park, which has become a center for drug dealers. In addition, it outlaws alcohol in beach parking lots and prohibits nudity on beaches.
It was passed on a 5-0 vote by the City Council as an "urgency" measure, to go into effect immediately after it is signed by Mayor Margaret Schlesinger.
The new law had its roots in the fears of escalating crime expressed by residents of Eden Gardens, a mostly Latino section of Solana Beach. Originally a neighborhood for families of agricultural laborers who worked the fields of North County, Eden Gardens remains a Latino enclave and is described by some residents as "Little Mexico."
Longtime residents of Eden Gardens say that in recent years crime has risen sharply in the neighborhood. They blame it on the rising use and sale of illegal drugs. A Friday night raid by sheriff's deputies in Eden Gardens resulted in 26 arrests on drug-related charges.
"It's kind of a breakthrough with us as a city to have a real good relationship with the people who are the leaders of that community," Schlesinger said. She said that, historically, the community has kept itself apart from the rest of Solana Beach.
"They came to us and said, 'We have a problem down here and we want some help,' " she said. "Tonight's vote gives the sheriff some ordinances that can be enforced in order to clean up the community."
Schlesinger said that Eden Gardens residents, some of whose families have lived in Solana Beach for three and four generations, targeted La Colonia Park as the area most infested with drug dealers and drug dealing.
"There's an apartment complex set into La Colonia Park that has gotten to be a hangout," Schlesinger said. "It's overcrowded. You have men sitting around and making trouble. The old-time Eden Gardens residents don't want their children to go down to the park."
Schlesinger said that, as more staffers are hired by the city, such apartments will be investigated for health and safety violations caused by overcrowding.
Prior to Monday's meeting, City Councilman Richard Hendlin had expressed some doubts about enforcement of a no-alcohol ordinance in a park where families might want to go for a picnic and have a beer.
The new law provides for fines of up to $1,000 and jail terms of up to six months.