After much debate, San Diego bans alcohol at beaches on a trial basis

Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO -- After three hours of passionate debate among beach activists, the City Council on Monday voted 5 to 2 for a one-year trial ban on drinking alcohol at city beaches.

Councilman Kevin Faulconer, who represents beach areas, proposed a ban after a Labor Day brawl at Pacific Beach led to 17 arrests and a confrontation between young men and several dozen police in riot gear.

Council President Scott Peters said the time for a booze ban was long overdue. “There are beaches in this city that are off-limits to families” because of alcohol problems, Peters said. “It’s outrageous.”


Councilwoman Donna Frye, who once owned a surf shop in Pacific Beach with her husband, surf legend Skip Frye, said Pacific Beach has become known as “the place to get drunk.”

But Councilman Jim Madaffer said he believes opponents will start a referendum to overturn the ban, as they did in 2002 when the council imposed an 18-month ban. He voted against Faulconer’s proposal.

Almost alone among Southern California cities, San Diego allows drinking on most of its beaches, except for some in La Jolla, where community leaders have sought a ban without opposition.

Drinking on the beaches is one of the more divisive issues in local politics. Those for and against the ban packed the City Council chambers, clapping and cheering at statements.

Faulconer had wanted an outright ban, but Councilman Ben Hueso said he could support only a one-year trial.

He said he was worried about law-abiding beachgoers being cited as if they were rowdy drunks.


“What’s going to happen to people who want to propose to their partner on the beach with a bottle of wine?” he asked.

The ban will return to the council in a year for possible reauthorization.

Mayor Jerry Sanders, who is not a member of the council, had suggested banning alcohol on certain holiday weekends, when local beaches attract more than 600,000 people.