Julie Klein is the Annie Oakley of San Diego’s beaches. As she describes it, Ocean Beach was like a Wild West town just a few years ago — plagued by alcohol, crime, graffiti and drugs.
“About 10 years ago, I saw a naked guy walking up the street,” said the O.B. resident and small business owner with a shop on Bacon Street, not too far from the pier. “He was completely nude. I called the police, but he walked a long way and no one else called.”
Now Klein is changing people’s attitudes. For the past three months, her group, the Ocean Beach MainStreet Association, has handed out 5,000 business cards that include a list of crimes and the police phone number.
As a result, merchants and residents are reporting more crimes. In fact, arrests near the beach from March through May were up almost 30 percent compared to the prior three months.
“Ocean Beach is still eclectic,” said the mother of two. “Sure we got people tripping, but we don’t want it to be dirty. Ocean Beach looks cleaner and that will make it harder to get away with crime.”
Klein and her group have cleaned up trash on the beach, painted over graffiti, provided dog waste bags and set up smoking containers. They have secured the partnership of both residents and merchants to make Ocean Beach a cleaner and safer beach.
“Whether you are rich or poor, don’t come down to O.B. and cause trouble,” Klein warns. “Ocean Beach really has become a vibrant community.”
Ocean Beach is not the only community that is working hard to improve its beach. But the O.B. MainStreet Association has the most work cut out for it. While it is improving, O.B. still leads all other San Diego county beaches in terms of the most crime near the beach. In fact, except for Pacific Beach, no other community is even close. That earned Ocean Beach our lowest grade for crime and safety — a D.
OurCity San Diego took an in-depth look at the county’s 12 largest beaches — from Oceanside to Imperial Beach. We collected data, visited the beaches and interviewed residents and community leaders to grade each community in four categories: Crime & Safety, Surf & Sand Cleanliness, Amenities and Transportation Access.
Solana Beach is our top rated beach, with a 3.8 grade point average. That result is far different from a recent study by Dr. Beach — which ranks Coronado as the best beach in the nation. Stephen Leatherman, who runs that report, is a professor of coastal research at Florida International and focuses his study on physical beauty, such as the shape of the beach, the quality of the sand and whether the beach is quiet and fairly secluded.
The OurCity study is based on different criteria — elements that a community can control, such as the amount of crime, human-generated trash, public facilities and parking and public transportation. In short, we grade each beach for how well it serves its community — both residents and businesses.
Overall, we awarded 16 A’s and 17 B’s, reflecting the fact that San Diego’s beaches are some of the cleanest and safest in the world. That, combined with our climate, has led to more than 37 million beach visitors every year. But there is room for improvement. We gave out 5 D’s — including one to Ocean Beach for crime.
But that does not mean the community has not made progress. In fact, crime is down 40 percent from four years ago, and Klein’s actions earn her an A for effort. But Ocean Beach still falls short of our standard for an acceptable livable community.