District 3 Citizens Express Frustration During Zoom Meeting with Councilman Whitburn

| May 1, 2022 | 0 Comments

After several attempts to talk to someone from Councilman Stephen Whitburn’s office, I elected to participate in a Zoom meeting with him that was initiated by his office.  I thought, “Maybe I can talk to him directly since calls and emails to his office are going unanswered.”

By the way, I should mention, the reason I reached out to him was because of the recent fire in Presidio Park caused by the homeless.  I was contacting him on behalf of the Old Town Chamber of Commerce and Presidio Hills’ residents whose homes back up to the park.

As I was one of upward of two-dozen people who asked to speak during the Zoom meeting, it was encouraging to hear what residents of District 3 shared and asked of Whitburn. 

Topics included non-permitted vendors in Balboa Park; homeless encampments in Balboa Park and surrounding communities; 4th and 5th Avenue bike paths that are dangerous to pedestrians, vehicular traffic, and bicyclists; the NAVWAR site; the downtown Petco Park high rise that he approved; ministerial abuse by developers; 6th Avenue playground bathroom’s illegal drug activity and sexual acts; and city planning group concerns.

What I had been told by various people from District 3 prior to this Zoom meeting is that Whitburn is known for acknowledging the problems that are brought before him. However, there is no follow up by staff and no action taken.

So, what was worrisome early in the discussion was when Whitburn became defensive when someone commented on a staff members lack of response to phone calls and emails. And I may offer, that same person didn’t return my calls and emails.

He also showed lack of understanding about long-standing concerns of District 3 residents and businesses, including the NAVWAR project with SANDAG and developers.  He did not know why people got involved, such as access to the airport, beaches, and Old Town; environmental concerns of the Coastal Commission; and traffic and congestion concerns. Instead, he referred to Mission Hills residents losing their views, which I found quite appalling.

Add to that, when I asked him if he knew about Save San Diego’s Character, which is over 5,000 people strong, he was totally off course.  He asked me, “Is this the Talmadge group addressing ADU issues?” 

I countered by stating that this is a group started in Mission Hills, joined by Old Town residents and businesses and Point Loma residents, and now includes people from all over the city and county in opposition of the development initially planned by the Navy, SANDAG and City officials on the NAVWAR site in Old Town San Diego. 

He appeared stunned and embarrassed, then deflected the issue to talk about University Heights and bathrooms at the Trolley Park.

On a positive note, Whitburn did offer some good information on the non-permitted vendors currently taking up residence in Balboa Park. He stated that a new street vending ordinance prohibits vending year-round in the Prado and other “historic” areas of the park, and that there is money in the city budget to enforce that ban. 

Additionally, I learned from Sarah Hernholm during the Zoom meeting what a large group of people are doing in Banker’s Hill to address the issues at the 6th Avenue playground. Unfortunately, the homeless have been using this site for illegal drug activity, sexual acts and for their personal hygiene.

Sadly, families and children no longer have a safe and clean place to play and go to the bathroom. Currently children who come to the 6th Avenue playground are at risk of seeing nudity, masturbation, drug use, excess trash, open alcohol containers, human feces on equipment, and more.

As Hernholm offered, “If we don’t clean up the playground and the bathrooms it’s not a matter of if something is going to happen to a child, but when.”

The bathrooms are often out of use due to destruction of property by those living in the park. They are also being permanently occupied by those who are classified as “unsheltered.”

Following the Zoom meeting I visited this website and signed the petition and encourage others to do the same:  https://www.change.org/p/make-6th-ave-playground-safe-clean-for-kids.

Hernholm also shared with me that Whitburn’s staff have been unresponsive to these concerns and have offered no viable solutions.

Unfortunately, I can’t state that Councilman Whitburn’s Zoom meeting served a purpose, other than enlightening those of us who participated, so we can join each other’s causes.

Speaking of causes, the same group that Hernholm introduced me to that is attempting to clean up Balboa Park is also doing a trash removal event at the park on Saturday, May 21.  More information will be available at the website noted above.

The 6th Avenue playground at Balboa Park is now filled with people who are allowed to set up camp on site. Photo is courtesy of Michael Reyes.

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