Last March the city billed 17 persons for whom the city had piers removed. Only 2 of them have reimbursed the city. The remaining 15 still owe the city fees totaling almost $47,000. Sam Santillan of the city auditor’s office says some of the property owners who have refused to pay have asked for a breakdown of the charges. But, he adds, “The vast majority just ignored the bill.” Among those the city says owe money are J. Floyd Andrews, Clinton McKinnon, T. Claude Ryan, and George Millay. Spokesmen in the city attorney’s office say they don’t know at this time if the city will file a lawsuit against the 15 individuals who have not paid the fees.
Although the forced removal of their private piers and docks was an inconvenience to them, Sail Bay residents faced problems of a more serious nature shortly after the tideland leases expired. It was then that Assistant City Manager R.E. Graham issued a report to the city council listing beach encroachments of patios, landscaping, and other improvements to the homes and yards of property owners living on Sail Bay. Even though the once-legal encroachments were a matter of public record, few persons realized how extensive they were. While some were minor and didn’t interfere with public access to the beach, others were of such magnitude that they would require major revisions by some residents.
Among the latter are Martinet’s patio, which extends some 20 feet southward onto public beach. To make it legal would require the removal of about 2200 square feet of the patio, including concrete paving, wood decking, planter boxes, and other landscaping.
The former city councilman’s brother, who lives one street away on West Briarfield, has an equally serious encroachment. Approximately 130 feet of Ronald Martinet’s wooden seawall and about 3000 square feet of his patio are on public beach.
Across the street from Ronald Martinet is the home of Dr. and Mrs. Robert Bridge. Among their beach encroachments are 2400 square feet of lawn landscaping and other patio-type improvements. A portion of their roof overhang may also be in violation.
George Millay’s condominium at 3726 Riviera Drive has beach encroachments that include about 90 feet of a 4-foot-high concrete-block wall with a 4-foot-high glass-and-metal windscreen that encloses a patio area.
The most spectacular encroachment belongs to the condominium at 3810 Riviera Drive. Built on public land were from one-third to one-half of the swimming pool, a portion of a wooden deck, retaining walls, fences, planter boxes, and various types of landscaping.
The failure by property owners to remove private improvements on what is now public beach raises an interesting question: Can the public use those improvements that lie on public land? “As long as the improvements are there, they [the property owners] don’t have the exclusive right to use them,” said Deputy City Attorney Hal Valderhaug. “The public can use them.” Anticipating such a question when the leases expired, Valderhaug says he telephoned the San Diego Police Department about that time and told them not to arrest anybody accused of trespassing on what has become public land. Valderhaug explained that although the public may use that portion of improvements that are on public land, they may not destroy them. And should a citizen gain access to an improvement by entering private property, he would be guilty of trespassing. If, on the other hand, one were to gain entry from the beach to the Riviera Drive swimming pool, for example, and proceed to swim in the one-third to one-half of it on public beach, no law would be broken. While admitting the public can use the pool or some portions of a few residents’ patios with impunity, Valderhaug added, “I don’t think the people should be encouraged to use the back yards of people. It’s not necessary. It would cause nothing but trouble.”
Four months after the tideland leases expired, the city commissioned an architectural firm, the Reynolds Environmental Group, to develop a master plan for developing the Sail Bay beach for public use. The cost of the study was $59,000. Several weeks later an ad hoc committee was established by the city council to work with the Reynolds Group on the project. The committee was composed of five Pacific Beach residents considered knowledgeable about Sail Bay, five abutting-property owners, and five citizens selected from the city at large in the hope they would provide a regional perspective to the planning.
Through the first four months of 1977, Reynolds Group representatives and the ad hoc committee met several times to exchange ideas on how Sail Bay should be developed. The meetings were sometimes heated and emotional, with the Sail Bay residents repeatedly opposing plans to build a boardwalk on the beach. The city’s consultant eventually presented three plans for the development of Sail Bay. Called the basic, community, and regional concepts, they ranged in scope from minimal beach facilities and limited parking, to a sweeping proposal for many beach amenities and the construction of a large parking lot at the south end of the beach. The plans proposed widening the narrow beach in some areas and installing a pedestrian-bicycle walkway that would connect the boardwalk on Bayside Lane with Crown Point. The plans also called for the boardwalk taking the form of a small bridge in the area around Briarfield Cove, where the Martinets live. This would be necessary because the beach is underwater there except at low tide. Still another provision was to establish a neighborhood park and parking spaces on a one-acre lot at the foot of Fanuel Street, purchased only a few months earlier by the city for $605,000.
By the time the proposals went before the city council’s public facilities and recreation committee in October of 1977, a fourth alternative suggested by city staff had been added. Called the Roadway Plan, it called for a 40-foot-wide roadway to be built on the beach, which would have required extensive widening of the beach.
Several Sail Bay residents attended that committee meeting to protest the proposed inclusion of a bikeway. Gade suggested it be eliminated. Eve Smull, then president of the Pacific Beach Town Council, told the committee that her group had no recommendation to make regarding the four proposals but that it did favor the installation of a bicycle path. It should be noted, too, that an environmental quality report released a month prior to the meeting stated the pedestrian-bicycle path “is an integral part of any proposed development of Sail Bay and this concept is considered to be a positive contribution to this unique portion of Mission Bay Park.”