Faulconer is explaining to me the driving force behind the formation of the Beach and Alcohol Task Force, a group that met for the first time in October 2006 and has continued to convene monthly ever since.
So, I ask him, mission accomplished?
"Yes," Faulconer says. "I think the group's been very productive. People have been open-minded on both sides. There's obviously some issues there's been no concurrence on -- on the alcohol-on-the-beach issues -- but then it got to some of the other issues, like, what is it that we can do -- and there's been 16 recommendations where we've reached consensus. I think it's a reflection of how much work a lot of people have put in. Overall, I think we have a group that's committed to looking at things in a rational manner, asking, 'What are the facts? Let's look at crime statistics, let's look at licenses.' And that's where we are."
Following is a list of the 16 recommendations to which Faulconer is referring. Implementation in some form has begun on most.
1) SDPD off-duty officer patrols, funded by local beach business owners
2) Beach-specific neighborhood code compliance cfficers
3) Administrative fines of up to $1000 for party hosts in beach areas
4) SDPD: "Out of Cars and Into Bars" program, where officers visit and acquaint themselves with the staffs of liquor-serving establishments
5) SDPD: bicycle patrols
6) Community Court, where adult offenders can perform community service in lieu of traditional sentencing
7) DUI kits for all patrol cars
8) Security cameras in Pacific Beach, along the boardwalk and pier
9) Mandatory security plan for on-site liquor establishments
10) Crime statistic information gathering by the SDPD
11) Public opinion baseline survey
12) Promote taxi cab use through incentives
13) Designated driver program in PB
14) Drunk driving education program
15) Concise webpage with pertinent enforcement phone numbers
16) University participation for student house parties, including reflecting arrests on a student's academic record
Given the crime statistics, one may wonder why so much emphasis has been put upon compromise instead of an all-out ban.
"We have a large concentration of people in the beach communities," Faulconer says, "and a fair number of young folks as well. You always run into more issues when you put a large concentration of people into a small area.... It's important not to throw all the blame at alcohol. And it's also important not to be too hasty. Policies need a chance to work before we go restricting people's freedoms."
Jennifer Hill is the district administrator for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), the state regulatory agency that oversees licensing, administration, and compliance for businesses that sell alcohol.
Hill confirms the statistics, which are accurate up to November 2006: indeed, within the 92109 zip code, there are a total of 179 active retail liquor licenses.
Doesn't Hill think that's an overconcentration of alcohol in one place?
"Well," Hill begins, "how we determine overconcentration is per census tract. In 92109, we have eight different census tracts. And the numbers, per census tract, are divided up between off-sale licenses, like liquor stores and convenience stores, and on-sale licenses, like a restaurant or bar. So, census tracts within 92109, yes, are overconcentrated, or unduly concentrated per the statute."
So we have more licenses than the legislation permits. How does that work?
"We've been reviewing this area for a number of years," Hill says, "and the history with license count is that the whole issue, statutorily, of overconcentration of license, did not become effective until 1995. So the majority of the licenses in the 92109 zip code were issued long before that, some as far back as the 1930s. In fact, in 92109, in 1997, there were 187 licenses. In 2006, there's 179. So it's actually gone down."
But I've heard that based on population, in 92109 we should only have 49 liquor licenses. Not 179.
"Well, we can break it down per statute," Hill says. "There are eight census tracts in 92109. And remember, there's differences between on-sales and off-sales. The numbers I have are for on-sales only -- bars and restaurants. For census tract 76 (in Crown Point), 7 on-sale licenses are authorized, and 31 currently exist. For census tract 77 (also Crown Point), 8 licenses are authorized, and 3 exist. So that's actually a census tract that's underconcentrated. For census tract 78 (east of Noyes Street), there are 7 permitted, and 5 exist. Now, in tract 79.01, and that's Mission, Grand, Garnet -- that whole area which is the main focus for tourism -- 6 licenses are allowed, and 55 exist. So that, obviously, is unduly concentrated. In 79.03 (east of Fanuel and north of Garnet), 5 permitted, 6 exist. In 79.04 (east of Fanuel and south of Garnet), 6 permitted, 12 exist. In 80.01 (basically north PB), 7 permitted, 14 exist. In subtract 80.02 (also north PB), 3 are permitted, but 0 exist."
So that adds up to 126 on-sale licenses, with 49 permitted. (The other 53 existing licenses in 92109 are off-sale -- CVS, 7-Eleven, Vons, Ralphs, liquor stores, etc.) How can the ABC justify those kinds of statistics?
Hill says, "Especially on Grand and Garnet, the majority of the licenses came into existence before the legislation that had to do with overconcentration. I remember reviewing new licenses on Grand and Garnet probably in, let's say 1998 or 1997, and not one person objected to them. The police department didn't. The community didn't. We have many statutes we investigate by law: crime statistics, the number of residents within 100 feet of a proposed establishment, the number of residents within 500 feet, churches and schools within 600 feet. And all of that exists in different places in PB. But until recently, none of this was an issue. As recently as ten years ago, no one objected to new licenses at all. And if no one objects, and we try to deny a new license just based upon the existence of an overconcentration of licenses, the judges overturn us. It's happened in the past."