Well over 200 Ocean Beach residents showed up between the veterans’ memorial and main lifeguard tower at the foot of Santa Monica Avenue on the afternoon of April 24. They were there for an event titled “Respect O.B.,” billed as a forum to open dialogue between neighbors and to address common problems.
“Anyone who comes to live in peace and harmony is welcome, but to be accepted you must respect O.B.,” read a flyer left on locals’ doorsteps and posted at businesses in the days leading up to the event.
Attendees found three large maps of the neighborhood and were invited to write their names and contact information near their residences (or on a more discreet list alongside).
“We’re here because O.B. takes issues to the streets,” said event organizer Andy Taubman, who owns a computer business in the neighborhood. The idea for the gathering arose from a subcommittee of the Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association, a local business group.
“We don’t like O.B. dirty; we like O.B. funky,” said Taubman, who listed concerns that range from bicycle theft and irresponsible dog owners to a recent stabbing in an alley near the commercial district.
Pat James, longtime community resident, businessman, and an organizer of many events that have become O.B. hallmarks (such as the O.B. Christmas parade and Fourth of July fireworks), also spoke to the crowd: “I really want us to be able to retain that laidback reputation and not get uptight,” James said, seemingly referring to an escalation of conflict and aggression in recent years, characterized in part by an anti-homeless sticker design that split the community.
Mike Hardin, proprietor of Hodad’s burger restaurants, said that confronting offensive behavior in a courteous manner has yielded the best results during his years of running a local business. “You can’t expect respect if you don’t give it right off the bat," Hardin told community members.
Taubman made sure to clarify that targeting the homeless population was not the purpose of the assembly: “This is not about homelessness. By the time we find crime, they’ve already experienced it...respecting O.B. is respecting them. How do we make it better? We talk.”
The gathering dispersed after a moment of silence in recognition of the stabbing victim, thanks were given to lifeguards and fire and police personnel for their service, and a chant of “People power!”