Ocean Beach resident Vince Adame and his lawyer Frank Gormlie, who also publishes the OB Rag community news website, drew a crowd of news media this morning, December 3. The day before, district attorney Bonnie Dumanis’s office agreed to drop felony vandalism charges against Adame for his involvement in a tree-trimming incident several months ago.
The crowd gathered outside one of a handful of properties Adame owns on the 5000 block of Niagara Avenue, known by locals as "Surf Check Alley" for its view of the ocean from above a city-owned parking lot at the base of the pier. Adjacent to the parking lot is a small strip of land that's also owned by the city, which Adame says he has periodically trimmed back in order to prevent the homeless from taking shelter in the bushes.
"He wasn't cutting for his view; he was trimming [as part of] cleaning the neighborhood," said Gormlie. "In an era of decreasing municipal services, O.B. citizens take it upon themselves to paint over graffiti or clean up public property — it's the O.B. way."
The case started as a misdemeanor investigation, Gormlie said, but police officers conducting an investigation determined that Adame had completely destroyed five bushes, which they valued at $500 apiece. (The dismissal request noted the police reports declared “damage to the trees in an amount over $3,000.00.”)
Though the bushes appear to be growing back, because the value of the plants was estimated at over $400, charges against Adame rose to felony level.
"This case started with a vindictive neighbor complaining about Mr. Adame," said Gormlie.
Adame has indeed drawn the ire of many in the community, as he has lodged complaints against the handful of annual festivals that convert the pier parking lot into a concert venue. And Adame has taken an abrasive tone in his dealings with the city and police over the presence of a police trailer in the parking lot.
Adame contends that the trailer is there illegally — which is true, due to the fact that the California Coastal Commission has never permitted the trailer's permanent installation; it has reportedly been in the parking lot since 1999.
"For years, I've been trying to move that trailer that's blocking the view," said Adame. "This [attempted prosecution] is about getting back at me," he continued, naming two officers he believed were responsible for the charges.
The reason for dismissal given by the D.A.’s office stated “new information” that prompted “additional investigation…. The park arborist opined that the trees cut by Mr. Adame will re-grow catching up with other trees in a few years. While the law of vandalism includes damage that can be repaired, the value of the damage involved due to the trees being cut cannot be precisely determined since the cut trees will recover, albeit it in a few years.”
“They'll be back in a year and a half,” said Adame about the trees’ growth rate, “and we'll be back down there trimming them again in a year and a half.”