This dated Google Maps image shows a cell-phone store once occupied the space where a new phone store is set to open up.
Earlier this year, George Machuca bought the Precision Wireless business located at 4799 ½ Voltaire Street, located between Ocean Beach People’s Market and a liquor store.
Intersection of Sunset Cliffs and Voltaire
“When I first bought this business it was just a mess,” Machuca told me. “None of the outlets were grounded, it wasn’t up to code, so I had to invest, like, $30,000 to completely redo the property. The first complaint we had — and I didn’t know it was him that reported us — was when we redid the floor.”
The “him” Machuca referred to is the general manager of People’s, Jim Kase, who declined to comment for this story.
“While we were pulling up the floor — this is a 40-year-old building — the contractor had two of his employees outside the front door,” said Machuca. “So, when we removed the debris and swept it out the door, they swept it up — [People’s] reported us for that. The city came and talked to us and we almost got a $10,000 fine. The [code inspector from the city] sat across the street, she watched the store, she watched us clean up the mess. We told her we were going to clean it up...and she said, ‘Well, we’ve got numerous complaints.’ All the complaints were from [Kase]," claims Machuca. "He even confirmed it was him that made the complaints.”
Entrance to Machuca's store
Machuca said he has taken the initiative to clean the area in front of his store but that his efforts are met with complaints from Kase.
“There is only a faucet in here, there is no drain,” Machuca said. “Now, because we have no sink or toilet to dump the water in — I contacted the city first. They said as long as [when you dump it] it doesn’t go in the [storm] drain, as long as there’s no toxins in the water, you’re completely fine. I said all right….
“So, my biggest thing is the homeless — no offense towards them — they come here every Thursday, get off at the bus stop, go straight to the church and eat, then they come back down and hang out along the sidewalk and the bench; that’s typically a Thursday thing. But the biggest problem I’m encountering is they sit here nightly. They drink, do dope, whatever they’re doing — pardon my French — and they piss and crap….
Machuca admits he was dumping water used for cleaning into the street before he learned it was a "no-no." Pouring it onto plants is permissible.
“So, I come every day and the filth, it stinks, so what I was doing initially — and this is when I learned I can’t do this — is take a bucket of water and just rinse it, wash it away. A couple times it went into the street. That’s a no-no, but there is nobody cleaning this. So, we’re doing that, cleaning it and cleaning it, and Kase has one of his employees put a note on the door…saying, ‘Hey, it’s neighborly that you don’t put water on the ground…you don’t do this and you don’t do that’…. So I confront the employee who put the note on the door and he took off.”
“One problem I was having — I told my landlord — is that the bums are accessing the faucet out here in front of my store, so she had the contractor close off the spigot…. She sent an email to myself and others, including Kase.”
The email from the property owners, sent in July 2017 to both Machuca and Kase, reads in part: “Last week we had the outside water spigot capped off. Our water bills had gone up 470% in the last 4 months…. The new owner had observed gathering of homeless at 9 pm at night filling canteens and buckets of water in the previous weeks. The handle had been removed and we were unaware.”
The July 24, 2017, email response from Kase to the property owners reads in part:
“As far as the phone store goes, we have had some issues. I live on Voltaire a few doors West of Jack in the Box and I walk the street several times daily. I have never seen groups of people gathering at the spigot. Several staff members, including myself, have seen young girls coming out of the phone store and dumping five gallon buckets of water (not clear water but cloudy and some with toilet paper and clumps of what appears to be plaster) on our plants and the trees along the street. This has been on an almost daily basis.
"They have also been dumping them in the gutter and in the back alley. The dumps in the alley were mixed with the blue paint that they have done the floor with. I asked them to stop dumping in our plants and they seemed to have stopped, but we are worried about the un-pure water going into the storm drains. It is illegal and carries a hefty fine. When they first took over the space they were blowing construction dust out the front door onto the sidewalk and into the street. The cloud was so thick I first thought the building was on fire. The sidewalk in front of the store was unpassable. We try to be good neighbors and live and let live, but many of us are concerned about the dumping of lots of water and more importantly the health of the children that have been working in the unit.”
Machuca said, “I was pissed, so I contacted our city code-enforcement officer, Anita Koyama, again, and I said…the owner even came out and inspected the alley and confirmed that there was no paint there — so that was probably the third false statement he made. He also claimed I was throwing construction debris in the plants — again, I called the code-enforcement officer and said we haven’t even done any construction for over 45 days: there’s no paint, there’s nothing going on. Ever since he put the note on my door and started harassing my employees and kids, we left it alone…. She told me it’s okay to rinse it off, put some Simple Green in the water. She agreed [the sidewalk is] filthy, so she gave me the green light, as long as it doesn’t go into the street....
“Now, where the line kind of broke," continued Machuca, "is one of People’s employees literally told my daughter — she’s only 12 years old — ‘Hey, quit dumping water.’ I was in the back office, so by the time I got out here he was gone, but later that day she pointed him out and I confronted him. I said, ‘You don’t talk to my fucking kids. You got a problem, you talk to me.’…
“So, I think he went and told Kase because about two days later there was this loud knocking on the door. I didn’t answer it but I found a card from the city left under the door. I spoke to Koyama again and she said, ‘Well, we have a serious complaint. [Kase] is saying he has security footage of you and your children dumping water on his plants and entryway to their parking lot and street.’ I said, ‘Ma’am, I’ve got a security camera right above here — I’ve got footage — nobody has done that.
“So, I said, ‘Okay, let’s compare video footage.’ She called me back two hours later and said she went over there to see his video footage and he has none, and I said, ‘Well, I have some if you wish to see it.’ She said, ‘No, I totally agree with you, there’s no problem,’ and as far as I was concerned, I shouldn’t even worry about it.”
Bus stop in front of Machuca's store
City of San Diego spokesman Anthony Santacroce confirmed there were complaints filed against Machuca; however, no violations were found and no fines have been issued.
“Generally, what we do is go out and inspect the site,” Santacroce said. “We found the owner [Machuca] was using BMP — best management practices. There was no run-off going into the storm drain; however, while onsite, we did notice some possible violations of run-off coming from People’s Market…. Not sure of the status of that, but we like to address the violations first by educating them rather than issuing a fine first.”
The crux of the issue seems to be the sidewalk and bus stop located directly in front of Machuca’s store.
Machuca said, “I’ve personally made several efforts to locate a responsible party or agency within the city to clean the sidewalk in front of my business, which is on a very main intersection in Ocean Beach [Sunset Cliffs Boulevard and Voltaire]. Every department I spoke with said it is not their responsibility but that of the owners of the actual property.... In Pacific Beach, they steam-clean all the bus stops and make them really nice. The trash can in front of my store gets emptied once a week; it’s overflowing daily. The homeless stuff bags in it all day long….
City sidewalk cleaning on Abbott Street — "a joke"?
“We just want to clean the sidewalk, especially with this hepatitis A, I haven’t seen anybody come by and spray bleach or anything right here…. This is a high-traffic area. My hands are tied: I have to pay $150 to power-wash the sidewalk if I want it done…. I want customers to walk by and not be concerned with the filth…. We should be opening in about a month.”
Tyson, who owns the barber shop a few doors down from Machuca, gave some insight into the homeless who frequent the area: “They shit everywhere. They shit on my window, they leave drugs in my plant. One woman squatted in the plant and dropped drugs out of her vagina and people would come by and get them…. Nobody is doing anything around here to help, it’s a mess. The police, they don’t believe me.... Nothing is being done, they don’t come anymore, and Jack in the Box [across the street] is the worst [as a homeless gathering spot]. They charge their cell phones and get coffee for a quarter.”
Map of Ocean Beach areas cleaned by the city on September 27
“They all hang out in front of People’s trying to get money from people shopping in there,” said Tyson’s coworker. “I mean, if they weren’t disturbing us or doing crazy stuff or popping their head in asking for lollipops cuz they’re high on heroin — "
“I have people walk in here high on heroin all the time,” said Tyson. “One guy the other day went to my shelf, took some beard oil and put it on his beard…. We definitely need help cleaning up this area, badly, it’s a mess.”
On September 27, as a preventive measure to halt the spread of hepatitis, city crews were in Ocean Beach washing the sidewalks with bleach, mainly the immediate area of Newport Avenue. However, several residents said the filthiest areas were ignored.
“How could they not bleach the area under the pier? It’s like a petri dish down there,” said a resident. “And to ignore the hardest hit areas like alleys? Obviously a cosmetic fix. What a joke.”
As to the water-and-bleach mixture reaching storm drains, it is allegedly collected before it runs into the ocean/waterways.