“Two months ago, while I was walking my two dogs by the Adams Recreation Center park,” Frank said. “A black homeless [looking] guy flicked his cigarette on the street. He [then] said, ‘What you lookin’ at?’ then he swung at me with a beer bottle.”
Frank said he pushed him away and “he fell on his ass.” He then hurried his dogs home to safety — by Wilson Avenue, which is about a block away from the park. When he returned to the park he couldn’t find the assailant so he went a block south. “I found him on the corner of 35th [Street] by Adams Elementary and had him arrested.”
Frank is a 52-year-old truck driver who’s lived in the Normal Heights and University Heights areas his whole life. He requested that his identity be concealed because the “aggressive homeless people” marked him as a snitch because he’s had “eight homeless people arrested in 2017.”
3491 Adams Avenue, Normal Heights
On September 26, Frank met with his neighbors, the Adams Recreation Center staff, the Adams Recreation Council, and a city employee (who did not want to be identified) to speak about the rec center park’s problems and solutions. The meeting was held inside the rec center located at 3491 Adams Avenue.
“What started the rec-center park discussion was a concerned citizen [who] attended the rec meeting and wanted to remove the grass and make it a cactus garden so the homeless couldn’t stay there,” said David Rodger, the rec-council chairperson.
Rodger is a 62-year-old Normal Heights property owner. “The Adams Avenue park has a [homeless] population of about 15 people daily and like the city attorneys and San Diego police said, this was going to increase because of the park curfews being added to parks, the homeless would migrate to the next closest park and [Adams Recreation Center park] was it.”
A woman at the meeting said that they put a curfew at Trolley Barn Park by where she lives and since then there are less homeless there — and problems. Both parks are on Adams Avenue and about 1.5 miles apart.
“Other parks have added the ordinance to their parks and it helped control the late-night problems that happen at parks — remember, this is not just aimed at the homeless, it’s aimed at the late-night problems that parks have with groups hanging out all night.”
In the past year, many residents have noticed an uptick in crime in Normal Heights, including thefts of Amazon packages, bikes, autos, and beer (at the nearby 7-Eleven). Many neighbors are attributing the thefts to the homeless groups who are squatting in their alleys, canyons, and children’s play areas.
“But the shit that really bothers me is what they are doing in front of our children,” said one parent who used to take his kids to the rec center and adjacent park.
“I’ve seen someone defecating near the trash can [by the playground] in the morning [on my] way to work,” said Taina Berardi. “It’s shocking to me because it was out in the open.” She bought a house in the area about three years ago.
Frank had another homeless guy arrested by the DiMille’s Italian Restaurant (across the street from the park) three weeks ago. “He was urinating in [their] planters while there were kids playing in the playground [and] I called the cops on him.”
During the meeting, Frank offered solutions to the “problematic homeless” in the park and neighborhood. He advised that the rec center put up bright lights and a camera system. “They don’t want the attention,” he said.
Many of the residents agreed that an enforced curfew in their park will be a better start.
As Frank was talking, a gentleman to his right (who questioned Rodger about the budget earlier) started filming him with a phone. The rec center staff asked that he not film and only record their voices.
Another woman present commented that he “could be one of the homeless — or their friend." When the group was talking about ways to kick out the homeless from the park, Frank said that he overheard him say, “Then where are we supposed to go?”
“He then took the curfew petition list that everyone was signing and was reading it,” Frank said. “Then I took it from him and put it back on the table. Now he will show others [through his video] what we talk about.”