SDPD's plan for a new storefront will displace the group that also used 3905 Adams Avenue as HQ for their citizens' patrol activities.
John Hartley wants the San Diego Police Department to return to the Adams Avenue storefront that he helped create in 1993. On January 22nd, he received a letter from the office of councilmember Chris Ward stating that the 3905 Adams Avenue “Mock building” — which houses the former police storefront — is slated to be demolished. A new one will be built down the block.
Because the building is scheduled for demolition, Neighborhood Watch activities will be based out of residents' homes.
“It appears that he’s taken a point of opposition,” Hartley said. “I’m one of the  signers, so I imagine everyone’s gotten this letter.”
Hartley is a 75-year-old real estate broker from Normal Heights. In late 2017, he started a petition to attempt to bring back the police to the same building they shared for many years when he ran Citizens’ Patrol – Beat 811, which he helped create during the last year of his four serving on the city council. At the same time he also lobbied to get the police storefront officially known as the SDPD Community Relations Office Mid City Division.
The Mock building, named after the previous owner, is located between 39th Street and Ward Canyon Neighborhood Park. “[At the time], the closest police storefront was over there on College Avenue,” he said, “and we’d much rather have the officers here in Normal Heights.”
Most of the leaks in the ceiling have been fixed.
Ward’s letter stated, “The City’s Real Estate Assets Department, which oversees the building, has expressed to our office that the Mock Building is in a severe state of disrepair and not suitable for operation.”
Hartley knows that the building is old but he doesn’t agree with the assessment. “When you saw the building [to take photographs], I didn’t see it in a severe state of disrepair,” Hartley said.
In the past year, the Citizens’ Patrol group has been having parking-lot sales to raise money to repair the storefront and their offices. They fixed two (of the three) leaks on the roof, painted some of ceilings and walls, shampooed the carpet of the former police section (on the north side of the structure) and fixed the entrance doors and locks. The group also purchased a $350-per-year insurance policy for liability, so they can legally have meetings and indoor sales — like their most recent one on Saturday (January 20th).
Book sales have helped fund the upkeep projects at 3905 Adams Avenue.
“We just fixed the window blinds, too,” said Marilyn Cooper Ongley, a 79-year-old volunteer. She was managing their used-book sale inside the building and outside in the parking spots facing 39th Street.
Hartley said they made almost $200 at their sale and that it’s been a few months since he’s seen his police buddies come into the storefront to write reports and eat lunch.
Mike G., from Normal Heights, didn’t notice that the police were gone. “But that might explain why the transient camps have been more persistent of late,” he said.
At about 7 p.m. on January 21, Hartley and I noticed two individuals that set up camp by the cement barriers on the south side of the building. “That door leads into the police storage area where they keep some of their furniture,” he said.
Kathryn McPeake moved from San Jose to Normal Heights about six months ago. “I think [the] police presence would be great to have there [again], and more throughout the neighborhood,” she said.
“All the individual police officers who I have met at the storefront,” Hartley said, “like the idea of having the use of the storefront.”
Others in the neighborhood came forward on social media and partially blamed the uptick in crime in Normal Heights neighborhood and parks on what they perceive as a lessened police presence. Patrol cars parked in front of the Mock building for almost 24 years prior to the recent move-out.
Hartley said that the couple of individuals against his petition stated that the building was blocking the park view from Adams Avenue and another said that it’s not attractive.
“I don’t think it looks like an eyesore” McPeake said, “and yes, I would sign [the] petition.”
On January 22nd, Lucas O’Connor from Councilmember Ward’s office sent an email that read: “The Normal Heights Community Plan and the Ward Canyon Park General Plan both call for the storefront to be demolished, with the addition of a new Mid-City police building to be constructed on the Western side of the park. The Councilmember supports this plan, and he is continuing to advocate for funding for the plan in this year’s budget. In the meantime, we are glad to have two Quality of Life Team officers added to Mid-City SDPD’s patrol which will help improve police presence in Normal Heights and keep our parks and open spaces safe for community members.”
“We are not going to stop because it will cost millions of dollars [to tear down the building and rebuild],” said Hartley. “I think they can solve this real easy with a little bit of Scotch tape and a little bit of advocacy.”
Hartley will turn in his keys to the Mock building on February 7th but will continue to be involved with the Citizens’ Patrol effort and his Adams Avenue police storefront advocacy out of his home. To join his Normal Heights/Kensington Neighborhood Watch effort, he can be reached at [email protected]