Three young men were rousted from a den along Sunset Cliffs Boulevard Tuesday morning after pictures of the elaborate cave surfaced on social media earlier in the week.
Multiple reports have been made to the city throughout the year regarding the safety and legality of the cave at Sunset Cliffs and Osprey Street. Yet it wasn’t until after it was shared on social media, that most the community became aware.
Longtime OB resident Bill Fischer noticed the encampment and reported it to authorities on Monday.
“Several years ago there was someone living in there,“ Fischer tells me. “I hauled up so much stuff it filled my truck, it took several trips to the dump…and now it’s full again, looks like 3 or 4 people living in there.”
Fischer returned late Monday night to see if anything had been done.
“I stopped by to check out the night time activity here around 11 pm. Lights were on and it sounded like someone was inside,” he shared on Facebook. “On my way back to my car I noticed 4 males in their 20's get out of this white RAV 4 and then head down to the cave. They looked like disheveled travelers. At least one was barefoot. All had backpacks and plastic bags full of stuff…I called (San Diego Police) non-emergency and gave dispatch all this information. They said they will send someone out.”
As of Tuesday morning, it had remained untouched by law enforcement or the City.
“The City needs to cement the entrance shut,” Fischer adds.
At about 9:30AM on Tuesday, I went to the cave.
Hanging at the entrance was a St. Christopher medal. There were fully functioning curtains that closed the entrance off. They were secured into the ceiling with hooks. The ceiling was about six feet high.
As I approached the entrance, I noticed three guys lounging inside. All appeared to be in their 20s, mellow and non-threatening. The youngest approached me, and I said I was curious how they got here.
He said he’s known about the cave for a long time but wouldn’t say how long he’s been living in there. He claimed to be helping keep it clean.
“I picked up about ten bags of trash out of here a couple days ago,” he said as I sidled by him to go inside. “Man, please don’t call the news.”
Too late, I told him, the news was already here, filming from the cliffs above him.
“Cops are up there too?” he asked rather concerned.
“Not yet,” I replied.
Located near the old rumrunners caves, this one measures about 20 foot deep, 10 feet across.
Once inside, I saw there were two cots, several book shelves, at least four backpacks, lots of dirty laundry (in a hamper), cleaning products, a bucket for human waste, bottles of urine, thousands of unused needles, strips of rubber, Q-tips, dozens of AA batteries, sunglasses, lighters, a brand new Henkel knife, blow torches, tools, meth pipes, chairs, a broom, a Bird scooter and two bikes; one grey Cannondale and one green GHP BMX bike.
The young traveller rousted his friends.
“Come on guys,” the young traveller said. “They’re calling the cops, we gotta go.” His friends began gathering up their stuff.
I asked him why he was living in a cave?
“I’m from Hawaii man, I’m not from here and I got kicked out of my place. The guy I was renting from had to move his mother-in-law in 'cause she got sick and I haven’t been able to find another place.”
The young man said he risks the dangers of the being crushed to death, as its “better than sleeping on the street.”
As one of the other young men grabbed the grey Cannondale bike, I asked if it really belongs to him.
“Yes, it cost $379,” he said while lugging it out.
I asked how they got all this stuff in there?
“That’s what I’m saying man, most of this stuff was in here,” the first guys said. “We cleaned up more than anything. We cleaned up ten bags of trash, you can see it up by the trashcan.”
The three travelers hurried out with the two bikes and three backpacks, leaving behind a huge mess and two burning candles.
“They cleaned it up because they were moving in,” added Fischer after hearing the claim by the traveller about cleaning it out.
Fischer first noticed the cave in 2014. “A friend told me the year before that people were living in that crevice, I had no idea it was a deep cave.”
On one occasion in 2016, Fischer was checking on the cave.
“As I walked up, there was a couple shooting up. They had the curtain drawn, piles of trash and other stuff. I called the non-emergency police number to report it. A few minutes later, a nicely dressed man walked down to the cave, as if he knew exactly where it was, he had a police scanner in his hand – you could hear it reporting police calls, and he warned the people in the cave within my earshot that the police were coming and they should get out as soon as they can so they don’t get in trouble…when the police showed up they said due to liability issues, they couldn’t go down there.”
Once he noticed it was being occupied on a regular basis, Fischer took action.
“That’s why I started keeping an eye on the cave and cleaning it out on a regular basis. It bothered me because Sunset Cliffs is a natural park set aside for everyone to enjoy, no living on it, no camping on it, no digging caves into it. It’s illegal to modify those cliffs in anyway…I fish a lot on the cliffs and have been keeping an eye on it. I have been noticing people starting to regularly set up a camp in there. Whenever I knew it was unoccupied, I went in and hauled out the garbage and got rid of it. In between people camping there, the only thing I notice the cave being used for was a bathroom. At one point, it was filled with feces, urine, and used condoms. The only way to stop this from continuing is to fill that cave up, and block the entrance entirely.”