Bottles in fire pit
"I, along with the others, are extremely angry over the lack of enforcement on Halloween; there were only two police cars at the parking lot at Belmont, and on the beach, there was a couple with an illegal fire, and nothing was done," said Cathy Ives of DontTrashMissionBeach.com. "There were 12 fires that I could see."
Almost every day, Ives picks up litter on Mission Beach by the fire pits and the adjacent boardwalk between Belmont Park and the jetty a mile south. On November 6, we talked on the phone as she emailed me photos of her recent cleanup excursions.
"Here's one of a pumpkin and a dead rat, and a brand new pair of $240 Gucci slides/flipflops, one was on the boardwalk, and the other floated away on the tides."
"In October of 2020 alone, I picked up 286 glass bottles, 668 beverage cans, 559 plastic bottles.”
About 50 percent of Ives' hauls, she says, is composed of liquor containers, sometimes unopened beers and half-filled cans of White Claw Hard Seltzer.
"Those October numbers were from one mile of oceanfront beach in 29 days of beach cleaning primarily in the tide-to-towel line. Every day there is broken glass strewn on the boardwalk and the beach."
Pumpkin and rat
"That's some crazy stuff," said Billy from Phoenix. "We visit our relatives here every summer, and I cannot imagine going to jail from brown-baggin' it or mixing Absolut in my cranberry juice. We do pick up after ourselves on the beach, as best as we can ....."
"What I do is the whole study of garbology and "litter-ology. Littering has increased in the last three years because of the lack of enforcement and peoples' sense of entitlement that somebody else will pick it up. And there’s a program that says ‘don't enforce anything because we want visitors to come and if we start telling them what they cannot do on the beach, then they're not going to come here, and we won't get all of that money from our short term vacation rentals.’ That's my feeling."
".... but dude, it's only natural to lose stuff in the sand," Billy continued. "And as far as littering, it's homeless that dig through the trash cans and the wind blows the stuff away."
Every year, local scavengers reportedly steal thousands of dollars in recyclables from the city's curbside program.
"And people wonder why there's so many homeless here," said Ives, "because it's easy pickings here. I know it's because of the weather and all that, but they can get their shoes here. I had a homeless guy give me some shoes he found because he knows I'd wash them and give them to homeless shelters. He was wearing a brand new pair of Birkenstocks he probably found on the beach. All their clothes, towels, pillows are found on the beach."
Last year Ives noticed an uptick in vape cartridges left on the boardwalk, and in the sand, in April, Ives saw latex gloves and masks left behind. "It's now at about 200 face masks per month," she estimated. "Some are cloth masks that I do wash, and they are donated to the homeless, who need masks."
Littering fines on our beaches can fetch between $250 to $1000 for a first-time offender and up to $3000 for third-time offenders, says SanDiego-BailBond.com.
"But there's a lack of enforcement of rules and regulations, which I blame totally on our city council for not enforcing any laws and allowing people to be anarchists. Our goal is to make the public aware of picking up the trash. We need everyone to pick up the pieces and be accountable. The short-term vacation rentals need to make it very clear [to their patrons] that these are the beach’s rules and regulations. We need a strong mayor, and strong policy enforcement, and increase the littering fine that's going to hurt somebody."