Encinitas council delays decision on banning alcohol in parks

The Encinitas City Council wants more input from the Sheriff’s Department before deciding whether to ban alcohol at all city parks.

Councilman Mark Muir at the May 20 meeting said it was difficult to say whether alcohol is causing major problems in parks without hearing from Encinitas Sheriff’s Captain Theresa Adams-Hydar, who wasn’t at the meeting.

For his part, Muir said he hasn’t seen evidence of “a pattern of problems” due to beer and wine in parks.

“We’re the first ones to hear if we have issues out in the community — believe me,” Muir said of the council.

Muir’s motion, which was approved unanimously, stated the Sheriff’s Department should bring back additional stats on drinking-related problems and citations in local parks.

Cracking open a cold one is currently prohibited at local beaches and four of the city’s 19 parks — Cardiff Sports Park, Ecke Sports Park, Glen Park and Encinitas Viewpoint Park. The Encinitas Parks and Recreation Department brought forward the proposal to ban alcohol at all parks, except at large events with a special permit.

The Encinitas Community Park’s opening prompted a review of other cities’ alcohol policies, according to Lisa Rudloff, Parks and Recreation director. Ten of the 11 cities analyzed only allow alcohol in parks with a permit, including Del Mar and Solana Beach. And city staff members believe Encinitas should follow these best management practices, she added.

When asked, Rudloff said the parks department hasn’t received complaints from the public about drinking in parks. And from Jan. 10 to Apr. 15 at the Encinitas Community Park, there was one misdemeanor arrest for public intoxication, she stated.

Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer said she supports banning alcohol at the community park given the high number of kids and youth sports there.

“I worry about drunk driving,” Shaffer said.

Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear said such a ban seeks to root out bad behavior, but added the city has existing laws that address disorderly conduct and public intoxication.

“My fear is that we are prohibiting vast numbers of responsible drinkers from going out and having a glass of wine or a beer,” Blakespear said.

Blakespear floated the idea of having the Parks and Recreation Commission look into the matter. But the council decided if it’s going to go that route, the Sheriff’s Department should at least help the council come up with criteria for determining whether there’s a systemic problem.

Four public speakers addressed the agenda item, with three in favor of extending the ban to all parks.

“When I go to a park, I think of kids…We don’t need alcohol there,” Nancy Logan said.

But Denis Puscas said he’s part of a small group that meets Fridays at Orpheus Park near sunset and shares a bottle of wine, adding it’s a personal freedom that should remain.

“Never has there been a Sheriff in our park for 10 years that I know of because of alcohol-related problems,” he said.

Councilman Tony Kranz said he doesn’t like the idea of “legislating for the bad apples.” Yet, he added, some people who go to public parks don’t necessarily want to be among those drinking beer or wine.

Mayor Kristin Gaspar said she spoke with Sheriff’s deputies who stated alcohol in Encinitas parks doesn’t seem to be a major issue at this time. She added the city’s policy bears watching, but right now falls under if it’s not broken, then don’t fix it.

Copyright © 2019, The San Diego Union-Tribune, LLC. All rights reserved.
57°