Del Mar residents voice concerns, including noise complaints, at ‘Sheriff’s Coffee’ event
With Del Mar once again exploring the idea of a city-run police force, several community members came armed with questions to the Jan. 26 “Sheriff’s Coffee with the Community” event at the City Hall Annex Building.
“Is there a crime problem in Del Mar?” asked one attendee, questioning why the city is considering creating a small police department.
“At this point, crime is very low,” replied sheriff’s Capt. Theresa Adams-Hydar, who oversees the Encinitas station.
The Del Mar City Council unanimously agreed at the Jan. 20 meeting to “cautiously explore” whether it is viable to establish a small police force to supplement the efforts by the Sheriff’s Department, which has provided police services for the city since its incorporation in 1959.
The recommendation came from the Finance Committee, which was tasked with researching ways to reduce law enforcement costs nearly four years ago. As committee members worked to cut costs, they discovered some dissatisfaction with existing services, particularly with the department’s response times to low priority calls and lack of presence in the community.
To improve response times and increase law enforcement presence, the Finance Committee suggested creating a small police department, which would cost approximately $575,000 per year, plus about $100,000 in startup costs, according to committee members.
“We do have good continuity with the lifeguards, fire and other staff that people are used to,” City Manager Scott Huth explained to the less than a dozen people at the question-and-answer session. “They [the Finance Committee] were looking for the same thing in the sheriff. As much as the sheriff wants to provide that and would hope to provide that, they have the reality of being a very large law enforcement department.”
The committee’s idea is intended to complement the existing contract with the Sheriff’s Department, rather than replace it. Committee members have favored the community-based policing work of Del Mar park ranger Adam Chase, who patrols the beaches and parks.
“The need of the community was beyond having that enforcement just in the parks and beaches, and we get that from the sheriff, but we’re trying to augment it more,” Huth said.
Recognizing Chase’s presence in the community, one attendee gave him a shout-out.
“I see the guy everywhere,” he said. “He’s always around.”
“I would like more of him,” said another attendee.
The conversation took a turn when another attendee, Del Mar resident Cheryl Hallenbeck, asked whose job it is to patrol 15th Street and Stratford Court. She and several of her neighbors attended the meeting to inform Adams-Hydar and a panel of other officers about the reported rowdiness that occurs nightly outside of Jimmy O’s, a restaurant and sports bar on 15th Street.
“It’s been night after night after night of drunks and loud noises,” said Hallenbeck, who lives in the Vista Del Mar condo complex on 15th Street and Stratford Court. “Nobody enforces parking. It’s really getting old.”
“The sheriff is here to provide that service,” Huth said. “To the extent that you feel that that service isn’t meeting the level that you guys need in that area, then you really need to communicate that to the city.”
Hallenbeck said she has called the department numerous times and recently sent an email detailing the problem to the station as well as the city.
“By the time we would place a call to the sheriff, they’re already gone, and they already disturbed the police,” said Hallenbeck who has lived in the area for a total of 10 years. She has moved to the complex three times — moving away each time due to the noise. “It would be one thing if it was just occasionally. We know where we live; we live in a beach community. But we’re talking six nights a week.”
Valerie Houchin echoed the thoughts of her upstairs neighbor.
“We hear everything loud and clear — all the foul language and all the fighting in the streets,” she said. In November, she added, her vehicle was totaled when a drunk driver hit her parked car.
“Having lived at this address for 40-some years, Jimmy O’s has been a consistent problem for us since it opened,” added another neighbor, who didn’t want to disclose her name.
In the past, she said neighbors have gone to the City Council, Traffic and Parking Advisory Committee, and even the California Coastal Commission to try to get parking permits for condo residents without garages.
“It’s been a long-term frustration for those of us that have lived there,” she said.
Since Adams-Hydars received Hallenbeck’s email, she said she has visited the site to witness the parking issues firsthand. She has also deployed units to the area and officers have issued parking tickets along Stratford Court. Additionally, she contacted Alcoholic Beverage Control.
“We are looking at ways to think how can we make it better for you guys, for your quality of life,” she said. “We’re looking at ways to work in partnership with the management with Jimmy O’s, with the city, with Alcoholic Beverage Control and with our own partners internally.”
Huth acknowledged city staff has been aware of a noise issue in the area for some time. He explained that businesses with repeated violations are at risk to lose their licenses.
Jimmy O’s has a history of noise complaints, Huth said. So when the business updated its ABC license about two years ago, the owner worked with the city’s code enforcement officer and other personnel to alleviate problems, which at that time stemmed from the environmental effects of the business, such as the volume of music. Now, he pointed out, complaints seem to be directed at customers.
“Those complaints went away that were business-oriented,” Huth said. “What I’m hearing is a total focus on the patrons. If that is the case, then that helps us channel our efforts in working with the property owner more effectively.”
“It’s the patrons and it’s what they do,” Hallenbeck reiterated.
After the meeting, Hallenbeck said she hasn’t talked with the owner of the restaurant, but he is “well aware” of the issue.
“He knows what’s going on,” Hallenbeck said. “We don’t want to shut him down or do anything like that. We just want to be able to sleep.”
Because no one from Jimmy O’s was present at the meeting, Adams-Hydar said she plans to contact the owner to discuss the issue brought forth by the neighbors.
“My first inclination is to always work in partnership and remedy the situation, so that’s what we’re going to do first,” Adams-Hydar said.
Using the city’s relief budget, the department also plans to increase patrol services in Del Mar at no additional cost, which Adams-Hydar first mentioned at the Jan. 20 meeting. Sheriff’s Sgt. Joe Tomaiko explained a hybrid traffic and DUI enforcement unit will work Friday and Saturday nights, supplementing other traffic units that come to Del Mar.
“We don’t want to see negative impact,” said Tomaiko, reminding attendees that Jimmy O’s brings revenue to the city. “So we want to work with them to try to get them to be responsible license holders and care about the neighbors.
“We want to invite them to the table first.”
The Sheriff’s Department had not contacted Keith Nordling, the owner of Jimmy O’s, as of 1:30 p.m. Jan. 28, according to Nordling.
“It would be nice if whoever had issues would come and talk to me — this is how easy it is to get in touch with me,” said Nordling, who purchased the business in 1999 and opened Jimmy O’s in 2000.
“I’ve had interaction with the neighbors, over the years, over various issues — just like any other business. But right now, I’m not aware of anybody that has an ongoing issue or problem that they need addressed because no one has come to me lately in the last few years.”
Nordling encouraged community members with questions or concerns to contact him.
“If people come to me, I can help,” he said. “I think I’m a pretty resourceful guy. I’ve been doing this for 40 years.”
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