Encinitas to crack down on late-night noise
Two retired Sheriff’s deputies will begin inspecting downtown’s alcohol-serving establishments and providing other late-night aid in October as the city launches a new ordinance that aims to reduce the area’s partying woes.
“These are sworn deputies. These are officers with experience in defusing intense situations and dealing with unruly behaviors,” acting city planning director Roy Sapa’u said Wednesday night as he described the retiree proposal to the City Council.
The council unanimously backed the idea, saying it was an innovative pilot project and would be more affordable than hiring city code enforcement employees. Plans call for the two retirees, who will each make up to $28,800, start work on Oct. 1 and stay in the job until June 30th. They’ll work three days a week from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. when downtown’s bar-hopping scene is at its liveliest.
“I think this is creative and great and I’m so thrilled the staff came up with it,” Mayor Catherine Blakespear said.
Councilman Tony Kranz agreed, but said he was concerned that retired deputies might not want the jobs, given the late-night working shifts.
“They’re retirees and that’s kind of late at night,” he said. “I know at 9 o’clock I’m ready to hit the hay and I’m not retired yet.”
Sheriff’s Lt. Ted Greenawald told him that he didn’t expect it to be a problem to find people to take the jobs.
“Some of our retirees are 50 and a day, so we have some pretty spry retirees,” he said.
On Friday morning, Encinitas substation Capt. John Maryon said he was getting ready to fill the positions and had just sent an e-mail to the head of the Sheriff’s Department’s 960 program — the temporary work program for retired deputies — describing what the two jobs would entail.
“I’m hopeful, hopeful I can sell it,” he said.
The 960 program typically provides retired deputies for courtroom weapons screening or building-entry guard duty requests,. No other San Diego-area city has used them in the way Encinitas is envisioning, he said.
As retirees, they’re limited in what they can do under pension program guidelines. They can’t work full-time and they can’t be used to replace regular, full-time deputies.
Plans call for the Encinitas retirees to inspect alcohol-serving establishments to check that they’re not exceeding occupancy limits or noise standards. They’ll also be investigating the complaints about public intoxication, loitering and noise that are reported to a city hotline number. Those complaints typically haven’t been followed up immediately after they’re reported and this system will provide that benefit, Councilwoman Tasha Boerner Horvath said.
Maryon said the retirees will have the power to make arrests, but that won’t be their primary job. Regular, full-time deputies will typically handle any arrests, he said.
Encinitas City Manager Karen Brust and the city’s planning department put forward the retiree staffing proposal, saying it could help Encinitas have a successful launch of its “deemed approved” ordinance.
The ordinance, which takes effect Sept. 9, creates a new certification system for alcohol-serving establishments, requiring them to meet noise and public nuisance standards or face fines and ultimately the loss of their permits.
Sought for years by downtown residents, the ordinance aims to combat problems with late-night noise, public drunkenness and other alcohol-related issues along the city’s Coastal Highway 101. Though the focus is on the downtown region, the ordinance will apply to all of the city’s 134 restaurants, bars and other establishments that serve alcohol for on-site consumption.
On Wednesday night, Councilman Mark Muir asked whether the retirees would be sent to other parts of town than the Coast Highway region. Greenawald responded that they would focus on the downtown and would only go to other areas in emergency situations.
Councilman Joe Mosca asked whether the retirees would be in uniform or plain clothes, saying he worried that uniforms would set the wrong tone for the program. The city manager told him that it was up to the city to decide, and she was recommending plain clothes.
On Friday, Maryon said that was his preference as well, mentioning that he already has uniformed officers patrolling the area and the retires would find it easier to do their observation duties if they were not in uniform.
Henry is a freelance writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
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