East Village Residents Sound Off On Hot-Button Issues

Mayor Gloria & Councilmember Whitburn get an earful on homelessness, excessive noise at Gallagher Square concerts, and more
Storyhouse Spirits was the site of the East Village Residents Group quarterly meeting on July 13, 2023.

Confusion about the city’s homelessness policy and accusations of noise ordinance violations by the San Diego Padres were hot-button issues at the East Village Residents Group’s recent quarterly meeting.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, City Councilmember Stephen Whitburn and New City America president Marco LiMandri were on hand to address an overflow EVRG crowd on the mezzanine level of Storyhouse Spirits on July 13, 2023.

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Homeless Encampments

City Councilmember Stephen Whitburn and Mayor Todd Gloria take questions from EVRG president Bob Link.

Councilmember Whitburn noted that stepped-up progressive enforcement of the city’s new Unsafe Camping Ordinance will begin on July 30. People residing in tents on city sidewalks in restricted areas will receive, in turn, a warning, a citation and be arrested if they violate the new ordinance. 

  • “Don’t expect the streets to be cleared on August 1,” Whitburn says.
  • The tougher enforcement was promoted by the city to work in conjunction with the creation of two Safe Camping Sites. Two weeks after the city opened the first site, Mayor Gloria says 36 residents are living in tents set up in the City Maintenance Yard at 20th and B streets. The site, managed by Dreams for Change, has a capacity for 136 individuals.
  • Gloria responded to a news report that the fire marshal would close the 20th & B site in just six months. “Yes, it has an 180-day permit, just like most of our shelters,” the mayor says. “…at the end of 180 days, we’re going to have two options. Renew it and continue it, or cease operations and move that population…My strong suspicion is that we’ll need to expand or continue 20th and B.”
  • It’s more than a strong suspicion that a women’s homeless shelter that opened six months ago in downtown’s Old Central Library is about to close. Its 180-day permit was not renewed by the fire marshal.
  • While progressive enforcement ramps up on encampments, the city is scheduled to open a 400-bed safe camping site in what’s called the “O Lot” near Balboa Park. Gloria says the O Lot will open “in the fall,” but could not specify a month or date. 
  • Asked if it’s accurate to say the city increased shelter capacity by 536 beds in conjunction with the push to pass the Unsafe Camping Ordinance, Gloria succinctly says, “Yes.” 
  • However, that number comes by adding the 136 beds at 20th & B (of which 36 are occupied, and could all be vacated in six months) and the 400 at the O Lot, where the opening date is unclear and a service provider for the site has not yet been named. In June, Voice of San Diego reported that while the mayor has been publicly touting a “70% increase in city shelter beds,” VOSD pegs the bump as a 28% increase.
  • Nearly 1,000 of the city’s current stock of shelter beds are also scheduled to go out of service by the end of 2024.

Loud Concerts at Gallagher Square

A 2021 concert at Gallagher Square, outside Petco Park. (Courtesy photo)

As reported extensively in The San Diego Sun, East Village residents who live near Petco Park are up in arms about alleged city noise ordinance violations and excessive lighting during music concerts held at Gallagher Square. Formerly called The Park at the Park, Gallagher Square was established as a public green space. Events there are managed by the San Diego Padres. Concert revenue is split between the Padres (70%) and the city (30%).

  • Residents have no beef with the sound levels from major concerts held inside Petco Park. The concert noise is buffered by Petco Park itself. And, the sound system is pointed at home plate (and San Diego Bay).
  • Gallagher Square concerts are held on the Sycuan Stage outside Petco Park. Amplification systems are pointed directly at several residential condo buildings in the neighborhood.
  • Recently, the city quietly approved a $20-million renovation of the Gallagher Square grounds. The Padres have promised to abate excessive noise issues, but the city has not required the Padres to do a third-party sound analysis.
  • Councilmember Whitburn expressed sympathy to East Village residents. He says he’s heard stories of “excruciating loudness” from residents and has spoken to the Padres “two times” about the issue.
  • The noise issue touched a nerve at the EVRG meeting. Mayor Gloria promised: “Yes, I will ask the Padres to do an independent study…yes, we should enforce noise ordinances.”   The mayor said noise-level mandates in place at The Rady Shell and Waterfront Park “sound reasonable.”

Maintaining the Streets

New City America president Marco LiMandri.

East Village’s public maintenance issues are handled by Clean & Safe, which is under the umbrella of the Downtown San Diego Partnership. The DSDP maintains all the 92101 neighborhoods, with the exception of Little Italy. New City America has the Little Italy contract, and would like to poach East Village.  

  • Under the stewardship of Marco LiMandri and his son, Dominic LiMandri, New City America wrested away control of the East Village Association. EVA’s membership is primarily business owners.
  • Marco LiMandri informed the EVRG meeting-goers (primarily local residents) that DSDP’s 10-year contract for Clean & Safe services is up for renewal this year.
  • LiMandri’s pitch was soft-sell. He called East Village “the premier neighborhood in downtown San Diego,” and informed the audience of “the option to secede from DSDP and Clean & Safe.”
  • Meeting attendees seemed more focused on the noise issue at Gallagher Square than business district management. It didn’t come up at this meeting, but the EVRG and LiMandri’s EVA recently were on different sides of that noise issue. The EVRG had vigorously asked for more public meetings, and even held out hope for a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) study. The EVA supported the Padres renovation plan for Gallagher Square.  SDSun


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