Ocean Beach has a longstanding reputation as a tolerant, freethinking community. But when it comes to rowdy drunks and druggies, the welcome mat is wearing thin.
A message is being sent to all the well-meaning people who bring food to the homeless, by way of a sticker depicting the silhouette of an old-fashioned hobo walking a dog on a leash.
It reads: "Welcome to Ocean Beach. Please don't feed our bums."
This latest sign of the times in the eclectic community of 20,000 is showing up on windows of cars and stores, drawing nods of approval along with frowns from civil libertarians.
"We have some transients who have been here forever, as long as I can remember, and they're just part of the fabric of Ocean Beach," said Denny Knox, executive director of the Ocean Beach Mainstreet Assn., which comprises some 440 businesses in O.B.
"But there are some newer, more aggressive people who are traveling through town and they abuse Ocean Beach," Knox said in an interview Friday. "And that isn't tolerated very well."
A case in point is a running brawl among transients near the Ocean Beach pier on Labor Day, 2007, caught on home video by a local resident who can be heard wailing "Oh my God, what is with you? You guys are sick!" as she recorded the scenes.
The "Don't Feed Our Bums" message is aimed directly at Good Samaritans who serve the homeless food in various forms, and under conditions that don't comply with county health laws -- leaving trash behind, and more transients flocking to the area.
"Some of the guys that are down here are creeps; some of them aren't," said Ocean Beach resident Chad Cain, as he wolfed down an al fresco cheeseburger special at Hodad's, watching the pedestrian parade along Newport Avenue during Friday's noon hour. "Some are just homeless and need a hand up. Some of them are just looking for a handout. There's a big difference."
O.B. resident Jesse Novotnak, two stools down added, "If it's somebody down on their luck, they're hungry -- give them something extra. But if they're just out harassing people, doing crystal meth, tweekers and scumbags -- they're the ones that just need to go on to the next town."
Many in the so-called 'Independent Republic of Ocean Beach' say that perpetuates a disturbing cycle of dependency.
"Certain scriptures, for example, say 'He who does not work does not eat'," said a guitar-playing Griffin Savard, during a break from practicing spiritual tunes on the seawall north of the Pier.
"But other scriptures talk about feeding the poor," noted Savard, who's staying with friends in O.B. " I think we can go too far and enable them to stay here -- which I don't think is good either."
There is some pushback to the anti-bums sentiment.
A local blog is offering a free T-shirt to the person who peels off the most "Don't Feed our Bums" stickers around town and sends them in.