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California and the West

Progress May Sweep Away Old Surf Shop


Frye's wife, Donna, runs a slightly higher temperature. She's a full-tilt beach preservation activist.

She's the force behind Surfers Tired of Pollution, or STOP, a grass-roots group that has been accusing Rep. Brian P. Bilbray (R-San Diego) of being weak on clean-water laws despite his image as a surfer. A bust of Bilbray sits in a toilet bowl at Harrys'.

When the power drill began to burrow into the wall to affix the building application notice, Miller says, Donna Frye hurled an expletive at him. She denies that.

"If I had gotten really mad, I might have picked him up and punched him out but I would never resort to vulgarity," she said.

'I Feel Kind of Like the Old Hawaiians'

The Fryes and Warner have long known that the owner would someday sell the property. For that reason, their lease is month-to-month and the rent a modest $1,000 a month for 3,800 square feet. Still, the impending loss of Harrys' is painful.

"I feel kind of like the old Hawaiians when civilization finds out how neat their place was and decided to take over," said Skip Frye.

"What's happening to us is symptomatic of what's going on with the coast: Things like public parking, access to the beach and viewsheds are being wiped out," said Donna Frye.

The area is zoned for "visitor-oriented" commercial uses such as a hotel. But no land-use application is a slam-dunk--particularly when it involves a clash between an ambitious future and a mythic past.

There are issues of density, parking, view blockage and traffic patterns that have yet to be resolved. Miller's bid for a liquor license for his restaurant could be his undoing.

Pacific Beach has five times the number of liquor licenses that the Alcoholic Beverage Control agency considers ideal. Police say the neighborhood has a serious problem with drunk driving and rowdiness, particularly by collegians.

The Police Department and neighborhood planning committee have opposed attempts by bar owners to expand their businesses or extend their hours. The town council dropped its sponsorship of the Pacific Beach annual block party because of crowd problems linked to alcohol.

"Right now there are two main reasons people come to Pacific Beach: to go to the beach or to drink," said Michael Zucchet, a member of both the P.B. town advisory council and the planning committee. "A lot of good people are trying to see that second reason eliminated."

The planning committee, which advises the San Diego City Council, is set to consider Miller's building permit application Feb. 28.

For Harrys', the obvious move would be to find another location. But rents are escalating beyond the reach of the business, which has put a higher priority on artistry than profit.

"I want only the best for Harrys'," Miller said. "If I could help them find something else I would. But if I found something that cheap, I'd probably take it myself."

If they lose their fight to save Harrys', Frye and Warner figure they'll end up working for one of the mass-production surfboard outfits. In San Diego, a good surfboard maker is never unemployed for long.

"I don't worry much about it," Frye said. "If that's what happens to me, that's where I was meant to be."

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