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Neighbors sound off about Observatory in North Park

“Sit down. You’re embarrassing yourself. Sit the hell down.”

Jeanette Moore (far left): “I applaud their vast selection of bookings.”
  • Jeanette Moore (far left): “I applaud their vast selection of bookings.”

"When she [Cameron Holloway] was speaking I was listening to her words and not paying attention to the crowd’s reaction,” said Jeanette Moore, “until that woman became belligerent and disrespectful towards the speaker [Holloway].”

Halloway and Moore. Moore watched rappers Snoop Dogg, the Pharcyde, DMX, Tech N9ne and Yasiin Bey.

Halloway and Moore. Moore watched rappers Snoop Dogg, the Pharcyde, DMX, Tech N9ne and Yasiin Bey.

Moore is a second-generation North Park resident, and Holloway is an employee of Observatory North Park (who also lived in North Park for five years). The two spoke in front of a panel led by councilmember Chris Ward, the managers of the Observatory, and the San Diego Police Department on July 13 at the North Park Christian Fellowship.

The community discussion — prompted by the June 7 onstage attack on rapper XXXTentacion and the nonfatal stabbing of an undisclosed victim — went from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. The meeting focused on the venue's patrons and talent.

“I feel they are a great addition to the neighborhood and applaud their vast selection of bookings,” Moore said. She is a 46-year-old contract administrator who owns two houses by Upas Street, about five blocks south of the historical venue which was originally called the North Park Theatre (circa 1929). “They have helped North Park meet its objective of bringing more people to our neighborhood and provide an amazing venue for shows that bring diversity back to the community.”

Observatory meeting

July 13 meeting in North Park about Observatory

July 13 meeting in North Park about Observatory

Some of the others disagreed and said that the acts that the venue books bring in “undesirables” that leave “alcohol bottles, trash, vomit, condoms, and urine” on their streets and their properties — after the concerts. Another woman who lives across the street from the venue said that the concertgoers are loud when they leave. And yet another questioned if those alleged perpetrators came from the venue in the first place.

Casey has lived close to the venue for about nine years and this was her first time at the community gathering. “I think that people were able to talk things out, [and] I think that it’s healthy for the community to express their feelings.”

“99 percent of the time we don’t have any problems,” said Christopher, who lives “the closest to the theatre … but there are [small] problems like beer cans, cigarette butts … and the incident that happened the other night; I was amazed at how well the police handled that.”

On June 20, Ken Leighton, a Reader writer, wrote about the XXXTentacion attack in the Observatory when “someone rushed the stage and body-slammed him to the deck.”

“They're young,” said another neighbor, “what do you expect when there are lots of kids hanging about after the concerts?”

XXXTentacion is a 19-year-old rapper from Florida. At his June 7 performance, the venue allowed minors into the concert with an accompanying adult. After he was blindsided and knocked out onstage, one of the concertgoers got stabbed. Many police officers arrived on the scene.

“This is why I don’t like these acts,” said another neighbor, “because when that many policemen are out there policing, law abiding citizens might need some help too, and who’s going to save us?”

“A lot of our staff is made of theater staff,” said Holloway. “There’s the restaurant staff and a lot of the others are security staff to help keep the venue safe — we are well beyond covered [for security purposes].” She’s been working at the venue for five and a half years. And said she could not comment on the “rumors and innuendos that rap musicians draw the troublemakers to the neighborhood.” She was the last one to get up and speak to the crowd, though.

“In the last 10 years… I know there’s been a lot of meetings and a lot of people trying to bring more traffic and outsiders inside [North Park] to spend money and support the businesses,” said Holloway, “and now that everyone’s got it, one thing happens and everyone kind of freaks out about it.”

The crowd in the then grew uneasy, and some bickered and scoffed in disbelief as she spoke. One woman then walked up really fast behind Holloway and said “… and you got to talk and I think you are done.”

Another man in the back yelled at the woman who rushed up and said “Sit down. You’re embarrassing yourself. Sit the hell down.”

The meeting ended shortly after, and the attendees were offered cookies before leaving the building.

"I enjoy all genres of music,” Moore said, “but most enjoy hip-hop and rap concerts.” She said that she watched rappers Snoop Dogg, the Pharcyde, DMX, Tech N9ne, and Yasiin Bey at the venue and “would not consider [the audience] out of control or rowdy” even when she walked home those nights.

— Mike Madriaga

UPDATE

At the July 13 forum, San Diego Police Department Mid City Division captain Thomas Underwood informed attendees that no criminal investigation was underway regarding the incident due to the fact that both of the victims were uncooperative with the police.

Michael Hastings, commanding officer for the SDPD Vice Unit, informed the group that his investigation, which relates to permits and licensing for the venue, would not be completed for another two weeks.

Hastings, who was previously captain of the Mid City Division, said, “I was out here at night. I was out here at one in the morning, two in the morning. I was seeing what was going on. I know exactly the frustration you’re feeling, and I can promise you that everything I saw, when I was a captain here, is going to be part of this investigation.”

Tim Mays, who has been booking shows in the building since 1995, stated that until the Observatory team took over in 2015, “It was a severely underutilized venue. One or two shows a month, and very lackluster. Since these guys have come in, they have turned it into the preeminent venue of its size in San Diego.”

One interesting development revealed in the meeting was that the Observatory commissioned an independent survey meant to gauge the opinion of affected residents close to the theater after the XXXTentacion incident. There were 471 households in the survey’s target area. Out of the 92 households that responded, 4% listed the Observatory as being the biggest issue related to living in North Park.

— Dryw Keltz

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When you book thug music you get thugs.

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