For an $88 fee, a couple can opt to have a civil marriage ceremony overlooking the San Diego Bay in front of the San Diego County Administration Center at 1600 Pacific Highway. On the westside of the venue there’s a 10′ x 10′ wedding-arbor covered with vines and surrounded by trees where “I dos” are said. But some couples skip the ceremony altogether and get straight to the honeymoon — in the arbor.
“There’s been some lewd acts [in there] and last month I called the police,” said a security guard patrolling the grounds on the weekend before Halloween. “There was a man and women over there and they acted like they were caught doing something they shouldn’t have been doing …. then I’ve seen couples walk out of there [adjusting their pants].”
After I spoke with the security guard who wanted to remain anonymous, I had a difficult time locating the secret place. I parked on Pacific Highway; walked towards the circular fountain in front of the County building; and finally located the arbor about 30 feet north of the fountain.
“Look at it,” said John who works across the street at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. “It’s in the cut and [when you two are inside] you’re hidden …. ain’t nobody going to see you. I’ve even seen people that I work with in the museum, where people may not think they are boyfriend and girlfriend — and they go over there.”
The security guard said that the hanky panky happens in the family bathrooms as well because the couples can lock the doors.
“We discourage that because it’s a sanitation thing and a lot of people use those bathrooms, and if they are in there for 15 minutes (with no kids) — I’m knocking.”
John’s been working across the street by the ensemble of historic vessels including steam-powered boats, sailing ships and submarines for over three years. “It’s nothing new,” he said. “There’s always some [couples] there doing something.”
“Outdoor [civil marriage] ceremonies are by appointment only, weather permitting, and subject to staffing availability,” says the County website. “You will need to provide a witness [and] if you do not have a witness we can provide one for an $18 fee.”