Posted by: cantmisssd | February 12, 2010

Ocean Beach Veterans Plaza

(As usual, Natalie Kardos takes better pictures than me.)

Constructing history is a complicated thing. Enough history stretches out behind us these days that it’s often difficult to put current events in their proper context, and intimidating to try. It’s a constant challenge for those who seek to memorialize our experiences: Move too quickly and you may end up memorializing things that are ultimately trivial; too slowly and you risk allowing important moments to slip out of the collective consciousness altogether. So what you often end up with- especially in a relatively new and consciously designed city like San Diego- is organizations and communities making conscious choices about what history to note and how noting that history reflects.

In 1978, after decades of well-deserved reputation as San Diego’s Haight-Ashbury, the Ocean Beach Business Community first formed to start building a central civic identity for the community. The now-taken for granted Street Fair began in 1981, and in the 90s, the restoration of Newport Avenue began. The anchor of the new Newport Avenue, literally if not conceptually, was a new Veterans Plaza fronting the beach at the base of the ave, which officially ‘opened’ in 1997.

The centerpiece of Veterans Plaza is a stone monolith breaking up the wide sidewalk that transitions from Newport to fronting the seawall. The plaque, introducing the plaza, reads:

Dedicated to all Veterans Living or Dead who have Served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America and Shared a Portion of their Lives to Preserve the Honor and Integrity of this Great Nation 11 Nov 1995

Stretching out along the promenade from the stone pillar are circular tiles dedicated- specifically or generally- to US veterans. Complimenting the Newport Avenue Tile Project, it serves to both recognize veterans and integrate that remembrance into the normal flow of life. Conceptually, that’s history at its best – when it’s seamlessly included in the collective consciousness, and the shared experience of living today involves appreciation of the people and the years that held them that came before.

Does it work in this case? Unclear. People who have lived in San Diego, even OB, have been stunned when I mention that there’s a Veterans memorial at the end of Newport. But it is there and it aspires to good things, which is as good a start as any. Getting people to pay attention is a much bigger project.

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