DEL MAR, Calif. -- Del Mar residents are demanding the city provides them with access to the beach and bluffs, this after a recent crackdown on those who cross the train tracks to get to the beach.
The North County Transit District began stepping up enforcement Aug. 1 against people who cross or walk along the tracks through the coastal corridor. The San Diego County Sheriff's Department is ticketing people who trespass. Violators could be fined up to $500 and face a maximum of six months in jail.
"I think it's ridiculous, I think it's blown way out of proportion," said Lisa Ruh, who lives above the bluffs in Del Mar. "The days when the police aren't here, everybody does the same access that they did before, it's not stopping anyone.”
Ruh lives across the beach, on 10th Street, but says she would have to walk to 15th Street to cross legally. Or she has to access the beach from Torrey Pines. She agrees something needs to be done to keep people off the tracks, but she doesn't think the fines are a solution.
"Walking on the tracks, running with headphones right down the center of the tracks and the trains have to honk their horns and blow their whistle," Ruh said.
The NCTD says that when trains have to suddenly stop for people on or near the tracks it leads to delays and can be dangerous for passengers. An NCTD spokeswoman says eight people died on the tracks in 2015. So far this year, three have died. The spokeswoman did not confirm how many of those were suicides.
On Tuesday night dozens of neighbors packed the Del Mar City Council meeting demanding safe access to the beach. Many said they have been walking along or crossing the tracks in Del Mar for generations.
Hundreds have also signed a petition requesting that the city establish two or more designated sites to cross between 6th Street and 11th Street. They want the issuing of tickets to stop immediately. Ultimately, they don't want trains running through the mile-and-a-half stretch in Del Mar.
"You have opened Pandora's box. You have upset the status quo. And if this continues, we as Del Marians, we will walk down to the bluff as one person and we will chain ourselves to the railroad," said one woman.
Matthew Soble told the council he was handcuffed and searched for simply walking along the tracks.
"I was shirtless with a tight swimsuit on,” Soble said. “So, unless you can hide a Glock in your belly button, there is no way I'm hiding a weapon.”
He said deputies accused him of being drunk.
"They said something like, ‘well you must have been drinking to cross the tracks like that,’ which is ridiculous, because hundreds of people walk on the tracks every day,” Soble said.
He was issued a misdemeanor ticket and ordered to appear in court in October.
"If you can't cross that track without getting hit by a train, you shouldn't be crossing the street," Soble argued.
Soble and many others are upset about the heavy law enforcement presence along the bluffs.
"When you have people with guns walking up and down the train tracks looking like they're in riot gear, it's just disgusting," Soble added.
The city council said it has been trying to come up with solutions for better beach access for years.
The NCTD spokeswoman said the number of trains through the coastal corridor is expected to double by 2050. She said the agency is required by federal law to address safety concerns.