Behind the Controversy of the Coronado Sandman Ticketing

sandman Alberto Avila poses with ticket from 2013
Alberto Avila, The Sandman, with a ticket from 2013. Read story here.

Alberto Avila, more commonly known as The Coronado Sandman, was ticketed by the Coronado Police Department on the evening of July 7 for creating his sand art and refusing to leave when asked.

61.08.020 Nonstormwater discharge prohibition states, “4. Any solids or viscous substances or other matter of such quality, size or quantity that they may cause obstruction to flow in the sewer or be detrimental to proper wastewater treatment plant operations. These objectionable substances include, but are not limited to, asphalt, dead animals, offal, ashes, sand, mud…” in reference to depositing items on the street.

Avila uses sand from the beach to create works of art on the streets of Coronado. He moved away from Coronado in January after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Coronadans pulled together to bring him back this past week to fulfill his dying wish. He participated in Coronado’s Independence Day parade on July fourth and the community welcomed him back with open arms.

However, the ticket he received has caused strife within the community. It is the topic of three separate posts on the local community group on Facebook, Coronado Happenings, and one post on the Coronado Electorate group. Many people were upset that he was given a ticket after the work people put into bringing him back to Coronado.

Emily Lacklen Foster expressed frustration over what infractions the police get involved with. “I’m frustrated because there was an aggressive and possibly drunk driver in our neighborhood today. Drag racing, swerving around cars and bicycles, and speeding. Up and down the street repeatedly for more than half an hour. We called CPD and they never came,” Foster wrote.

This reflects a greater trend seen on Coronado Happenings in the last few months. One notable instance was the “Macaroni Necklace Incident”. May 9 Angela Von Criswell drove her child to school with a macaroni necklace hanging from her rear-view mirror. A Coronado police officer pulled her over and ticketed her for the infraction, even after she removed the necklace upon learning of the illegality. As with the Sandman ticketing, many people pointed out that these infractions seem frivolous when people still speed down the larger streets and ride their bikes on Orange Avenue.

Charles Crehore pointed out that the bike riders on Orange Ave sidewalks are getting out of hand. He cited his experience on the Fourth with having to give an elderly woman a ride home after she was hit by a rider biking on the sidewalk. The accident left her with an open wound surrounded by a large bruise. People commenting on his original post suggested that volunteer police could handle the bikers so that the police could focus on speeders.

Others defended the police department. Wesley Kent-Mooy persisted in encouraging people to get the facts and not “bash” the police department. He commented on most of the posts.

Remember he [the Sandman] directly disobeyed CPD when they were politely asking him to stop. What were the officers expected to do?” Kent-Mooy commented on one post. He also called for former mayor Casey Tanaka and current Mayor Richard Bailey to not let social media run the city.

Matthew Sanchez also tried to encourage fact finding. He looked up the Coronado Municipal Code and copied the nonstormwater discharge prohibition section of the code for people to easily read and understand why Avila was ticketed. However, he did not state a particular opinion about the issue.

I hope we can all agree that the Sandman is a treasured part of our community who has created wonderful memories for many of us and also that our Coronado Police Department gets ‘it’ right far more often than not,” Mayor Bailey chimed in on Coronado Happenings, continuing, “I have confidence in the process and encourage everyone to let that process unfold accordingly.”

Neva Peña Kaye posted an update to Coronado Happenings on July 9. She and Avila met with Chief of Police Jon Froomin to discuss the occurrence and to discuss ensuring Avila could continue to do his work.

Alberto Avila and Chief of Police Jon Froomin
Police Chief Jon Froomin with Coronado’s Sandman.
“…I could tell he is a fan of the Sandman and he genuinely wanted to help him while still addressing their concerns,” Kaye wrote.

In a phone call July 10, Froomin expanded on the issue. He verified Kent-Mooy’s statement about the warning. The issuing officer warned Avila that his actions are illegal, left and returned later to find Avila still working. At this time the officer issued the ticket. Froomin said that this information was missing from the posts, but that is important that people know it. He said that during the meeting he explained the ticket to Avila, his brother, and Kaye. They decided that Avila could use the playground area of Spreckels Park as it would be rearranging rather than depositing sand. Froomin denied Avila’s request to do his art on the red zone of the 700 block of Orange Avenue, as there is no existing sand in that area.

Despite the conversation that both Froomin and Kaye said went well, Avila once again defied police instructions. While he amused the children during the concert Sunday, he also created art on the 600 block of Orange. This was especially concerning as many people using mobility devices load and unload there and the sand creates a falling risk. A vandalism call was also made on Monday about Avila when he was creating in front of the Brigantine restaurant. When officers confronted Avila, he claimed that he never agreed to designated areas and said that he wouldn’t stop “until hell froze over” according to Froomin.

Froomin expressed disappointment over how the issue turned out. He said that they made plans to allow Avila’s art but Avila decided it wasn’t acceptable. He called Kaye after the incident at Brigantine, and she said that Avila did not handle the confrontations properly.

Froomin also explained that contrary to popular belief, the police department has not adopted a zero-tolerance policy on speeding.

“The thing about a zero-tolerance policy is this,” Froomis said, “if a driver is going down Orange at 26 miles per hour in a 25 zone, they get a ticket. Everyone gets a ticket. That is not the best way to conduct business.”

The police department has stepped up enforcement of speed limits.

It appears that Avila has no plans to cease giving his artistic gift to Coronado. If he breaks laws while doing so, it will be up to the police and court system to decide how it should be handled, and up to the public to form opinions.

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Taylor is a 2015 Coronado High School graduate and now a senior at The University of Texas at Tyler getting her Bachelor's in Mass Communications with a focus in Multimedia Journalism. She is also minoring in Graphic Design and Spanish. After graduating college she will return to San Diego.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: