Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner discusses past, present and future

Lesa Heebner
Lesa Heebner

After more than 30 years in Solana Beach, Mayor Lesa Heebner still fondly recalls the “era of the Roller Rink,” the “days of incorporation” and “the arrival of our train station.” She’s now using that longtime knowledge of the neighborhood, and her seven years on the city council, to lead Solana Beach into the future as its new mayor.  Here she talks about what inspired her to serve in the first place, some of the lessons she’s learned along the way, and some of the goals she has as mayor.

  1. What inspired you to serve on council?

In 2002, I got involved in a local issue that was meaningful to me: the design of the Coastal Rail Trail.  I’d been using that trail since I moved to Solana Beach in 1976, and the design the Council was considering was, in my opinion, out of character with our coastal community. Despite the fact that the council voted 3:2 to adopt that plan, something inside me told me not to give up the fight for a better design.  Long story very short, I gathered together some like-minded residents for a brainstorming session.  Landscape architect and now-Council member Mike Nichols was one of those residents. Using the team’s input, Mike came up with a conceptual design that was more flowing and natural and, most importantly, was a better fit for our city. Along with this new conceptual plan we presented to the Council a few hundred signatures from residents in support of this more natural design.  After some compromises on all sides, the Council voted unanimously to go forward with the design we all now enjoy.  The experience was extremely rewarding, and I learned a number of lessons, including how to be effective working with local and regional governmental bodies, and how to use compromise effectively.

Most importantly, I got a sense of what it was like to work toward and see positive change in the town I love. It was a good feeling. I wanted to stay involved. I was appointed to a seat on the City’s View Assessment Committee and later approached to run for a City Council seat.  I gave it a lot of thought before I agreed to do so.  I saw it as a challenge and the opportunity to do more for my city.

  1. How has Solana Beach changed in the time you've been here?

Having been a Solana Beach resident for 34 years now I’ve seen a lot of change, so where do I start?  The Mayfair Market days? The era of the Roller Rink, People’s Food Co-op, Walker Scott, Rustler’s Roost, The Distillery and Cask ‘n’ Cleaver?  Or the days of incorporation, Prop T, the arrival of our train station, the undergrounding of the train tracks, our View Ordinance, development of the Cedros Design Center, our new City Hall, fire station and joint-use library?  Since I’ve been on Council, we’ve seen a number of projects come to fruition such as the Rail Trail, the two pedestrian bridges, the freeway interchange, the renovation of Fletcher Cove park, our Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance, the improvements at Plaza St. and, quite importantly, being the first city in our region and perhaps all of the state of California, to institute full pension reform.  What’s important to me is what’s stayed the same, and that is we have retained our small beach town feeling in Solana Beach, our sense of community is still strong, and despite the many outside pressures to over-develop inappropriately, we continue to work together to protect and preserve what we have while we update and improve our city. In the final analysis, I’d have to say the biggest change was surely our incorporation, which allowed those of us living in Solana Beach to shape our city’s destiny.

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