By Claire Harlin
The Solana Beach City Council on Sept. 12 approved seeking environmental review to assess the neighborhood impacts of allowing the public to rent the newly renovated Fletcher Cove Community Center for private events and parties.
The issue has provoked contention with those living in the neighborhood surrounding the center, who are a minority in comparison to the many residents who want to take advantage of the center, which has a new look and landscape, with picnic tables, benches, upgraded restrooms and sweeping views.
The decision to conduct the review — which will cost upward of $25,000 and examine factors such as noise and traffic — was not a unanimous one. Councilman Mike Nichols dissented, stating that “public funds should not be used for private parties.”
“This has snowballed and gotten out of control,” Nichols said, adding that the environmental review may end up costing more than $25,000 because it may reveal more things the city needs to spend money on. “The vision was to have a meeting place, and it’s extremely well used today. You go there and there’s always something going on … I hope the citizens see that we have accomplished exactly what we intended to do and that is to not make it a third party rental.”
In the 1990s, prior to the building becoming outdated and unusable, the community center was rented out on the weekends for private uses such as weddings, and residents want to revisit those days. Mayor Joe Kellejian said his daughter just became pregnant and he would love to see his grandchild christened there.
“There’s a lot of things we can do that can happen there,” said Kellejian. “We’re here to discuss moving it forward and being able to have events for the entire community.”
Currently the center currently allows community meetings and programs such as Summer Day Camp, the Sing-A-Long and the Del Sol Lions Club, among others.
The city has received many inquiries from residents who want to use the facility, so officials asked for community input about developing rules and conditions at an April council meeting. In August, Councilwoman Lesa Heebner requested the issue be brought back to the council for an update.
At a June 19 community meeting, residents identified concerns such as noise, parking, hours and the possibility of having a trial period.
Nearby resident Richard Jacobs, who’s lived in Solana Beach for 30 years, referred to the time when the center was previously rented out as “the nightmare of the ‘90s.”
“I was there and I witnessed it,” he said “The proponents who want these parties are good, responsible people, however, with traffic and alcohol for six hours at a time, there’s a lot of risk. One day there may be a rowdy group who will blow the lid off this place.”