By Kristina Houck
A local group seeking to rent Solana Beach’s refurbished Fletcher Cove Community Center for private events filed a voter initiative with the city on Aug. 27.
The City Council agreed on a tentative use policy for the facility during a special meeting Aug. 7 and is expected to approve a formal resolution Aug. 28 (after presstime for this newspaper). Originally launched after council members tabled the matter in June, the Friends of the Fletcher Cove Community Center decided to move forward with its initiative.
The initiative calls for private use of the center on up to two weekend days per week that must end by 10 p.m., including cleanup. The initiative also limits the city to charging “nominal fees” for special event permits and rentals.
The group had to collect 1,311 valid signatures from registered Solana Beach voters, or 15 percent of the total, within 180 days to prompt a special election on the measure. About 60 volunteers and several paid workers collected more than 2,000 signatures, 70 percent of which volunteers collected, said Mary Jane Boyd, a Solana Beach resident and member of the Friends of Fletcher Cove Community Center.
“We mostly went door-to-door so we could talk to help them understand what the issue is and why we are doing this,” Boyd said. “In spite of what [a speaker at the Aug. 7 special meeting] said — that we gave him misinformation and people didn’t know what they were signing — that’s not true. People in Solana Beach are smart, and they don’t sign things that they don’t know what they’re signing. They fully understand the issue and why we are doing it.”
During a special meeting Aug. 7, council members agreed the center should be available for private events during a trial period beginning Aug. 29 through Dec. 31, 2014. The compromise calls for no more than one private party rental at $50 per hour with a two-hour minimum every other weekend. No more than 50 guests will be allowed at events, which require a security guard. Beer and wine can be served, but there will be a two-drink limit per guest, and a trained host will be required.
“What they [the City Council] had done is set up some special descriptions for the use of this facility to restrict its use,” Boyd said. “We don’t want those restrictions and we don’t need those restrictions.
“We just want to use the facility and have the noise, parking and alcohol be controlled by established city ordinances. We’re not asking for any special rules.”
Solana Beach resident Ed Creed, who is a neighbor of Boyd’s, said he signed the petition after Boyd’s husband, Roger, informed him about the initiative, but he later requested his signature be removed. Creed said he was told the purpose of the initiative was to have a policy that allows private events at the center. Now that council members will likely approve a resolution regarding the facility’s use, Creed doesn’t believe there should be a special election.
“The way it was presented with me was more that they just wanted to get it to be used, not to be ‘It’s my way or the highway,” Creed said. “His wife’s [Mary Jane Boyd] stance is it has to be their policy or nothing which, to me, is crazy. … You can withdraw this petition. You’ve got a policy.”
A special election would cost about $200,000, not including the $7,000-$9,000 it would cost to verify the signatures, said Solana Beach City Clerk Angela Ivey.
Creed said he wasn’t aware of the potential cost of a special election prior to signing the petition.
“I think that the petition was a sales job with a major non-disclosure regarding the cost of a special ballot,” Creed said. “They referenced the $225,000 that was used to renovate the facility to emphasize that this was wasted money. The flipside of that is not to waste $300,000 on an election on a relatively minor issue. If you asked the citizens of Solana Beach if they want to forfeit $300,000 of city services to hold a special election for the weekend use of a facility that is a nice-to-have but not a need-to have, I would guess that most people would say that they would not want to waste $300,000.”
Boyd said Creed and his wife’s signatures were removed from the petition before it was filed, but she hadn’t yet informed Creed. She also noted that Creed’s was the only request for removal she received.
As of Aug. 26, the city clerk said she hadn’t received any requests from community members wanting their names removed from the petition.
“Signers of the petition can remove their name from the petition by submitting a written request to me with their contact information, naming the petition topic and requesting that their name be removed,” Ivey said. “I must receive any requests to remove a signature prior to the filing of the petition.”
Although they don’t agree on the terms of the center’s use, like Creed, Boyd doesn’t want a special election.
“We don’t want a special election, the opponents of the initiative don’t want a special election and the City Council most certainly should not want a special election because we don’t have the money to spend in a frivolous manner,” Boyd said. “We’re hoping they will adopt the initiative. It will be the end of our fight.”
The City Council on Aug. 28 is expected to approve a resolution that details the terms for use of the center during the trial period.
Look for a story on the Aug. 28 meeting online from Aug. 29 on at www.delmartimes.net or in the next issue of this newspaper, Sept. 5.