Solana Beach proposes circulation changes, updates general plan for first time in 25 years

By Claire Harlin

Soon after Solana Beach became a city in 1986, its forefathers began writing the city’s

general plan

— a blueprint for the future that reflects the city’s values, vision and guiding principles — and the final draft adopted in 1992 was what has steered development ever since. But just as communities change, so should their state-mandated general plans, and Solana Beach officials are looking for community input as they perform their first-ever major

overhaul

of the document.

On Feb. 21 the City of Solana Beach will conduct a public

workshop

in which, for the first time, officials will present proposed concepts that reflect a shift from the vehicle-centric vision of 1986 to a focus on pedestrians, bicyclists and public transportation. Included in the draft plan will be traffic calming measures such as lane reductions in some areas, as well as special designations such as “bicycle boulevards” and “pedestrian corridors” to provide safer non-vehicle travel.

“The general plan is the hierarchy; it’s the vision of where we want to be,” said

Mayor Mike Nichols

, adding that the goals outlined in the broader general plan are implemented more specifically through zoning.

“This is really residents’ opportunity to help shape the future of this community. It only happens every 20 years, and we highly encourage participation.”

City general plans include several elements and are generally updated every 15 to 20 years, except for the

housing element

, of which the state requires an update and certification every eight years. Solana Beach Deputy City Manager Wendé Protzman said the city is well on its way to housing element certification, as officials from the state Department of Housing and Community Development in December informed Solana Beach that it had met all necessary statutes in its

housing element update

, such as providing adequate regulations and land use designations to meet affordable housing standards.

Now, the city is focusing on Solana Beach’s land use and circulation, before it revisits its conservation, open space, noise and safety elements likely next year. Officials are also at liberty to add elements as they wish if the community deems necessary, such as the optional economic development element added in 1988 and a possible environmental sustainability element that has been discussed in the community.

“We’ve been talking about an environmental sustainability element, but really all the elements should be environmentally sustainable,” said Nichols, adding that elements can be combined (such as open space and conservation) or removed in order to work specific goals into all the elements. “We’ve also talked about a healthy lifestyle element, but it starts to get redundant the more you add.”

Building a multi-modal community

Even though Interstate 5 had been in place for two decades when Solana Beach became a city, nothing had yet transitioned on Highway 101, which was designed for passing through San Diego’s north coastal communities at high speeds. But when those communities became cities, there became a desire to create a city experience along the 101 and encourage drivers to stop and patronize rather than pass through.

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