By Kristina Houck
After more than two years of debate between Solana Beach residents who want to rent Fletcher Cove Community Center for private events and community members who fear adverse impacts from parties, the divisive issue is headed to the ballot.
The Solana Beach City Council on Nov. 6 had to decide whether to adopt a use policy they don’t support or spend about $200,000 on a special election. Council members unanimously voted to call a special election for Feb. 11, 2014, allowing voters to have their say on a use policy for the facility. Deputy Mayor Thomas Campbell, who was on vacation, participated in the meeting by phone.
“What’s most fair to all parties involved — the petitioners, the neighbors and the people who signed the petition — is to follow this process, let everybody have their voice and let’s hear the outcome,” said Councilman David Zito, who noted this is the city’s seventh qualified citizen petition in 18 years.
After months of debate and negotiations, the council on Aug. 28 adopted a use policy for the facility, which overlooks the ocean at 133 Pacific Ave. Introduced during a special meeting Aug. 7, the policy permits no more than one private party rental at $50 per hour with a two-hour minimum every other weekend during the trial period, which ends Dec. 28, 2014. No more than 50 guests are allowed at events, which require a security guard. Beer and wine can be served, but there is a two-drink limit per guest, and a trained host is required.
Members of the Friends of the Fletcher Cove Community Center wanted a less restrictive policy, so the group filed a voter initiative with the city on Aug. 27 to remove regulations from the site. The initiative would allow up to two parties every weekend, with as many as 100 guests at events, and alcohol limited only by state Alcohol Beverage Control rules.
The group, which originally launched its initiative after council members tabled the matter in June, had to collect 1,311 valid signatures from Solana Beach voters within 180 days to prompt a special election on the measure. In about a month, paid workers and volunteers collected more than 2,000 signatures, said Solana Beach resident Mary Jane Boyd, who backed the initiative along with former Solana Beach Mayor Thomas Golich and resident James Nelson.
In a letter addressed to the city clerk on July 9, 2013, Boyd, Golich and Nelson requested that a special election “be called and scheduled for the earliest possible date after the qualification of this initiative.”
Nevertheless, Boyd and other initiative supporters urged council members during the meeting to adopt the initiative to avoid a special election.
“Calling a special election at the cost of $200,000 is a decision that the City Council will be totally responsible for. And although there is a concerted effort to put a different spin on it, only the council can be held responsible,” Boyd said. “The people who signed the petition are clear about what it says and we all understand you have a choice: adopt the initiative or immediately submit it to the voters and let them decide.