By Kristina Houck
In an unanimous vote, the Solana Beach City Council on Oct. 9 decided to explore its options and order a report rather than adopt an initiative for a use policy for Fletcher Cove Community Center they don’t support or spend about $200,000 on a special election. Still, council members indicated voters would ultimately have their say.
“The people have spoken,” Councilman David Zito said. “This is a very contentious issue, and the right thing to do is to let the people have their voice.”
For more than two years, city officials and residents have attempted to develop a policy that would satisfy Solana Beach residents who want to rent the center for private events and community members who fear adverse impacts from parties.
The building was used for private functions in the 1980s and ’90s before it fell into disrepair. Some residents asked to once again use the facility for parties after the renovation of the 1,100-square-foot center was completed in 2011. Other residents expressed concerns about noise, traffic, parking and public safety.
After months of debate and negotiations, the City Council on Aug. 28 adopted a use policy that made the facility at 133 Pacific Ave. available for no more than one event every two weekends, no more than 50 attendees, and no more than two glasses of beer or wine for each guest, during the trial period, which ends Dec. 28, 2014.
Zito admitted the policy “wasn’t ideal.” In fact, he said he didn’t completely agree with it, but council members tried to avoid a costly special election by adopting a policy they saw as a compromise.
According to members of the Friends of the Fletcher Cove Community Center, however, the use policy still has too many regulations. The group filed a voter initiative with the city on Aug. 27 to establish less restrictive rules for the site.
The group had to collect 1,311 valid signatures from Solana Beach voters, which represents 15 percent of registered voters in the city, 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. The Registrar of Voters verified a sufficient number of signatures on Sept. 25, and the petition was certified.
If the group waited about a week, the measure could have been included in the June 2014 primary election, which would cost $10,000 to $15,000. However, the petition missed the deadline for the June election by four days, according to the staff report.
Boyd said her group was not aware of the timeline. She and a few of the initiative supporters urged council members to adopt the initiative to avoid a special election.
“I ask you again to adopt the language of the initiative without change and not incur the cost of a special election,” she said. “At least give it a try as a trial period. If it doesn’t work, then come back at a regular election and change whatever is not working. You need to call for a special election only if you want to create special regulations to restrict the use of the community center.”