By Diane Y. Welch
If you frequent Java Depot in Solana Beach or visit City Hall the chances are you’ll see Peter House. Dressed in his distinctive attire comprising a crisp white shirt, black vest and matching black pants, he is easily recognizable. That outfit used to be his comfortable weekend attire, he said, but House, now retired, wears it every day.
Being retired has not meant slowing down, however, for House, a former economist and expert in policy analysis. On the contrary, since his relocation from Washington D. C. to Solana Beach four years ago with his wife, Carol Childs, his life has been very busy. House is president of the 101 Merchants Association, a board member of both the Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce and the North Coast Repertory Theatre, co-founder of the Solana Beach Community Foundation, and a member of both the Del-Sol Lions, and the Solana Beach Civic Historical Society, where his wife serves as president.
When Childs asked House to retire to Solana Beach it was her plan to return to the community she loved, where she was born and raised. But House had recently completed law school and had his own vision of retirement. “I said, ‘OK, I’ll give it a year, but I’ll need to find something to keep me busy there.’”
He found that opportunity with the City of Solana Beach. House’s last job in D.C. was as webmaster for the Smithsonian. With a knowledge of information systems, House met with David Ott, city manager, about utilizing his expertise to help the city. This meeting began an ongoing collaboration. “We put together a very large database we called ‘Beach.’ It contains all the information on every parcel of land in Solana Beach,” he explained. And as a result of “Beach,” the way the city keeps its planning records is, “as sophisticated as any in the state of California,” said House.
The city was also interested in economic development. “So, together, we expanded ‘Beach’ to contain all the businesses in Solana Beach and now those records serve as a directory to help promote them,” said House, who designed a visitor information system that gives access to a database called “Surprising Solana.” The system was installed at the train station and hooked up to large screen TV which spotlights local businesses and points of interest. “We were trying to say to others, ‘We love it here, and this is why!’”
In addition, House was one of a group of local business leaders that initiated “Shop Solana First” as a way to promote Solana Beach business, and is currently working closely with the City to help redevelop South Highway 101 into a walkable downtown area.
“It’s going to be a very neat place to be,” he said.
House was also instrumental in the changes to the Plaza and was very active in the renovation of the Fletcher Cove Community Center and, with his wife, was a major benefactor.
Both House and Childs are avid art collectors, having traveled extensively together and made purchases of fine art from around the world. They donated three pieces from their collection to the City. One of the pieces is a seagull sculpture that sits atop a wave-inspired stand located just north of Fletcher Cove. Another is a bronze bell, which the City presented to the Solana Beach Fire Department in recognition for its work during the Witch Creek Fires, and the third is a kinetic horse sculpture that was gifted to the library, which is currently on display there.
A native of Brooklyn, House worked for several years in the Department of Agriculture after completing his Ph.D. at Cornell, with a major in public administration and finance, and a minor in city planning. He said it has taken 60 years for him to get back to using this knowledge and is grateful for the opportunity to work with the City of Solana Beach.
“It was hard for somebody of my age to come to a small town, but in a short period of time the town has been just great to me. It has become the place with lots of friends, probably as many or more than any other place I’ve lived. So it’s easy for Carol and I to give back. These friends have made this our home in a very short period of time.”