The group behind the Fletcher Cove Community Center party policy initiative has taken political campaigning to a new low in Solana Beach. Over the past several months, our community has watched this small well-funded group mislead voters into signing a petition for a special election, and then try to bully the City Council into adopting their initiative by using the cost of the election as leverage. Now, our council members are faced with the choice of spending the money for a special election or adopting a bad law that can only be changed through another election.
Is the City Council really between a rock and a hard place? No, they are not! Council members unanimously agree the initiative policy is a bad law. Adopting this bad law would not only set a bad precedent; it would reward those that used deceitful tactics to get the city into this mess! Calling for a special election is the right thing to do. Yes, the special election comes with quite a price tag — we can all thank the initiative’s sponsors for that; but we will pay a far greater price if the council adopts the initiative outright. Adopting the initiative’s policy will set a new standard for what is acceptable when it comes to making laws in Solana Beach. It will provide an incentive to people who have the money and political know-how to coerce the council into adopting an initiative to avoid the cost of a special election. Do we really want to give an unequal amount of power to those with the greatest means?
You may have been told that the city can adopt the initiative and then modify the code when problems arise, or that the city can regulate the use of the community center using the existing code. False and false! The City Council has made it very clear that if the initiative is adopted and problems arise, their only recourse to fix the problems would be to hold a citywide election and let the public vote on the changes. You may not know that the law prohibits the city from campaigning in an election — even for a city-sponsored initiative! Therefore, the burden will fall on a citizen’s group to pay for and support a campaign to fix the problems created by the initiative’s intensive policy. Meanwhile, Solana Beach citizens will be living with the parking, traffic, safety and noise problems likely to arise from the party policy initiative.
And what about the city’s ability to regulate the party policy using the existing code? Just another attempt to confuse the voters. If adopted — or passed in an election — the initiative overrides parking, noise and alcohol laws. If adopted, the initiative amends city code specifically to circumvent our current ordinances and allow “special event” permits to be issued for private parties on two days of every weekend at the community center. The city will not be able to change the number of days the facility can be used on weekends, even if other city events are taking place on the same day. The community center does not have a parking lot, but the initiative creates an exception for 100 private guests at the community center — estimated to be 60-75 cars — to park their cars on the street in the area around Fletcher Cove Park. City law prohibits alcohol from being consumed at the beach, parks and all city-owned property — including La Colonia Community Center — but the initiative creates another exception and allows alcohol to be served only at Fletcher Cove Community Center. Noise laws do not allow sound to go beyond 60 decibels, but the initiative allows live bands to play amplified music on two days of every weekend. Again, the initiative creates an exception for the community center.
This past summer, the City Council established a policy that allows residents to rent the community center for private parties on two weekends per month. Residents can rent the facility for meetings, weddings, birthdays, bar mitzvahs or anniversary parties and enjoy a couple of glasses of wine during the event. The city policy took into consideration all sides: the residents’ desire to use the facility, the people that want to use the beach and park, the customers that want to shop and dine on Highway 101 and the Plaza, and the homeowners that live in the Fletcher Cove area. Most importantly, the city policy can be modified up or down, without requiring an election. A flexible policy is the most prudent option for the long-term regulation of the community center.
The City Council needs to take a strong stand and refuse to adopt the initiative. Give the sponsors of the party policy initiative their special election. Voters deserve the right to vote on the party policy initiative. In this election, the voters will also decide whether they want their elected officials making city law or people with money to use voter initiatives and strong-armed tactics to create laws.
Voters should ask themselves why the party policy initiative group is pushing so hard for adoption after they forced the need for a special election. And why don’t they want the voters to have their say? Councilman David Zito said it best, “It is a choice between doing what’s right versus trying to save a lot of money.” Let’s hope the entire City Council chooses to do what’s right by not adopting a bad law and, instead, sending the initiative to the voters of Solana Beach.