Meet the Candidates: Solana Beach Mayor and District 3

Solana Beach City Hall
(File photo)

The Nov. 3 election will be the first Solana Beach election since the city switched from an at-large election, in which the whole city voted on every council seat and the title of mayor rotated each year, to district-based elections. The city now has four council districts and the mayor is elected separately.

Solana Beach business owner and former Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner is the only mayoral candidate on the ballot. Incumbent Councilman David Zito is the only Solana Beach City Council candidate on the ballot for voters in District 1, and Solana Beach Mayor Jewel Edson is the only Solana Beach City Council candidate on the ballot in District 3. See bio information and responses to three questions below from Lesa Heebner and Jewel Edson. David Zito was unable to provide his submission by press time.

Jewel Edson

Jewel Edson

Occupation: Elected to City Council in 2016, I currently serve the residents of Solana Beach as Mayor within Council rotation. In my role as a Council Member I also represent Solana Beach and North County on a number of local and regional boards, committees and commissions. I serve on the City’s Business Liaison Committee and Public Arts Commission and on the 22nd DAA (Fairgrounds) Community Relations Committee (CRC).

My regional responsibilities include serving on the boards of directors of the North County Transit District (NCTD); the LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency; and FACT (Facilitating Access to Coordinated Transportation). I represent the North County Coastal region on SANDAG’s Transportation Commission; I am Solana Beach’s alternate on the SANDAG board of directors; and I previously served on SANDAG’s Public Safety Committee. On NCTD, I sit on the Executive Committee and I am the Chair of Marketing Sales Planning and Business Development (MSPBD). This year I was invited by the Secretary of Transportation to join the State’s Del Mar Bluffs Stabilization Working Group and Regional Sub-Working Group.

In addition to City Council, I own and operate a small business in the tech space focused on GTM (go-to-market) strategy and execution in the semiconductor, wireless and software industries. My professional background includes successful leadership and management positions in both large and small companies. Previously, I was director of operations for a tech start-up responsible for HR and finance. Earlier, as senior event planner at Qualcomm, I conceived and managed HR projects and special events. Self-motivated and hardworking, my early career was spent in real estate and mortgage banking.

Education: Pasadena City College; real estate license; insurance license; Le Cordon Bleu: certificate in gourmet cuisine; Sogetsu School (Tokyo): certificate levels 1-3; and a personal commitment to lifelong learning.

Community Service:

A 24-year resident, I have volunteered extensively for our community. Prior to my election to Council, I served 11 years as a Solana Beach City Commissioner, including many years as Chair of the View Assessment Commission. On the board of directors of the Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce I promoted our city and local businesses. I lead a successful neighborhood utility undergrounding project. And, I served as our city’s appointed representative on a San Diego County panel. As a private citizen, I attended City Council meetings and community workshops, passed petitions and spoke in front of Council on issues I believed warranted support or opposition.

1. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the City of Solana Beach?

Solana Beach faces unprecedented challenges, including the global pandemic and economic downturn, State legislation that threatens local governance, and community concerns about social justice and equality. Other relevant issues include: the 6th Cycle (2021-2029) Housing Element Update (with our city’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) allocation from SANDAG, coming in at a whopping 875 units); moving the Lomas Santa Fe Corridor project forward; climate change: including air quality and sea-level rise which impacts to our fragile bluffs; and events and other potential changes on the Fairgrounds property.

Ensuring large development projects both fit and benefit our community is always of paramount importance. Solana Beach incorporated in 1986 to gain local control after a number of impactful decisions made by the County without considering community input. Finding balance between often conflicting goals while maintaining our community’s unique beach town charm and quality of life are guaranteed to keep Council busy.

2. How would you propose to address those issues?

Solana Beach is recognized as a desirable and well-managed city. As a returning Councilmember, I reaffirm my commitment to protect our neighborhoods and promote efficient government. An independently-minded and fiscally conservative small business owner, I will continue to fulfill this pledge through pursuit of local, state and federal funding to create programs that benefit our residents and small businesses, especially those impacted by the pandemic; prudent financial oversight of the City’s budget; stewardship of our public spaces; and by continuing to apply the Solana Beach Municipal Code to make tough, informed and balanced land use decisions that ensure future development projects enrich our community. I’ll continue to work with the Sheriff on policing policy; and with the Fairgrounds, Caltrans and surrounding jurisdictions to revise traffic plans so the “carmageddon” that occurred in mid-2018 is not repeated, public safety around large events increases, and impacts to surrounding neighborhoods are mitigated.

3. Do you agree with the way the City of Solana Beach operates? If not, what changes do you think need to be made.

I’m proud to serve on a Council that has improved our City’s overall environment. We’ve adopted a Climate Action Plan; updated and expanded park space, added walking paths and created safer routes for our children to walk to school; built La Colonia Skatepark; supported Harbaugh Seaside Trails; added sidewalks and made significant ADA improvements. All while maintaining a balanced budget, reducing pension obligations and building reserves.

Council approved projects that once built will better our community, add activities, and increase housing at all levels. Our fragile bluffs have benefitted from the import of sand that nourishes our beaches, slows erosion, and expands recreational use. Successful lobbying for Federal funds, brought real progress toward securing sand replenishment for decades to come. Working diligently with the Fairgrounds I helped negotiate a fairer share of revenue from certain future events. City staff is lean, committed and hardworking but I believe in continuous improvement.

Lesa Heebner

Lesa Heebner

Occupation: Business Owner

Education: BA in History, University of California, San Diego

Community Service: 2002–2004 View Assessment Commission; 2004–2016 City Council member (rotated into position of Mayor 3 times); 2018 (filled Council seat when unexpectedly vacated).

1. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the City of Solana Beach

The first challenge Solana Beach will be facing has to do with increased demand from the region and State to build more dense housing in our already dense City. Second is the need to re-envision the mission and business plan for the Del Mar Fairgrounds, and third is managing the ongoing economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. How would you propose to address those issues?

Every decade, the State assigns a certain number of housing units to each region. In San Diego, SANDAG allocates them to each City. This cycle, in a completely inequitable process, SANDAG allocated to our small City 875 units, or a requirement to zone for 16% more housing units, and show progress in having them built over the next 8 years. At the same time, the State legislature is radically increasing density in all neighborhoods without requiring new parking or affordable units. These mandates will overcrowd schools, jam streets, destroying the very reason we live here. I’ll fight for compatible, quality development and smarter State policies, including financial subsidies to build affordable housing that fits our neighborhoods and commercial districts.

The pandemic is devastating our businesses and will seriously damage City finances. I served on Council during the Great Recession, and understand how to protect our budget and our resident services.

The future of the Del Mar Fairgrounds is grim. Who will be in control and how it redevelops will impact Solana Beach forever. We must have a strong, experienced and creative voice at the table to help craft what’s next.

3. Do you agree with the way the City of Solana Beach operates? If not, what changes do you think need to be made?

I support our current Council and look forward to joining them. New issues for us to tackle include making sure our Sheriff contract reflects policies ensuring equal treatment of all races and genders by our Sheriff deputies, and that mental health professionals are available to join them on calls when appropriate.

Additionally, the most frequent complaints I hear from residents concern the process for completing a remodel. The procedure for residential remodels must be made easier. Residents deserve a roadmap in advance that outlines the entire process, including timelines and fees.