2022 Spotlight: Q&A with Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner
In 2021, Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner served her first year in the city’s government since she left the City Council in 2016 (plus a brief stint in 2018 to complete the term of a councilman who resigned). In a Q&A, Heebner discussed her first year in her new term as mayor and priorities for the year ahead. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness.
Q: What was it like to step back into city government and how do you feel the first year of your new term went?
Heebner: It’s been great getting back into it. I feel quite happy and fulfilled working in this capacity and love public service for my city and my region. I think we all anticipated a little bit of a different year. I think we all thought late summer or early fall we might see a little return to in-person meetings, but we got the Delta surge. Always being in the position of an elected official, while you might have your goals and the plan, things come up. And what came up this past year was COVID and dealing with the economic fallout to our budget and to our residents and businesses and helping any way we could. I think it went as well as possible.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges and priorities that the city will face in the upcoming year?
Heebner: We have redistricting. Even though we just did districting in 2018, because of the Census we need to look at that again. From the feedback that we’ve received from the community so far, people seem quite pleased with the way the districts have been devised now, so I don’t anticipate any major changes.
We’ve always got potholes and traffic calming. We have ongoing projects for all of those. We get a lot of requests from residents for traffic calming in their neighborhood, and there’s a process that the council outlined for neighborhoods to go through. It includes getting some buy-in from neighbors and making sure that they’re all on board. And then the city engineer and our (Traffic Technical Advisory Committee) and more professional eyes are put on that and recommendations are made to the council, so we’re having some updates to that coming up. We added more money to our potholes a few months ago, so we will be filling more potholes. I think people will be happy to hear that.
Q: Are you optimistic for a return to normal from the COVID-10 pandemic over the coming year?
Heebner: I happen to be a pretty optimistic person, so yes I am optimistic. Not in the short-term, I think we’re in quite a surge. Long-term, yes I am. And by long-term I mean by late summer I think we’ll be able to go back to a bit more normal life.
Q: How did your first year go as Solana Beach’s representative on the board of directors for the San Diego Association of Governments?
Heebner: It was a big year at SANDAG reviewing the Regional Transportation Plan and the EIR for that. It’s a process I’ve been through before. It was different this time than other times in the past. I support the vision for the plan. How we’re going to pay for it is still to be determined. A lot of it is going to come down to going to a vote of the people, and we’ll see if the people like the vision that’s been put out there. I am a transit fan, I believe that it’s a necessary part of a working region and out state. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of great transit here along the coastal corridor. We just have the coaster going north to south. There’s not very much going east to west except for some buses that run not very frequently. So there’s no way that anybody in North County coastal — like Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Del Mar — nobody can give up a car and take the Coaster all the time. Just getting up to Vons is not gonna happen without a car, unless you have all the time of the day. But if you’re employed, if you’re a mom or a student, it’s difficult to put in the extra time to walk up a hill and down with your groceries.
I wish we had more here in North County, doesn’t look we’re going to, but part of the vision includes these mobility hubs where there will be alternative last-mile solutions. That won’t be implemented in our city probably for quite a few years because the money is going to come in dribs and drabs and it’s going to start with the larger cities. These plans are long term and they do change every four years. As we get new information on new technologies, the plan will be altered and we’ll go from there.
I have a general frustration with SANDAG, and that is since AB 805 put in the new voting structure, it does not feel democratic to me because it used to be that you had to win a tally vote and a weighted vote for something to pass. And now, any three cities can just say I may have lost the tally vote, but I want a weighted vote (that supersedes the tally vote), and so — the city of San Diego and the city of Chula Vista are the largest ones, they can pretty much determine what happens at SANDAG — there’s a certain loss of voice that is very frustrating to me.
Q: Any other goals in the year ahead that you’re looking forward to?
Heebner: What I’m excited about is that finally with both of the tot lots we’re going to be seeing the new designs come up soon, so they’re going to be redone, which is about time because they’re really in need of this. We also have a number of pocket parks we’re looking at and projects to make Solana Beach more walkable and bikeable. We’ve got the property we purchased that’s next door to La Colonia Park. I would like to start with a public process to determine what the public wants. What I’ve been hearing is that they would like another field.
And we’ve got the Lomas Santa Fe corridor project. We just need to finalize some of the design elements in it, and then it’s time to go out and find some money for it.
There’s also implementing our Climate Action Plan measures. One of the ones I’d like to focus on is more EV charging stations. And especially I’d like to look at the condos on the bluff. There are about 1,600 condos up there and many of them don’t have the ability to buy electric vehicles because they don’t have the right infrastructure there, so maybe there are some grants to look into.
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