Looking back and ahead: Q&A with Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner

Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner
(Copyright of Lesa Heebner)

Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner recently discussed the top issues in Solana Beach over the last year, and previewed the year ahead. Answers were lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Q: What were some of your top highlights in 2022?

Heebner: Generally, we approved a number of public infrastructure projects that we also received funding for, or found our own funding for, so in 2023 we’ll be seeing a number of groundbreakings. Those include our Army Corps sand replenishment project. That project has been going on for literally decades. It’s a 50-year sand replenishment program jointly with the city of Encinitas and the Army Corps of Engineers, and Congressman Levin was able to get us $32 million to put us pretty much over the finish line in terms of planning. It will widen our beaches and provide more safety for those who come to our beaches.

We also, through Levin’s great work, were able to receive $7 million for our Lomas Santa Fe Corridor Improvement plan. That will be breaking ground soon. It will probably be coming to council in the next month or two to determine how we’re going to go ahead with this. We already discussed publicly that we would start from the east side and head west, so the east side would see the multipurpose trail on the north side of Lomas Santa Fe and some — the project itself generally is for public safety for all forms of transportation to improve safety and access to mobility, and also to beautify the corridor with this multipurpose trail on the north side, which will be landscaped and maybe have some art along it. It’s going to be kind of like the coastal rail trail, but we’ll have that version of it going along the east-west corridor instead of the north-south corridor. Those two are pretty big projects that receive chunks of money that will be moving forward in the next year.

The other big projects are our tot lots at Fletcher Cove and La Colonia Community Park. They’re well-used and quite dilapidated. Those should be well underway in the next couple of months. That will be a huge improvement that our community will benefit from as well.

Q: Last month you mentioned that former Councilmember Kelly Harless was a casualty of the transition to district-based elections. How does it feel to have completed that transition after last fall’s election?

Heebner: I was not in favor of districting our city, I think it’s absurd to have a city our size divided up into four quadrants, which are each less than one square mile. It’s absurd in a way and you have to find candidates within a very small radius of the city who are qualified and willing to run. We lucked out that we have Jill MacDonald who was willing to run for District 4. I’ve known Jill for a long time and was very happy she was willing to step up and do that. So I’m pleased with the composition of our council, but I wish we could have six of us so we didn’t have to lose Kelly. She was an amazing council member. She was always prepared, and always articulate and always very thoughtful and considerate of not just her area of the city, but the entire city, and of the experience of our residents and businesses.

Q: What issues in Solana Beach are on your radar heading into 2023?

Heebner: We’ve got a few things we have to look out for, we’re always watching what the state’s up to in terms of more housing policies to deal with. And now we’ve got what the fairgrounds might be doing with their strategic planning with profit seeming to be their priority, and hopefully the cities will be able to be involved in that strategic plan. We know what our communities will accept. Hopefully it will include affordable housing units for the city of Del Mar.

We’ll be doing our work plan in early spring, and what I’ve found over all these years is that we put out what our priorities are and what we want to do and then life happens. You have to address certain things and put other things on hold. We’re looking forward to getting a certified housing element, we’ve gotten some positive comments back from the Department of Housing and Community Development since we submitted it once again. We’re also looking at the property just to the south of us, on the north bluff in Del Mar. Whatever is there impacts Solana Beach far more than it impacts Del Mar. Hopefully we can work well with Del Mar to ensure that their zoning is adhered to there.

Q: Will you also be paying close attention to the plan to move the train tracks off the Del Mar bluff and into an inland tunnel, since Solana Beach residents are likely to see and feel the impacts?

Heebner: I’m on SANDAG, so for sure we’ll be talking about that. Having just over the holidays taken the trip up to Santa Barbara on the Amtrak, I had to go Amtrak, bus, Amtrak. It went as smoothly as possible but it added a good hour to the transit time and it wasn’t wonderful. So will the LOSSAN corridor have to be relocated starting farther north than we anticipated? It seems as if that’s the case to me. Of course, those funds need to come from the feds and the state, because they’re going to be billions.

Q: Anything else you want to add?

Heebner: I’m just really pleased to be serving and looking forward to the next year and progress and improving the quality of life for residents in Solana Beach, helping our businesses out where we can. Another thing we’ve got is Fiesta del Sol coming up, and I know they’re reorienting their layout. It’s been quite successful over the last year too, and I think there’s some good people in charge of it. It’s exciting to see the city come alive again out of the COVID-19 pandemic.