Community Resource Center distributes $25K to assist tenants evicted from Solana Highlands

Solana Beach City Hall
(File photo)

Some tenants at the Solana Highlands apartment complex in Solana Beach will receive grant funding to help defray moving costs, as the developer proceeds with demolition and construction of 260 new units.

Since property owner H.G. Fenton decided to move forward with redevelopment of the current 198-unit property, which was built in the 1970s, tenants have been scrambling to find other places to live in an increasingly limited and expensive housing market.

With a $25,000 grant from the nonprofit Community Resource Center in Encinitas, a select group of tenants will receive about $1,500 each to assist with relocation costs. The Community Resource Center in Encinitas received the funding from the Solana Beach Fund at Coastal Community Foundation.

John Van Cleef, CEO of the Community Resource Center, said the money can help with boxes, tape, security deposits and other costs, even though moving can be a lot more expensive than $1,500. He added that tenants need more housing options.

“We have to have low-income, super low-income affordable housing stock everywhere,” Van Cleef said. “Unavailability of housing is a key part of people becoming homeless, especially when we continue to deal with inflation of rents, gas, groceries, utilities, all of these economic factors that push people to the brink.”

Lane Macy Kiefaberm, executive director of the Coastal Community Foundation, said the organization’s Solana Beach Fund has given out $206,000 for multiple community causes since its inception in 2013. She noted that Solana Highlands is located near the heart of Solana Beach’s La Colonia de Eden Gardens community, where Mexican farm workers settled about 100 years ago after racial restrictions in zoning prevented them from living where they worked.

The descendants of some of those same families are still living in La Colonia, but others have relocated as gentrification has taken hold. Residents who are priced out of their coastal communities often move farther east, setting up longer commutes to their jobs, doctors and other necessities.

“It is important to retain some affordability if we want to keep a workforce that can meet all the demands of our local business without also causing transportation restrictions,” Kiefaberm said. “We really all have to work together to make the community work.”

Solana Beach Fund Grants Committee Chair Nancy Giberson said in a statement that the fund has supported the arts, environment, education and a variety of other causes over the years. But this year, members wanted to support residents experiencing the financial hardship of relocating.

“We wanted to be both responsive and proactive, and observed that many of our neighbors were struggling to make ends meet and obtain affordable housing, especially with the gentrification happening in La Colonia,” Giberson said.

H.G. Fenton initiated plans for redevelopment in 2014, according to city of Solana Beach records, and finally received approval in 2018. Some demolition and grading activity will take place along Stevens Avenue this fall, H.G. Fenton spokesperson Margie Newman Tsay said in an email. Demolition will begin after all buildings have been vacated, and construction is projected to start in January 2024.

The company has helped some of the Solana Highlands tenants relocate to its other San Diego properties, and tenants who want to return to the newly constructed complex will receive priority. According to H.G. Fenton, 70% of tenants who have already relocated were able to find new places in Solana Beach, Encinitas, Del Mar and Carlsbad.

“We understand current residents’ lives are impacted and we take the responsibility of being their partner to heart,” Tsay said.