Honored Solana Beach civic pioneers share stories of city’s earliest days

By Claire Harlin


Solana Beach music venue The Belly Up traded tunes for a different kind of gig on Feb. 13 — one featuring some of the most influential players in the city’s history.

At the lunch event, called Valentine Venture, the Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society honored a handpicked group of “civic pioneers” who played integral roles in Solana Beach becoming a city in the 1980s. Each honoree shared stories and insight about making the dream of incorporation come true.

Deputy Mayor Dave Roberts read the honorees’ testimonies, and Councilmembers Lesa Heebner and Mike Nichols awarded them with certificates.

Former Solana Beach Town Council president Gail Paparian remembered coming up with the identifiable acronym for CITI (Citizens Intending to Incorporate) — the group that steered the efforts to make Solana Beach a city. Many of the honorees were involved in that group.

“My late husband Bill thought we should donate our dining room table to the incorporation effort, as that is where the city had been born,” she reminisced in her story, read by Roberts. “Sadly, the table is gone but the fond memories linger on.”

Gloria Curry, the city’s first city manager, said everyone worked long hours, but also had “lots of fun.”

“The City Council was totally dedicated and we worked like a well-oiled, albeit sometimes squeaky, team,” Curry said.

Margaret Schlesinger, the city’s first mayor, said one of her fondest memories of the incorporation campaign was an unusual 1986 fundraiser in which 40 to 45 residents boarded a bus and spent the afternoon wine tasting in the Santa Maria valley.

“We enjoyed a gourmet dinner at a restaurant at the little crossroads town of Ballard and spent the night at a Motel 6 near Solvang,” she said. “It was one of the best fundraisers I’ve ever attended.”

The crowd of about 200 laughed when Celine Olson of the city’s first City Council told the story of when the city was “saved by the native Indians.”

A well known local development presented a plan to the county to develop a project on the San Elijo preserve, she said, but an Environmental Impact Report indicated the finding of an Indian grave site which she believes put an end to the project.

“No one asked me, but I think the grave may have been my youngest son’s dog, Marty, who was poisoned by an unknown person,” she said. “He was lovingly buried there …. so we will never know, was it our dog or an Indian who saved our canyon?”