Solana Beach council discusses use of community center

By Claire Harlin

Residents are calling the Fletcher Cove Community Center an immaculate oceanfront icon after its $350,000 renovation — and they are also calling on the Solana Beach City Council to bring the facility’s usage to the table.

At the Oct. 12 City Council meeting, community members embarked on a formal discussion with council members with no action being taken. Issues mentioned include curfew, frequency of use, noise, parking, security and alcohol consumption.

Longtime Solana Beach resident and active community member Peter House presented a letter composed by himself and about 10 other former council members, leaders and planners. He said donations from those who signed the letter comprise 75 percent of funding for the Fletcher Cove Community Center, which officially reopened to the public on July 1.

The goal of the letter, he said, was to promote the responsible use of the center, and the group addressed issues such as noise, curfew and how to put down a deposit on facility usage. The possibility of enforcing valet parking or bussing was brought up to accommodate the lack of adequate parking in the area surrounding the community center.

He suggested a 9 p.m. curfew, which several people, including Councilman Dave Roberts, said was too early. A handful suggested 10 p.m. would be a good curfew.

House said he looked into a number of other cities to see how they handle alcohol usage at community centers and Solana Beach is “by far the most restrictive.” He suggested allowing beer and wine, having security present and limiting drinking to inside the building.

However, some residents and council members were concerned that La Colonia Community Center does not allow alcohol, and the two centers should be congruent in regard to what they allow.

Mayor Lesa Heebner pointed out that many events at La Colonia are geared toward children, which could be the reason for the alcohol ban. She suggesting classifying certain events as “adult events.”

Resident Jim Nelson came before the council with “a passion plea” to permit social events at the center, and said a 10 p.m. curfew is acceptable.

“I strongly encourage you to get maximum use of that facility,” he said, adding that painting classes in the past have in inadvertently “trashed” the building and should be closely monitored.

“The paint got not only on the tables and chairs but the floors and the blinds,” he said. “And these weren’t malicious people; they were Solana Beach residents.”

Heebner said the theme of the facility needs to be: “no footprint.”

Councilman Thomas Campbell said he hopes to see the center be used exclusively by Solana Beach residents and organizations.

Councilman Joe Killegian also brought up the issue of whether the City would permit use of the center for commercial purposes.

Longtime resident Ed Siegel, who hosts weekly singa-longs at the community center, thanked the council for the renovations and suggested the facility can be more marketable if dimmers were put on the lights.

Mike Nichols said one big event per day seems to be fitting for the facility. How caterers operate also needs to be explored further, he said, because the inside design of the building doesn’t seem to support catering.

Carol Childs, president of the Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society, said the facility is an asset that should “with open arms welcome the community and start creating again the rich heritage that it has had for 60-70 years in the past.”