Solana Beach council holds off on 10-mile benefit race

By Claire Harlin

The Solana Beach City Council on Aug. 22 unanimously agreed to hold off on approving permits for a 10-mile, 10,000-participant run with 20 music stages to go through the city in February. Council members like the concept, which would raise money for both the city and the recently purchased Gateway Property on the San Elijo Lagoon, but they want to revisit the idea next year.

The California 10/20 Mile Race would be the largest of its kind in Solana Beach, and thus city officials are concerned that the projected date for the event — Feb. 17, 2013 — will conflict with ongoing construction on Highway 101.

“If there’s one more thing after all our residents have gone through, it’s us who’s going to be taking the heat, not you,” said Council member Lesa Heebner, expressing concern that the city has already been greatly inconveniencing locals and businesses due to the large-scale construction.

Austin-based race production company TurnKey Operations has thus far invested at least $20,000 into the event proposal, and that includes travel, consulting and a deposit to the fairgrounds. They aren’t thrilled about the decision, but they aren’t giving up.

“There’s no guarantee we will even get a permit for 2014, but we still want to have a race in North County,” said TurnKey founder and president Peter Douglass. “The question is whether we will keep pressing for 2013 or take it easy and work for 2014 … We’re not going to take our ball and go home.”

Douglass, who also helped create San Diego’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, said he is looking at other cities to hold the 10/20 race as well, but that doesn’t affect the company’s interest in North County.

The race would start at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Runners would travel west on Via de la Valle, then north on Highway 101 to the kook statue in Cardiff, and then turn around and run back to the fairgrounds. The race would culminate with a large concert at the fairgrounds, and six of the 20 music stages would be located in various parts of Solana Beach.

A Sheriff’s official told the council that the event would be “definitely the biggest we’ve ever done,” adding that the department may have to tow cars since there would be no parking on Highway 101.

Talks with law enforcement officials in Austin, where a similar race by the same organizers was successfully held earlier this year, revealed that about 100 officers were needed to be present for that event.

“We’ve had preliminary talks … We think we can do it,” he said.

City Manager David Ott said at the time of the proposed race, the revitalization project will be in the sidewalk construction phase on the west side, forcing “stragglers” to run through the Coastal Rail Trail after traffic resumes on main thoroughfares.

“The Coastal Rail Trail is not built for 10,000 people running on it,” Mayor Joe Kellejian said.

Organizer Rick Kozlowski, who has produced a number of San Diego runs, triathlons and bike rides through his company Koz Events (including an annual triathlon in Solana Beach), said every event does have some stragglers and they will be running 10 to 15 feet apart.

“You’re not looking at hundreds of runners or walkers going in packs,” he said.

Kozlowski said that clean-up will be well-concerted — with eight trucks following behind the runners — and the race will be a chance for Solana Beach to have “a marquee event that could happen every year.”

He also said the stages are small and noise doesn’t go past 200 feet and the runners absorb a lot of the sound.

Council member Tom Campbell responded, “I have a hard time buying all that.”

One of the music stages will be located on the Gateway Property along the border of Solana Beach and Cardiff, which was recently purchased by the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy.

Conservancy Director Doug Gibson said the race will allow for exposure of the recent multi-million dollar acquisition and the need to pay off the current loan on the property.

“Through this race, funds and awareness will be raised to help protect this site in perpetuity,” he wrote in a letter to the council. “Runners in the race will come from all over the country. They will get a first-hand view of why we all call this place home. Minor disruptions for a one-day event do not compete with the overall social and economic benefit the community will gain.”

The race proposal involves an even distribution of $30,000 to each of the impacted communities — Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas. The council expressed concern that Solana Beach’s residents will be much more impacted than Del Mar and Encinitas and that element of the proposal should be revised.

Council member Mike Nichols suggested that the race organizers hold an open house in the community and invite the public to share input on the event.

He said the organizers’ request to obtain permits in a month is especially hard for the council.

“There’s a lot of people who feel there’s a lot going on right now, so why should we add to that?” he said. “There’s a lot of questions, and it’s not something we can get done in a month, to come up with all the answers.”

The council members collectively believes holding off, possibly until 2014, would be the best solution for Solana Beach, and their decision involves continuing conversations with the organizers.

“I love the concept of the whole thing and the Gateway is the proper recipient,” said Heebner. “I wish we could do it sooner, and I am very supportive, but the timing just isn’t there.”