Solana Beach Council’s Curious Treatment of Initiative

The ongoing saga of the initiative (now known as Proposition B) concerning rental of the Fletcher Cove Community Center for private celebrations, to quote Lewis Carroll, gets “curiouser and curiouser.”

After the petition had been certified as having enough valid signatures, the Solana Beach City Council was required by law to consider whether to adopt the initiative as an ordinance or call for an election. A special meeting was held for that purpose on Oct. 9. The council wisely and unanimously chose a third option: It requested, as authorized by the California Elections Code, an independent study and report regarding the potential impacts of the initiative if it were adopted as an ordinance. The purpose of such a report is to assist the Council in making an informed decision about whether to adopt the initiative without proceeding to an election.

As was explained to the council by the city manager, Section 9212 of the Elections Code spells out several areas that are to be covered in the report, plus “any other matters the legislative body requests to be in the report.” The council did not request that the report cover “any other matters.” The city engaged the prestigious municipal law firm of Lounsbery Ferguson Altona & Peak to prepare the report. According to the city manager, the report was received on Nov. 4. The 11-page report concluded, in essence, that the initiative, if adopted by the city, would have little or no financial impact and that any public safety, parking, noise, and related concerns could be adequately controlled through existing laws and the permitting process.

As its first order of business at a Nov. 6 special meeting, the council summarily “received and filed” the report. There was no discussion of the content of the report and, even though attorneys from the Lounsbery firm were present, no oral presentation of the report was requested or made for the benefit of the council and the public.

Then, as its second order of business, and without commenting on or referencing the report, the council voted 5-0 to proceed with the election and not enact the initiative as an ordinance. By now everyone knows that the council is antagonistic toward Proposition B because its members perceive it as an invasion of their prerogatives. It would have been embarrassing for them to highlight the fact that the independent report that they commissioned (and paid for) concluded that adoption of the initiative would not have adverse consequences to the city.

But that’s not the end of the story. At the request of a council member, the report was back on the agenda of the Nov. 20 meeting to “discuss” and “provide direction as needed.” Apparently waking up to the fact that the report did not support the action taken at the previous meeting, the council discussion centered on alleged factual errors, unfounded conclusions and issues not considered in the report. The council members essentially requested that the report be revised to be consistent with their views.

All of this raises several questions: 1) Why was the report requested in the first place if not to provide the council and the public with information about the effects of the initiative? 2) Why did the council not discuss the report and its conclusions while the adoption of the initiative was still under consideration? 3) Why did the council, after making the irrevocable decision not to adopt the initiative as an ordinance, request that the report be supplemented or modified at public expense? It’s sort of like requesting an environmental impact report after a project has been completed or a surgeon ordering X-rays after completing the surgery. Just curious.

Eric T. Lodge,

Solana Beach