Third-time Mayor Lesa Heebner eager to enhance Solana Beach while maintaining community character
When Thomas Campbell recently retired from the City Council after 20 years of service to Solana Beach, Lesa Heebner became the city’s elected official with the oldest resume.
“Tom’s been the anchor,” Heebner said. “Now he’s going and I’m the ‘elder’ — in all senses of the word — and I have to hold down the fort.”
A Solana Beach resident since 1976, Heebner was first elected to the council in 2004. She served as mayor in 2007 and 2011, a position that rotates among council members.
After the community honored outgoing mayor Campbell during his last council meeting Dec. 10, council members appointed Heebner, then deputy mayor, to her third mayoral term.
“If I look at my professions over the years, it was always about security and home,” said Heebner regarding her role on the council and position as mayor. “I visualize this as an expanded definition of ‘home.’ I’m really just caring for my home in a bigger sense.”
Born and raised in North Hollywood, as a child Heebner often vacationed in Carlsbad and visited North County San Diego.
“I just loved it here,” she recalled. “I knew, as soon as I could, this was going to be my home.”
After high school, Heebner attended UC San Diego, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in history with minors in communications and economics. Shortly after graduating in 1980, she began her career as a stockbroker with E. F. Hutton & Co.
In 1987, Heebner opened a culinary and kitchen design business. From teaching cooking classes and designing kitchens, to writing books and making television appearances, Heebner’s Garlic & Sapphires flourished until her retirement in 2008.
With a passion for healthy living, Heebner often ran along the Coastal Rail Trail, prompting her involvement in the community. She led the grassroots effort to redesign the trail, working alongside other community members, including local landscape architect and now Councilman Mike Nichols on the project.
Construction of the Coastal Rail Trail was completed in September 2004. In July, the council approved a one-time plant replacement project along the city’s 1.7-mile segment of the trail, a path from San Diego to Oceanside.
“I love it, I’m proud of it and I’m so glad we’re replanting it,” said Heebner, who also served on the Solana Beach View Assessment Committee before she was first elected to the council in 2004.
Reflecting on her first decade on the council, Heebner said she is proud the city successfully redesigned the Coastal Rail Trail and renovated Coast Highway 101.
The $7 million project revitalized about a one-mile stretch of road from Cliff Street to Dahlia Drive. Completed last year, the project features narrowed lanes, continuous sidewalks, curb extensions and mid-block crosswalks.
“It had been a vision since incorporation,” she said.
She is also proud of the council’s recent vote to accept the Gateway property as a conservation easement from the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy, forever protecting the parcel as open space.
“That was decades in the doing,” Heebner said. “So many people worked so hard to secure that as open space for generations.”
With the growth of the economy and the improvements of the 101, the city has received a number of residential and commercial development applications, Heebner said.
In the next year, the council could look at several potential development projects, including American Assets Trust’s proposal to overhaul the former mobile home park on Highway 101, as well as H.G. Fenton’s plans to redevelop an apartment complex on Nardo Avenue.
No matter how many proposals the council considers, however, it’s important to Heebner to maintain the community’s character.
“We’re finally headed up again, and we’re going to see a lot more development everywhere,” Heebner said. “But we all bought into this place the way it is.”
In addition to looking at potential development projects, Heebner hopes to move forward with a Local Implementation Plan, or LIP, now that the city has an adopted Land Use Plan. An LIP consists of implementing zoning ordinances and maps.
She would also like to see other phased improvements at La Colonia Park and Community Center, in addition to the Veterans Honor Courtyard.
With all that lies ahead, Heebner encouraged community members to stay involved or become involved in the decision-making process. Hearing from the public, she said, is her favorite part of the job.
“I think it’s super important to do that — to listen,” Heebner said. “So when I’m out and about, I always ask questions.
“It’s just really an honor. It really is an honor and a privilege to be in this position.”