Solana Beach’s upgraded community center a true community effort


By Diane Y. Welch


The Fletcher Cove Community Center is now in full use. Rescued from years of neglect by termites, weather and plain old age, the center now represents a new beginning for the community.

Many citizens rallied to play their roles in its completion. Designers, engineers, artists, builders, school children, fundraisers, funding donors, and sheer manpower, comprised the team that made it possible.

The center had its grand reopening on July 1 as part of the City of Solana Beach’s Centennial Celebration, about a year after the ceremonial groundbreaking by city councilmembers had taken place. By August 2010, after members of the Solana Beach Presbyterian Church had removed over a ton of thick iceplant, heavy equipment had access to start the demolition process to make way for the makeover.

The seed of the idea took hold in 2008 when Judy Hegenauer, then president of the Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society, and other Solana Beach residents formed a citizens’ group to explore the viability of the renovation. The other group members included Anne Marie Grace, Dave Winkler, Roger Boyd, Jack Burger, Peter House, and local architect Stephen Dalton. Deemed possible, the project was approved by the Solana Beach City Council in July 2009.

When approached by Hegenauer to assist with the community center design, Dalton did not hesitate to volunteer. “One of the ways our office likes to help out is through pro-bono design services. It’s our way to give back to the community,” said Dalton, who grew up in Solana Beach and has early memories of the community center where he once received his school vaccinations. “And I certainly spent a lot of time at the beach and wanted to contribute something that I was proud of.”

Coastal Commission regulations meant that the same height and footprint of the structure should be maintained. But Dalton was able to improve the character and identity of the building by adding design elements to its exterior using the ocean as inspiration. “We wanted to create a whimsical, lighthearted effect, and a wave form helped suggest that,” said Dalton, who surfs at Fletcher Cove. “We felt it would be nice to look back at the shore and see this type of roof, cresting over the bluff.”

Del Mar artist Betsy Schulz designed the sign for the center along with an exterior memorial wall. A team of her volunteers helped decorate the wall which recognizes the following benefactors: Platinum Donors: Carol Childs and Peter House; Gold Donors: Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society, The County of San Diego and Pam Slater-Price, Supervisor Dan Wimsett, Steve and Barbara Spiva; Silver Donors: The Kim and Marilyn Fletcher Family, Tom and Donna Golich, the Winkler Family; Bronze Donors: The Ed and Mary Fletcher Foundation, The Chamberlain Family, Jim and Toni Harker, Allen and Judy Moffson, T.B. Penick and Sons, Daniel Spinazzola, and Richard Esgate.

Also etched into the wall is recognition for the Solana Beach Community Foundation, a non-profit organization that facilitated fundraising efforts founded by Bryan Pruden, John Chamberlain and Peter House; the current members of the City Council; City Manager David Ott; Stephen Dalton, (Architect and Gold Donor); Bob Scott, AICP, LEED AP, Easton Gardner, LEED AP, and Craig Moya, (LEED Consultants and Silver Donors); Zabih Fozi, SE, (Structural Engineer and Bronze Donor); Betsy Schulz, (tile artist).

City Councilman Mike Nichols gave of his landscape design talents, spearheading the exterior planting effort. Local nurseries Solana Succulents and Cedros Gardens offered discounted materials and support. And teams of local residents pitched in with the planting. Jerilyn Larson rallied the community to get local students and artists involved; Chris Austin created interior mosaic tile murals; and many more individuals gave freely of their time, materials, talents, and funds.

House, a Solana Beach resident and philanthropist, has followed the building project daily from its inception and is very happy with the final result, he said. And a comment by Ott summed up the essence of the project, “We were building community through building a community center.”