Year in review: City of Solana Beach makes marked progress in 2009

By Solana Beach Sun Staff

Crunching numbers

Given the national economic outlook, Solana Beach’s major accomplishment going into 2009 was balancing its budget.

Despite conservative budgeting, the financial crisis forced Solana Beach to cut expenditures and consider new sources of revenue in order to make up for shortfalls projected in 2009 and 2010. City workers also had to forgo pay raises and city services were cut.

Coastal plan remains unfinished

The Coastal Commission granted Solana Beach more time to fine tune its Local Coastal Program (LCP), which dictates all development proposed along the coast. The process of finding a compromise both bluff-top homeowners and environmentalists can agree to has already taken several years.

The public was invited to comment on a revised Land Use Plan in August. The latest proposal was a revision on a plan rejected in June 2008 by the Coastal Commission.

In September the council approved a revised LCP after listening to opposition and concern about the revision process. That plan was sent to the Coastal Commission and will likely be reviewed sometime in the spring of 2010, giving the city time to work with commission staff on further revisions.

Fairgrounds in the news

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a plan to sell the Del Mar Fairgrounds in an effort to help close the state’s $21 billion budget deficit. Area residents overwhelmingly came out to oppose the idea.

In October, the 22nd District Agricultural Association, the state body that operates the fairgrounds, released a draft environmental impact report for its master plan.

Residents are concerned about increased traffic, light and noise pollution and a myriad of other possibilities, should the development go through. The 22nd DAA, however, says it has made a strong effort to address those concerns in its DEIR and that the expansion would bring more revenue to surrounding cities.

The public has until Jan. 8 to submit comments on the DEIR. To view the report, visit

Environmental leadership

The Sierra Club gave the city honorable mention in its Cool Cities contest in July, and the city has high hopes for a better spot in the contest in the coming years.

Thanks to Sequoia Solar, Solana Beach is now home to one of the county’s first solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations.

In February, the council approved the Solana Beach Living Forests Carbon Offset Program, a partnership with nonprofit Nature and Culture International to preserve a pristine area of tropical forest in southern Ecuador equal in size to the 2,000-acre city in an effort to curb its greenhouse gas emissions.

Booze banned

The council voted on May 27 to make a temporary alcohol beach ban permanent after a successful trial run, which prevented increased drinking and related problems at Fletcher Cove.

Community center

Residents formed the Solana Beach Foundation with its first goal to raise funds for an extensive remodel of the Fletcher Cove Community Center. Plans for the renovation were unveiled in July, created by volunteer design professionals, community members and city staff.

Teach them well

Education in Solana Beach got a shot in the arm with the opening of the Center for a Healthy Lifestyle at the Boys & Girls Club of San Dieguito Barbara Harper Branch. The center opened in April and features a demonstration garden and kitchen. It is the final phase of an extensive branch remodel.

Highway 101 past, present, future

In January, the Solana Beach Historical Society invited the community to join in celebrating the pioneers behind the original commercial development along Highway 101.

In February, council approved $350,000 for preliminary engineering to develop a Highway 101 streetscape master plan. In December, a series of community conversations and workshops were held with the engineer to plan for the future of the 101 corridor.

Lifestyles center approved

In April, City Council approved a proposal to build a $30 million upgrade to the Lomas Santa Fe Plaza “Lifestyles” center. Construction is expected to begin as soon as the spring of 2010.

Tackling traffic

State and local officials celebrated the completion of the $66 million reconfiguration of the Lomas Santa Fe interchange on Interstate 5 and the extension of High Occupancy Vehicle lanes.

However, some were unhappy with the outcome, saying the interchange improved traffic flow but created a new danger for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Leading the charge

Councilman Mike Nichols became Mayor Nichols for the first time. The 38-year-old surfing and skateboarding mayor, a landscape architect, went into his term with hopes of making the commercial corridor more vibrant and pedestrian friendly.

Nichols passed the gavel to Tom Campbell in December and will continue as a council member.

Marine protection

The state hosted a series of workshops in 2009 throughout Southern California, working to draft proposal for a network of protected marine “parks” off the Pacific coast, as required under the Marine Protection Act.

In December, a Blue Ribbon Task Force finalized its proposal, which included a State Marine Conservation Area off the coast of Encinitas at Swami’s. The Blue Ribbon Task Force will make its recommendation to the state in the coming months.

Teenage tragedy

Just three weeks after Torrey Pines senior Alex Capozza, 17, died in a collision in Rancho Santa Fe, Santa Fe Christian junior William Wardrip, 16, was killed in Fairbanks Ranch when the car he was riding in went off the road on Oct. 35.

Capozza’s death was deemed the result of excessive speed and a driver under the influence. The driver in the crash that killed Wardrip was not suspected of being under the influence, but was driving over the speed limit. Neither Capozza nor Wardrip were wearing seat belts when the crashes occurred.

Business tax makes progress

In November, the council agreed to send a multi-tiered business tax model to voters in June 2010. The new tax would give businesses the option of paying a flat rate or using a gross receipts multiplier to determine the tax owed. The city currently requires businesses to pay $75 for a license, plus $16 a year for inspection.

Honoring nature

The San Elijo Nature Center celebrated its grand opening on Jan. 30. The $5.6 million LEED certified nature center houses interactive educational exhibits, teaching the lagoon’s archaeology, plants and animals, as well as the greater Escondido Creek Watershed that feeds the lagoon.

And volunteers for the annual San Elijo Lagoon “BioBlitz” had a larger turnout than ever. Citizens joined scientists to study life in the lagoon and to count species found therein. They identified 732 species.

The San Dieguito Wetlands restoration project was in its final year of construction and already more than 150 bird species were counted in April.