Solana Beach mulls ‘Kindness Meters’

Solana Beach could help spread kindness by adding meters to its streets.

The Solana Beach City Council on April 27 directed staff to study the details of implementing a Kindness Meter program in the community.

Kindness Meters are portable, sometimes solar, parking meter replicas that accept donations for charitable foundations and nonprofit organizations.

Although they look like parking meters, they are typically decorated or painted to help people differentiate them from actual parking meters. Posted signs inform donors about beneficiaries.

“I think that kindness is something that we can always have and share,” said Carlton Lund, a Carlsbad resident and founder of the Kindness Meter Project.

With more than 200,000 such meters worldwide, Lund brought the concept to North San Diego County.

There are now eight Kindness Meters throughout North County. In less than a year, the meters have collected about $7,000 for various charities, including the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation, Carlsbad Charitable Foundation, Carlsbad Educational Foundation and the Moonlight Cultural Foundation.

The meters accept coins — up to $68 in change — and credit cards. Lund said donations locally have ranged from 25 cents to $1,000.

At the request of Deputy Mayor Peter Zahn, the proposal was presented to the council.

“Thanks for your spirit and pioneering this throughout the county,” Zahn said to Lund.

“It can help underserved people in our community,” he added. “It also engages young people and older people in philanthropy and in giving. That’s really valuable because that can stay with people for the rest of their lives if they get in the habit.”

As a North County neighbor, Lund offered to provide the meters and pay for the installation.

“I do this as a citizen of North County,” he said. “That’s it.”

“It’s a nice gesture,” Councilwoman Lesa Heebner said. “I like the concept of it, if it were bright and could be placed somewhere that has a lot of traffic.”

When asked about the possibility of crime, Lund said the 80-pound portable meters are fairly heavy but could be installed permanently.

“It’s pretty indestructible,” he said. “It’s been pretty flawless.”

Still, City Manager Greg Wade said the meters could potentially be stolen.

“The mobile ones I’m sure are subject to theft,” he said.

The look of the meter, however, was one of the council’s leading concerns.

“Does it have to look like that?” Councilman Mike Nichols asked.

“I like the idea,” Nichols said. “The concept of kindness, you can’t argue with that. You can’t have too much kindness in this world.

“I am not necessarily a fan of the way it looks,” he added. “If there is a way to make it look better I’d be very interested in seeing that because it just looks like a parking meter. I think that can be confusing, especially if it’s adjacent to where people park.”

Not ready to move forward with a vote at the moment, Nichols said he didn’t want to see the meters installed at city parks.

“I think it’s kind of tacky the way it looks,” he said. “It would have to be kind of special looking to make me lean towards it.”

Mayor David Zito agreed.

“It’s not the most attractive thing in the world but I think with the right touch it could probably be made a little bit more appealing and fit well within the character of the community,” he said. “You want it to stand out but you also want it to blend in.”

With a 4-1 vote, the council asked staff to return with alternative proposals for how to proceed with a process to place one or two meters around the community and select beneficiaries.

“I can support your concept of trying to explore it further,” Nichols said. “I’m on the fence, so hopefully we get some good examples of this. … Right now it’s kind of iffy, but I’m willing to continue the conversation.”

“Kindness is great,” said Councilwoman Ginger Marshall, who cast the sole dissenting vote. “I really don’t believe it’s government’s job to teach children how to be kind. I think that’s their parents’ responsibility.

“I don’t like the idea of this on public property,” she added. “It just looks like the city’s getting into being a 501c3 or charitable organization.”