It’s going to be a busy year for Solana Beach, but the city’s new mayor is up for the challenge. Mayor David Zito is looking forward to 2016.
“There’s a lot of stuff on our plate right now,” Zito said.
A Solana Beach resident for 25 years, Zito was first elected to the City Council in 2012. During the Dec. 9 council meeting, council members unanimously appointed Zito, then deputy mayor, to his first mayoral term, replacing outgoing Mayor Lesa Heebner. The position rotates annually among council members.
“I love my community,” Zito said. “I now have another venue to go tell the rest of the county and the country what a great city we have.”
Born on the East Coast near Boston, Zito’s family moved several times before they ended up in the Chicago area, where he went to high school. Zito went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He then relocated to the West Coast and received a master’s in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. After graduation, he headed south to San Diego.
In 1991, Zito settled in Solana Beach, where he met his wife, Brenda. Two years later, the couple bought their house, where they have lived ever since and raised their three daughters, Chloe, Mary and Erica.
“I moved around a lot until I got here,” Zito said. “I liked it so much, I stayed.”
Zito started his career in San Diego as a software developer at Computervision. He has since worked at Hewlett-Packard for more than 20 years, first as a software architect and now as a distinguished technologist.
As a father, Zito became an active volunteer, assisting with school events and leading trips for the YMCA. An interest in land use and love for a piece of coastal property prompted Zito to get even more involved in the community.
For years, developers pursued what was known as the “Gateway” property, the 3.44-acre parcel that sits along the east side of Coast Highway 101, across from Cardiff State Beach and south of the San Elijo Lagoon. Zito joined a community movement to preserve the property.
Last November, the Solana Beach council accepted the Gateway property as a conservation easement from the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy, which acquired it in December 2011 for $3.75 million in loans from community members. The park was officially named Harbaugh Seaside Trails during a ceremony last January.
“It was really amazing,” Zito said. “It was a great feeling that we were actually able to get it done.”
Prior to being elected to the council, Zito was appointed to two task forces to update Solana Beach’s housing ordinance and view ordinance. He volunteered for various Parks and Recreation Commission events. He also served on the city’s View Assessment Commission for more than four years, including two years as chair.
Zito then ran for council and was elected in 2012.
“It’s in our nature to try and improve things around us,” Zito said. “We all have our opinions and we all have our ideas, and I want to see those ideas come to fruition.”
Reflecting on his first few years on the council, Zito said he is proud of the council’s vote to accept the Gateway property as a conservation easement from the conservancy, forever protecting the parcel as open space. He is also proud the city renovated Coast Highway 101.
The approximately $7 million project revitalized about a one-mile stretch of road from Cliff Street to Dahlia Drive. Completed in 2013, the project featured narrowed lanes, continuous sidewalks, curb extensions and mid-block crosswalks.
“The 101 redo was in progress when I ran,” he recalled. “When I ran, I was in big support of that. It was a great thing for the city.”
Zito is also pleased the city improved beach access, with the reconstruction of the Del Mar Shores access stairway and repairs to the stairway at Tide Beach Park.
As the city’s new mayor, Zito hopes to help move along other pending projects, including plans to develop the Solana Beach Transit Center.
With approval from the council, the North County Transit District solicited and received proposals for a mixed-use development at the train station and adjacent property, both of which are owned by the district. Community members learned about four competing proposals during two workshops in November.
“I’d like to have very solid progress and be able to say we have a common vision, common agreement on what’s going to be at the train station,” Zito said.
The final design documents also need to be completed for the 50-year sand replenishment project, Zito said.
For more than 15 years, Solana Beach has worked with the city of Encinitas and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to plan the joint project, which would create a buffer to protect the coastal bluffs, where continued erosion has become a threat to people and property. In October, the council unanimously approved an environmental impact report for the project.
“We need to finish the design documents and go out for funding,” Zito said. “It’s really important.”
Among a variety of other projects, Zito expects the Veterans Honor Courtyard at La Colonia Park to be completed by Memorial Day. The council recently awarded a construction contract for the project.
He hopes to make progress on a Local Implementation Plan, or LIP, now that the city adopted a Land Use Plan in 2013. An LIP consists of implementing zoning ordinances and maps.
He wants to move forward with bicycle and pedestrian improvements along Stevens Avenue and look for funding for other priority projects listed in the city’s Comprehensive Active Transportation Strategy.
In the next year, the council is also expected to look at several potential development projects, including H.G. Fenton Company’s plans to reconstruct the Solana Highlands apartment complex at Stevens and South Nardo avenues and plans for the American Assets Trust property, a mostly vacant lot on the corner of South Coast Highway 101 and Dahlia Drive that is slated for mixed-use and currently for sale.
“As the economy’s improved, we’ve noticed a lot more projects coming in, and we need to make sure that we’re able to keep them moving through the process quickly and efficiently,” Zito said.
“It’s going to be a busy year,” he added. “Being able to be the person to represent Solana Beach, the city that I love so much, is really humbling. I’m proud that I am currently the face of Solana Beach and able to represent values that I believe the community feels are very important.”