Solana Beach adds stencils to streets

At the request of a retired sailor, several streets in Solana Beach now tell people exactly where they are in the world.

“I wondered how many people realize they are living 33 degrees north,” said Paul Sims, a 40-year resident of Solana Beach. “That’s when I decided to make a pitch to the city to see if we could get it on the sidewalks.”

Sims, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, realized that his house was just north of 33 degrees latitude when he bought his first GPS and brought it home in 1990. His neighbors at the end of his street are on exactly 33 degrees.

“Celestial navigation has gone out with GPS,” said 89-year-old Sims, who learned how to navigate a ship by observing the sun, moon and stars as a young naval officer.

“But if anything happens to all the stuff going on up there,” he added as he pointed toward the sky, “they’re going to need to get back to this.”

With an idea to mark local sidewalks, Sims presented the concept to the City Council in August. There are now seven Latitude 33° North stencils on Solana Beach streets.

“I love the attitudes of the people in the city,” Sims said. “It’s amazing that the mayor and City Council and everybody got behind this. This is a great city and it’s getting greater all the time.”

Jim Greenstein, the city’s associate civil engineer, said he used Google Maps to determine where to locate the stencils along 33 degrees north latitude. Using black spray paint, the stencils were primarily placed on sidewalks or pathways, and not in front of homes, he said.

“It’s kind of fun to see how (Sims) is excited and enjoying it,” said Greenstein, a 16-year resident of Solana Beach.

There are single stencils on Coast Highway 101 north of Ocean Street, on Highland Boulevard north of Sun Valley Road, and at the corner of Solana Hills Drive and Solana Hills Court. There are two stencils on Santa Rosita north of Santa Helena and on Sun Valley west of Highland.

“That’s one of the nice things about a small town — being able to do interesting things like this that make it more fun,” said Mayor David Zito, who watched as Greenstein finished the last stencil at the corner of Solana Hills Drive and Solana Hills Court on May 12.

“This was pretty simple,” he added. “It’s an easy educational thing and it’s an interesting fact about our town.”

In an effort to educate local schoolchildren, Sims created a five-page booklet titled, “Where in the World Am I?” that includes explanations of latitudes and longitudes, as well as an exercise to locate about a dozen cities using the angles.

He gave the brochures to the principals of Skyline and Solana Vista elementary schools.

“I hope that this is going to stimulate the school kids and that they will learn something,” said Sims, who has seven children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. “It’s been fun.”

Although the city’s markings are now complete, Sims hopes to spread the project across the country. He asked Zito to encourage the mayor of the South Carolina city that is also on 33 degrees north latitude to make similar markings on the streets.

“They are on the Atlantic Ocean. We are on the Pacific Ocean. If the two have 33 degrees painted on the sidewalk, then we can expect everybody in between to do it and we can go across the country,” Sims said with a smile. “Think big.”