SOLANA BEACH — Council members agreed at the July 10 meeting to accept a mermaid-themed bench and two binoculars for the Fletcher Cove area but only if the donor agrees to pay for maintenance and the structures can be removed if they become problematic.
Resident Jeff Phillips asked city officials earlier this year if he could donate an artistic amenity to be placed preferably near the beach. City officials wanted to install an artistic bench on top of the Fletcher Cove dissipater but funding wasn’t available, so the location “was a logical choice,” a staff report states.
A round mermaid bench was designed by local artist Betsy Schultz, who created other artistic elements for the area, but it was reconfigured into an oval seat to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Plans also called to remove two existing concrete benches and add two binoculars, one of which would be ADA accessible. The binoculars would be installed to scan only the ocean and not nearby residential areas.
During a 45-day public review that ended May 10, the city received four comments from three residents who asked that the existing benches be maintained because they have backs and are easily accessible for handicapped people.
City Manager David Ott said Phillips indicated he would be willing to replace the benches with similar ones. Mayor Mike Nichols suggested using colored concrete that matches the surrounding area.
A proposed quote for the side of the mermaid bench reads, “We know a mermaid who lives here in the sea, and she smiles back at all those who believe. Now make a wish and be a friend to all, and this/our little mermaid will hear your call.”
Council voted 4-1, with Dave Zito opposed, to accept the donation with the added stipulations.
“I like the bench. I think it’s a great idea,” Zito said. “I’m not a fan of the binoculars.
“They’re functional things,” he added. “Functional things that move have a tendency to break. The maintenance, making sure they continue to work, making sure they continue to look good, making sure they aren’t an eyesore in the middle of the view just is something that municipalities aren’t always great at so I’m worried … they’re just going to start looking ugly.”
Councilman Tom Campbell also had concerns about vandalism and theft. “They will get stolen,” he said.
Councilwoman Lesa Heebner described the donation as “a wonderful asset to the community.”
“I think it would be great to have the binoculars there … for people to be able to whale-watch,” she said. “If it turns out that they’re (becoming) an eyesore or a problem with maintenance then we can just take them out.”