SOLANA BEACH — Residents could be allowed to reserve the renovated Fletcher Cove Community Center for private events as early as Aug. 29, after council members agreed on a tentative use policy for the facility during a special meeting Aug. 7.
When council meets Aug. 28, staff is expected to present a resolution that will dictate the terms for use during a trial period.
Despite the action, a group seeking to let voters decide how the building will be used will likely continue its signature-gathering efforts.
“Our position is that it’s past the point of having a trial period,” said Mary Jane Boyd, a member of The Friends of Fletcher Cove Community Center. “That’s what we were begging for them to do before.”
At press time, Boyd said her group still needed to meet to discuss its position on going forward with a plan to gather enough signatures to force a special election, which could cost the city more than $200,000.
The community center on Pacific Avenue was used for private events in the 1980s and ’90s. Nearby residents complained about noise, traffic and partygoers urinating in their yards at times.
“I was there in the ’90s when things didn’t go right,” property owner Richard Jacobs said. “I’d hate to see that again — loud music into the night, public drunkenness. It was a bad scene.”
The building eventually began deteriorating and use was limited to community groups for meetings, summer camp, classes, city programs and Thursday night singalongs.
As a renovation project neared completion in 2011, residents began asking to use the center once again for private celebrations.
About 60 percent of the $370,000 spent to restore the center came from resident donations.
City officials and residents tried to develop a use policy. Concerns were mostly about traffic, parking and noise, but the biggest impasse was a provision that allowed alcohol to be served.
Council members were scheduled to decide on a one-year trial policy at the June 12 meeting, but took no action when it appeared votes on differing versions would fail.
At the July 10 council meeting, The Friends of the Fletcher Cove Community Center announced plans to secure an initiative for a special election.
On July 31, the same day the special meeting was announced, more than six-dozen volunteers began collecting signatures. They have 180 days from that date to secure 1,311 signatures, representing 15 percent of registered Solana Beach voters.
They collected about 1,000 in less than a week, resident Tom Golich said.
During the trial period, which will be in effect from Aug. 29, 2013, through Dec. 31, 2014, the center will be available for $50 an hour with a two-hour minimum for noncommercial, one-time events sponsored by a Solana Beach resident who will not be required to attend the function.
The maximum number of guests allowed will be 50, including party staff and entertainers. Parking will be discouraged in the surrounding neighborhood. Guests will be given maps to recommended public parking areas.
The facility will be available Fridays from 5 to 10 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Only one event will be allowed per weekend but not on consecutive weekends and not when a public event is scheduled.
Beer and wine only can be served, with a two-drink maximum per guest. A security guard will be required for all events. If alcohol will be available, a trained host to serve also will be required.
Mayor Mike Nichols said council called the special meeting after talking with residents following the June meeting.
“We didn’t really explore all the alternatives (at the June meeting),” he said. “We got tired and hit a wall.
“We’ve had a lot of time to think about what led to that hurdle,” he added. “We need to find fair use of a valued public asset.”
Nichols acknowledged neither side got everything they wanted in the tentative policy.
“But I guess that’s the definition of compromise,” he said. “We don’t want to do any harm to anyone. Collectively we came up with a balance to use the center and protect the neighborhood.”
Boyd said the council action is too little, too late.
“Some of it is ridiculous,” she said. “Who’s going to go to a party for six hours and have two drinks?
“It’s still too restrictive and parts are unenforceable,” she added. “And they can stop everything at anytime, so there are no guarantees we will be able to use it six months or a year from now. I’m not concerned with what the council will permit. The voters need to make that decision.”