SOLANA BEACH — After more than two years and countless hours of private meetings and public hearings, City Council, with no discussion, unanimously adopted at the Aug. 28 meeting a use policy for Fletcher Cove Community Center, a move that seemingly will have no effect on the efforts of one community group to allow Solana Beach voters to decide the rules for the bluff-top facility.
The decision came one day after a petition was filed with the city clerk that will likely result in a special election that could cost the city more than $200,000.
According to the adopted policy, first introduced at an Aug. 7 special meeting, the center on Pacific Avenue will be available for $50 per hour with a two-hour minimum for a maximum of 50 people, not including service providers.
Events must be ceremonial, one-time celebrations and are limited to once per weekend and twice a month on Friday, Saturday or Sunday only. The facility will be available for residents or resident-sponsored events.
Beer and wine only can be served, but not sold, up to one hour before the event is scheduled to end. Guests will be limited to two drinks. All servers will be required to complete special training with a city employee. A trained host to monitor activity must be hired for every event.
Live acoustic music with a limited number of band members and instruments will be allowed inside only. Amplified music, DJs, horns, drums or microphones will be prohibited. Street facing doors and windows can remain open unless music exceeds thresholds established by the city’s noise ordinance.
The community center building and the adjacent patios and grass areas may be used but areas outside the facility may not be restricted from public use.
The policy will be in effect until Dec. 28, 2014. Council can alter the rules if there are problems.
Former Mayor Marion Dodson called the rules onerous. “This is really unique,” she said. “It is like you don’t trust the people.”
In the 1980s and ’90s, residents could rent the building for private events that some nearby residents complained got out of hand at times.
When the building fell into disrepair, the rentals stopped and it was only used by community groups for meetings, summer camp, classes, city programs and Thursday night singalongs.
A $370,000 renovation, funded primarily by citizen donations, was completed in 2012, but residents had asked to use the facility once again for private celebrations long before that.
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 ultimately took no action when it appeared votes on differing versions would fail.
Frustrated by the inaction, a group known as The Friends of Fletcher Cove Community Center announced plans at a July council meeting to gather signatures for an initiative that would dictate a use policy for the facility.
According to the initiative, the center will be available for no more than two weekend days for up to 100 people.
There would be no limit on alcohol consumption, but all events would be subject to applicable Alcoholic Beverage Control rules and regulations. Noise and occupancy levels would be governed by regulations in the Solana Beach municipal code.
The city could collect nominal fees for the use of the center. Any behavior that violates Alcoholic Beverage Control rules and regulations, or state or city laws may result in the immediate closure of the special event, revocation of the special event permit and fines.
Initiative supporters had 180 days to collect 1,311 signatures, representing 15 percent of registered voters in the city.
Resident Mary Jane Boyd, a member of Friends of Fletcher Cove Community Center, said 2,060 signatures were gathered in about one month by volunteers and paid signature gatherers.
Boyd said the original plan was to only use volunteers. “This is an old group of people behind this initiative,” she said. “We’re not as active as we used to be and we couldn’t walk the hills and valleys, especially during August, when the hot days are the worst. We recognized we needed help after a bit.”
Boyd said only about six people were paid to gather signatures, and about 70 percent were collected by residents.
The petition was filed with the city clerk Aug. 27. It is currently in a 30-day review for certification of content, format and signature verification, according to City Clerk Angela Ivey.
It will be deemed sufficient or insufficient by or on the 30th day from the filing date, excluding holidays and weekends, she added.
Ivey said an election must be held no less than 88 and no more than 103 days from being called. That would happen at a council meeting during which the petition is submitted for certification.
A special election will likely be held because given the deadlines, the initiative cannot be included in a scheduled election. California’s primary is set for June 3, 2014.
Council members Lesa Heebner and Tom Campbell met with the group “to try to get a current understanding of each others’ stances,” said Heebner, who supported an earlier proposed use policy that allowed alcohol.
“As we left the meeting, it was my understanding that the Friends of Fletcher Cove Community Center were going to wait until after the (Aug. 28) council meeting to turn in the signatures to see what the council would do,” she said. “Instead, signatures were turned in.
“It is clear from that action alone, if not from others, that this $300,000 initiative is not as much about the policy for use at the community center as it is about politics,” she added. “They want a divisive, expensive election rather than a reasonable policy for our community center.”
Boyd said she was hoping council members would adopt the initiative rather than force a special election. Heebner said had they done that there would be no way to change the policies, even if there was a problem, without a vote.
“I do think we came up with a really good compromise,” Mayor Mike Nichols said. “It’s unfortunate it’s being criticized before it’s even put into place.”