SOLANA BEACH — Solana Beach will hold a special election, at a minimum cost of about $200,000, to let voters choose how and when Fletcher Cove Community Center can be used.Council members at a special meeting on Nov. 13 made the unanimous decision.
The election, which will likely be held Feb. 11, will ask voters, “Shall the proposed ordinance amending the Solana Beach Municipal Code allowing for Special Use Permits at the Fletcher Cove Community Center be adopted?”
City Council followed a recommendation by ad hoc committee members Lesa Heebner and Dave Zito to forgo adding a competing measure.
“It would be superfluous,” Heebner said.
Some residents wanted to be able to use the recently renovated facility on Pacific Avenue for private celebrations.
Others said such events would likely result in traffic, noise and safety issues, especially if alcohol consumption was allowed.
When City Council failed to adopt a use policy in June, a group of residents circulated petitions and gathered enough signatures to qualify the measure for an election.
Then in August, council did adopt a trial-period policy that initiative proponents said was too restrictive so they submitted the document for certification.
Election laws contain specific timing deadlines. Had they waited a few weeks, the initiative could have been included in the June primary election at a cost of about $10,000.
Since they didn’t, council members were faced with two options.
They could adopt the initiative as written or call for a special election. Council members all agreed the initiative is flawed, most notably because the only way it could be altered was with another election.
“It’s bad policy to have a policy that can’t be changed” without an election,” Mayor Mike Nichols said. “No policy is perfect. … Our policy is not perfect but at least you can change it (without a vote).”
He said the council-adopted policy allows discretion and can be expanded if no problems occur.
Proponents said council could have saved the $200,000 by adopting their initiative until June.
If there were problems between now and then, changes could be made with an initiative during the scheduled election.
Zito said one reason he couldn’t do that is it would indicate he agrees with the language in the initiative. “And I don’t,” he said.
“I have given this an awful lot of thought,” Heebner said. “I have thought about it instead of sleeping. I have thought about it way, way too much.”
Heebner said she began rethinking the issue two days before the special meeting. “Every time I made a decision based on money,” it’s been a bad idea, she said.
Heebner likened it to accepting an undesirable job just because the salary is high or buying items simply because they are on sale.
She said she needed one more thing other than saving money in the list of reasons to adopt the initiative.
“I can’t find one,” she said. “I have nothing to join money.”
Councilman Peter Zahn had the same reaction.
“I came into this meeting determined to find a way not to spend the money,” he said. But after listening to about a half dozen initiative opponents, “The only remedy is to put it to a vote of the people,” he said.
Accusations and insults from people on both sides of the issue have dominated public comments in recent months.
“Our city has survived this before,” Zito said. “I believe it will survive again. Sometimes personal relationships may not. That’s the painful part.”
“This has caused a lot of damage,” Nichols said. “I support democracy. I support letting the people decide.”