ENCINITAS — With the city considering purchasing the Pacific View property and turning it into a public facility, council members have asked local groups to submit plans for funding and operating the property.
The first group to respond, ETA (Encinitas Taxpayers Association), presented a proposal last week calling for the city to buy Pacific View with money from a hotel tax and convert the property into a community arts center.
“There’s a near universal desire for Pacific View to stay a public facility,” ETA President Bob Bonde said. “Our plan is a fiscally responsible way to accomplish the goal.”
The ETA proposal recommends the city dedicate funds from the city’s transient-occupancy tax (TOT) to Pacific View for however long it takes to pay off the property.
This summer, the city received two varying appraisals for the site, one for $3.29 million and the other for $7.28 million. Negotiations between the city and the school district are ongoing in closed session.
Bonde said using TOT funds would be popular among residents, because the money comes from a tax on hotels, motels and short-term rentals.
“Local tax dollars would not be used,” Bonde said.
TOT was passed to pay for sand replenishments, but $1.18 million of the TOT funds were uncommitted in the city’s budget last year. Because most of TOT flows into the city’s general fund, it could theoretically go toward Pacific View, according to Tim Nash, the city’s finance director.
Although the TOT money isn’t committed, if the city used TOT to buy Pacific View, that would “carve into” city revenue, Nash said.
After Bonde presented the proposal to council last week, Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer said that taking away TOT money from the general fund could affect other city services, but added the plan is worth looking into.
In the event the city purchases the property, Bonde said the city should also loan $1.25 million for repairing and transforming the Pacific View buildings into suitable spots for everything from painting to theater.
Bulldozing the structures and beginning construction anew would be too expensive. And based on local contractors’ evaluations, there’s still some life left in the buildings, which date back to the 1950s, Bonde said.
Under the proposal, artists would be able to rent out most of the Pacific View buildings.
For some classrooms, the monthly rate would be $1.40 per square foot — a number that was determined after looking at comparable rents and taking the location and condition of the buildings into account.
“The numbers are rough — they’re to get the dialogue going,” Bonde said.
The ETA plan also states that $300,000 of the $1.25 million should go toward starting up a tourism facility onsite.
“There is a need for a cultural tourism stop for visitors traveling between San Diego County, Orange County and Los Angeles,” according to the plan.
“I’ve traveled a lot,” Bonde said. “Communities with cultural tourism facilities set themselves apart. They bring in more visitors and more dollars for the community.”
It’s estimated that revenue from artists’ rents and the cultural tourism facility would bring in $191,000 a year. Over time, that money could pay back and exceed the $1.25 million loan, Bonde said.
ETA would like to see an independent board made up of Pacific View tenants, the Encinitas arts administrator and others to oversee the $1.25 million and the future use of the property.
“If we want to keep the costs down and be self-supporting, the best way to do it is through an independent board,” Bonde said.
At last week’s council meeting, numerous public speakers attested to the need for facilities for the arts, particularly dance programs. Bonde said the proposal includes putting in a theater that could accommodate an array of uses.
Bonde and six ETA members spent three months working on the plan, he said.
“The community was challenged to do something and we stepped in because no one was taking an active role,” Bonde said.
Danny Salzhandler, director of the 101 Artists’ Colony, said he hasn’t analyzed the numbers in the ETA plan, but he applauded the group for putting something forward.
“We have the opportunity to do something incredible there,” Salzhandler said. “If the city buys it, we want to be ready with a plan.”