SOLANA BEACH — Larger, more frequent private celebrations with no limit on beer and wine consumption will now be allowed at Fletcher Cove Community Center.
Proposition B, an initiative defining a use policy for the bluff-top facility, was approved by slightly more than 51 percent of voters in the Feb. 11 special election that cost the city about $200,000.
“I’m in great spirits today,” proposition supporter Mary Jane Boyd said the day after the election. “Obviously we’re overjoyed with the results. This restored our faith in the democratic process.”
The 1935 Civilian Conservation Corps barracks that was moved from Vista to its current location on Pacific Avenue in 1944 could once be rented for private parties such as wedding receptions, birthdays and anniversary celebrations.
The events took a toll on the adjacent residential neighborhood, resulting in drunken behavior, noise and parking issues. The parties eventually stopped and the building fell into disrepair, being used only for community events and classes.
But as a $370,000 renovation, funded mostly by private donations and grants, neared completion in 2011, residents began asking when the center could again be rented for private parties.
Those living near the 1,100-square-foot venue — some new and others who remember issues from decades earlier — set out to avoid repeating history. Together with city officials and community members, they tried to work out a compromise.
Most issues were resolved except alcohol consumption, which isn’t allowed at any city facility. Council members failed to reach a consensus at a meeting last June and tabled the discussion to set a use policy.
That prompted a group of residents to gather signatures for a citizen initiative so voters could decide what events could take place at the center.
In August, City Council adopted a 14-month trial policy that those behind the initiative said was too restrictive. It limited events to twice a month with 50 guests who were allowed two beers or two glasses of wine.
According to state laws, any future changes in the policy can only be made with another vote, although the cost would only be about $10,000 if it is part of a scheduled election.
That requirement is primarily why City Council members were unanimous in opposing the initiative.
The issue divided the community and resulted in accusations of lies and misinformation.
“Unfortunately, Solana Beach voters were flooded with inaccurate information by the Prop B proponents, so they weren’t able to make the right decision tonight,” Councilwoman Lesa Heebner wrote in a late-night email on Feb. 11.
“I will just ditto that,” Boyd said. “But fortunately Solana Beach citizens were able to see through their misrepresentation and vote yes in spite of the entire City Council being unanimous in trying to control this election.”
Proposition B supporters needed 1,311 signatures, or 15 percent of the roughly 8,775 registered voters, to get the initiative on a ballot. Boyd said they got a little more than 2,000.
They had six months to turn in the paperwork, but submitted it in August. Had they waited a few weeks it could have been part of the June primary election.
Supporters said City Council could have adopted the policy and, if problems occurred, changed it during the June primary at a lower cost.
“They (City Council) seemed determined to have a special election,” Boyd said.
Council members viewed the initiative as flawed policy that could only be changed in another election.
“I’m disappointed in the results and do not look forward to the future taxpayer expense that will be caused by the passage of this proposition,” Heebner said.
According to the initiative, special events capped at 100 guests will be allowed two of the three weekend days or nights — either Friday, Saturday or Sunday — with all functions and cleanup ending by 10 p.m.
All special events will be subject to applicable Alcoholic Beverage Control rules and regulations. Noise will be governed by regulations established in the Solana Beach Municipal Code.
The initiative states the city can collect nominal fees for use of the center. Any behavior that violates Alcoholic Beverage Control rules and regulations and city or state laws may result in the immediate shut-down of the event, revocation of the special event permit, fines or other relevant action authorized by the city code.
Although, according to Boyd, more than 2,000 signatures were gathered, the unofficial final vote is 1,720-1,593. According to those numbers, less than 40 percent of registered voters went to the polls and not everyone who signed the initiative voted.
About 36,000 mail/provisional ballots were uncounted at press time, but most of those are likely for the San Diego mayoral race, the only other contest being decided in the election.