SOLANA BEACH — With increased demands on his professional and personal commitments, first-term Councilman Peter Zahn has decided not to seek re-election in November.
“I am thankful to the residents of Solana Beach for allowing me to serve,” he said. “It has been a privilege … and I have worked hard to address the numerous issues and opportunities that face our city.”
In addition to his work as a business attorney and president of Moxie Foundation, which both require significant travel, Zahn said he is now focused on family concerns.
“My parents are aging and this was brought home to me last month when my father was hospitalized,” he said. “It made me realize that I cannot commit to devoting the time necessary to serve on the council and continue to deliver the high level of service the city’s residents deserve.”
Zahn said he is proud to have been part of “many significant issues” during his four years on council, including improving Solana Beach’s infrastructure with projects such as the Coast Highway 101 upgrades that are now attracting “significant private sector investment.”
Other projects include expanding the reach of recycled water, upgrading the sewage pumping station and replacing the Del Mar Shores beach access stairway and lifeguard station.
“We also made significant upgrades to our general plan and related plans (and) progress on our Local Coastal Plan — gaining Coastal Commission approval for our Land Use Plan — balancing the rights of coastal property owners with everyone else’s access to the beach,” Zahn said.
He described the city’s environmental initiatives as “exemplary,” being the first in the county to ban single-use plastic bags and polystyrene food containers.
“I have enjoyed chairing Solana Beach’s Climate Action Commission and helping guide the development of a climate action plan,” Zahn added. “We are looking closely at forming our own energy district — either for our city or the region — and sourcing lower-cost, clean energy.”
Zahn praised the efforts of Solana Beach’s “dedicated, tireless residents” who helped preserve “critical coastal habitat in perpetuity at the former Gateway property.”
Additionally, he said his service on the School Relations and Business Liaison committees gave him “the opportunity to have a positive impact in those areas.”
“We have maintained the delicate balance between growth and community character, evidenced in part by how many people would like to live in our city,” Zahn said.
He said he didn’t encounter many challenges but was at times frustrated on environmental issues at the regional level.
“We can only do so much as a city,” he said. “It seemed to take forever for other cities to come onboard. … I tend to be impatient and you can’t get things done as quickly as you would in the private sector.”
Zahn said his overall experience with local government has been positive. And while he expected residents to be involved he said he was surprised at their level of commitment.
“I didn’t expect them to be as engaged as they are,” he said. “And that’s a positive thing. Depending on the issue, we’ve had a tremendous amount of input and opinions. And that’s healthy.
“And it’s not just at meetings,” he added. “People stopped me on the street to share their interests. I hope to see more of that in the future because it makes it easier to provide input on issues that matter to people and to get as much discussion going as possible.”
He said one of his regrets about not running is that open meeting laws and statutes create a rigid environment, especially for newcomers.
“The learning curve took a while,” he said. “Now I have a pretty good idea of how things operate and I won’t be able to take advantage of that.”
Zahn, who was the third highest vote getter when he ran in 2012, is the current deputy mayor and was slated to take over the top position, which is rotated annually.
Mike Nichols, who will be the most tenured council member after the Nov. 8 election, is in line to take charge of the gavel. However, he must still be nominated and approved by a council majority.
Zahn he said he plans to remain “actively involved, to help make Solana Beach and the region the best it can be.”
“This experience has given me a front seat to observe the democratic form of government,” he said. “We are truly fortunate to live here.”
This story has been updated since its original posting.