SOLANA BEACH — The failure of council members to take action last month on a use policy for Fletcher Cove Community Center prompted a group of residents to begin a process that will let voters decide what events can take place at the recently renovated facility.Text of a voter initiative “to ensure that the center is able to be used by Solana Beach citizens for special events” was submitted to the city clerk July 10 by The Friends of the Fletcher Cove Community Center, according to a press release issued by resident Mary Jane Boyd.
“I regret that we have to go through this process to allow the community to use this facility,” Boyd said. “It just seems like there’s a lack of leadership regarding this issue. It’s not complex. The community center should be used by the community.”
In the 1980s and ’90s, residents could rent the Pacific Avenue building for private events that some nearby residents complained got out of hand at times, with noisy partygoers urinating in their yards and driving through the neighborhood after drinking too much.
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.
Even before a $370,000 renovation, funded primarily by citizen donations, was completed in 2011, residents began asking to use the facility once again for private celebrations.
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.
Because a vote was never taken, the item can still be brought back for discussion.
The proposed initiative from The Friends of the Fletcher Cove Community Center would establish a handful of terms. They include limiting special events to 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 would be subject to applicable Alcoholic Beverage Control rules and regulations. Noise and occupancy levels would 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.
The city attorney is currently preparing a ballot title and summary that should be returned to the city clerk by July 25. The petition then goes to the Friends of the Fletcher Cove Community Center, who will have 180 days to collect 1,311 signatures, representing 15 percent of registered voters in the city.
Boyd said she is confident that will happen quickly.
City Clerk Angela 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 city clerk submits the petition certification.
An independent 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.
The recent estimate for the signature verification is $7,000 to 9,000, Ivey said.
“My recent estimate for a Solana Beach special election is $180,000 to $190,000,” she added.
“The downside is the city having to pay for a special election,” Boyd said, adding that council members could bring the item back for discussion and create a use policy to avoid that cost.
Mayor Mike Nichols, who opposes allowing alcohol consumption at the facility, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Councilwoman Lesa Heebner, who supports a one-year trial period allowing alcohol, said after the June meeting she wouldn’t bring the item back.
“I am not able to comment on anything at this time,” she said in response to the proposed initiative by The Friends of the Fletcher Cove Community Center.