EDITOR’S NOTE: For full interview transcripts for each of the candidates, see links at the bottom of the article
SOLANA BEACH — In a now reduced race for City Council, four candidates are campaigning for two vacant seats in November.
Shawn McClondon recently announced that he has terminated his campaign, which leaves candidates Kristi Becker, Kelly Harless, Craig Nelson and Valeri Paul.
Topics of interest have waxed and waned over the last few weeks, with a potential (and now moot) plan for roundabouts on Lomas Santa Fe Drive playing a divisive role early in the campaign season. More recently, concerns about the Del Mar Resort have taken center stage.
The Coast News has reached out to each candidate in order to share their views on some of the big issues facing the city of Solana Beach. Below is a rundown of candidate stances, based on their responses to our inquiries, candidate forum statements and their respective campaign websites.
All candidates listed city finances and maintaining healthy reserves as among their top priorities as potential council members.
Becker and Harless — who have expressed their mutual intention to vote for one another in the upcoming election — both advocate mindful land-use decisions. Becker urged that developments — such as the Del Mar Resort and Solana Highlands projects — “must fit the community.”
Harless, whose campaign focuses on a “Neighborhoods First” approach, supports land-use decisions that minimize “negative impacts on existing homeowners, businesses and the public.
Nelson, who consistently refers to himself as a “curmudgeonly finance guy” with a particular focus on the city’s fiscal responsibilities, would also like to focus on crime prevention, and finding ways to better utilize the Fletcher Cove Community Center.
A former educator and longtime volunteer, Paul advocates for listening and well-informed decision making, particularly when it comes to projects like the Del Mar Resort.
The city’s Housing Element has outlined properties viable for affordable housing — but pushing these projects forward has remained a challenge. Candidates have different ideas on how to best confront the current deficit in affordable housing.
Paul recommends balancing affordable housing obligations with “civic responsibility,” and working with citizens, developers and community leaders to find a “responsible approach.”
Nelson recommended the city consider the use of the recently purchased lot north of La Colonia Park for potential affordable housing units, which would “help longtime residents displaced by gentrification stay in Eden Gardens,” he said.
Becker supported the City Council’s efforts to offer the city-owned parking lot behind city hall, and stated that “regardless of income, everyone deserves quality housing that they can afford.”
Harless pointed out case law that might allow the city to eliminate the in-lieu fee currently required of developers who opt out of affordable housing requirements, and said she would “support evaluating that possibility.”
The Del Mar Resort
Although outside of Solana Beach boundaries, the Del Mar Resort has become a focal point of council meetings and campaign forums alike. All candidates have expressed concern about the project’s negative impacts.
Nelson called the project a “no-go” and encouraged putting the plan to voters — although such a decision would fall to the residents of Del Mar rather than Solana Beach.
At the last candidate forum in early October, Paul expressed concern about the resort’s water use.
“Water is a precious commodity,” Paul said, encouraging people to “get talking” about the project.
Becker and Harless both spoke at the most recent City Council meeting, opposing the re-zoning required to accommodate the potential project.
“We can never buy back our quality of life,” Becker said at the meeting.
In terms of developments located within the city, candidates agree that community character is a crucial consideration. Yet candidates differed in their approaches to maintaining said character — with Becker supporting “sustainable progress” in the development process.
Harless is all for reducing negative impacts — ensuring that concerns related to projects like the Assisted Living Facility on Marine View Avenue will be mitigated.
Nelson advocated a template for developers and property owners to facilitate approvals at the first candidate forum.
“Too many property owners are dismayed and discouraged from improving their properties due to the red tape and bureaucracy involved,” he said.
Most candidates supported the city’s current policy of a seven-day stay minimum, and push for better enforcement of the regulations.
Harless wants to address community concerns caused by short-term rentals, in regard to noise and effects on neighborhood character.
Nelson lauded the current policy for driving tax revenue to the city and bringing business to local merchants.
Paul said she would “seek changes in regulations that best suit the Solana Beach community,” asserting that short-term rentals “can be managed with the right leadership.”
Attached are a full list of each candidate’s views on several major Solana Beach issues — the responses were written and submitted by the candidates. The topics listed are based on questions submitted by residents at previous candidate forums, and prominent issues discussed at recent City Council meetings.
Lexy Brodt covers all things Del Mar and Solana Beach for The Coast News, with a primary interest in coastal development. A North County native turned UW-Madison alumna, she has produced for Wisconsin Public Radio and reported for The San Diego Union-Tribune and Wisconsin State Journal.