SOLANA BEACH — In response to myriad resident requests, City Council directed staff at the Oct. 12 meeting to develop a policy to expand the use of the recently renovated Fletcher Cove Community Center.
“That structure has a very rich history as far as the city of Solana Beach goes,” said former Councilman Tom Golich. “We really need to maintain and bring that rich history back to life and use that building.
“The highest and best use is always what you strive for in real estate,” he said. “This center needs to be shared with the community … so I’m encouraging you to look at it as a way of sharing a valuable asset with the people of the community.”
“I love the new facility,” Bruce Berend said. “I want to recommend that it definitely be offered for usage by the citizens who paid for it for private special occasions such as receptions, anniversary parties, birthday parties, wakes, whatever.
“The tail does not wag the dog,” he said in response to concerns from people who live near the building. “I think the majority of the town citizens should be the ones who are (able) to use this facility for private purposes.”
A group of more than two dozen people that included residents, former council members, neighbors of the building, representatives from city organizations and planning, foundation and Civic and Historical Society members, met and submitted a draft proposal to address concerns from those who live near the bluff-top facility.
The main issues are noise, traffic and parking, however, the group also addressed alcohol and the hours and frequency of use.
People are afraid events will be “too long, too loud and too often,” said Peter House, director of the Solana Beach Community Foundation, which raised about half of the money for the approximately $370,000 renovation that was completed in July.
The facility, a former Army barracks, is currently used for summer camp, the Civic and Historical Society’s annual fundraising bazaar, a few community classes and the Thursday night sing-a-longs. Even before the center officially reopened residents had been asking about reserving it for other events such as birthday parties and receptions.
Longtime resident Craig Williams said he recently attended a close friend’s wedding at Seagrove Park in neighboring Del Mar because such events aren’t allowed at Fletcher Cove.
“How sad,” he said.
Several residents said they remembered when that wasn’t the case. Ana Maria Grace recalled Halloween parties in the mid-1980s. Berend held his son’s wedding reception there in 1995.
“I really think of it as though now it’s ready to be used again as it was used in the past,” Grace said. “I hate to think of it as though we’re making a change. We’re just going back to a completed community center that’s open again for residents to use.”
House said not everyone agreed with the all the recommendations in the draft proposal, including those who signed it.
“This was meant to be a group that was on both ends,” he said. “We came together as best we could.”
Most residents and council members agreed on a 10 p.m. curfew and limiting the number of events held each week. Many also had no problem allowing limited use of alcohol, especially since the city has the most restrictive policy in the county, House said.
But allowing alcohol there would likely mean it would have to be permitted at La Colonia Community Center as well.
There were fewer consensuses on whether to allow amplified music. Councilman Mike Nichols said he would prefer to prohibit the use, while Mayor Lesa Heebner said it should be used inside only.
Residents appeared more accommodating. “Are we saying we only permit chamber quartets?” Jim Nelson asked. “I’m not that hip but I frankly don’t know of any musical groups that don’t use amplification these days, so I really would suggest you look at that.”
Eric Lodge, who lives on a hill above the Fletcher Cove area, said he hears music nearly every weekend that he assumes is amplified and it doesn’t bother him.
The proposal also included a recommendation that valet parking be used for large events. Council members were amenable to that as well as creating a full-cost recovery fee schedule that includes the cost of cleanup.
Staff will create a policy using input from residents and council members that will be presented at a future council meeting.
“I do think it’s a community center that should be used, and used more often,” Heebner said. “It’s really resurrecting the old uses … so I am in favor of exploring this.”