Candidates share positions on hot-topic issues

SOLANA BEACH — Two of three council members whose terms expire this year are stepping down, making this the first time since 2006 the city is holding an election to fill vacant seats and more than just incumbents are running. The six candidates shared their positions on some issues that have been hotly discussed recently and will likely come before the council again.

These include whether to allow parties during which alcohol would be consumed at the newly renovated Fletcher Cove Community Center. Nearby residents oppose the move.

The city must fulfill a legal obligation to provide 10 affordable housing units, and a proposed housing development on South Sierra Avenue has drawn criticism for its size.

Bluff-top property owners and environmentalists are at odds over the fate of sea walls as the city attempts to secure a Local Coastal Program from the California Coastal Commission, a move that will give council more say over development throughout Solana Beach.

The candidates also weighed in on a new law that aims to reduce single-use plastic bags and Proposition W, an initiative that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries and one the current council was forced to place on the ballot.

They all agree the measure, as written, is flawed, and added their views on allowing dispensaries in the city.

Finally, the candidates were asked if they were concerned about the city’s finances and if they were running to keep Solana Beach going on its current path or steer it in another direction.

Vickie Driver is a research scientist and 15-year resident of the city. She is currently chairwoman of the Public Safety Commission.

Fletcher Cove Community Center

Vickie Driver

“The community center used to be used in a certain way and people were looking to bring it back to the way it was,” Driver said. “New people have moved into the area that don’t want that. I think both sides need to give.” Driver favors one event per weekend, such as weddings, anniversaries or birthday parties, with only beer and wine available.

South Sierra affordable housing

Driver would prefer to see the development elsewhere in the city because the proposed project would add too much traffic to the area and decrease beach access. She said she would like to see private developers add affordable units to new projects on sites such as the lot on the corner of Dahlia Drive recently purchased by American Assets.

Sea walls

Driver said lifeguards spend too much time telling people to stay away from the cliffs. She said the bluffs should be protected and “sea walls are really, really important.”

“We don’t get much sand from our cliffs,” she said, noting that, according to studies she’s seen, only 5 percent to 20 percent of sand on the city’s beaches comes from natural bluff erosion.

Plastic bag ban

Driver said she almost always uses recyclable bags but occasionally forgets. “I don’t think people should be punished,” she said, adding that she would rather see stores reward customers who bring their own bags.

Medical marijuana dispensaries

Driver said she opposes this type of business in Solana Beach. “There was a dispensary in the building where I work and there was an increase in crime,” she said. “They even stole the security camera.” She believes delivery is safer and faster. “I understand the need by some but to have a storefront is wrong.”

City finances

Driver said she is concerned the city is headed in the wrong direction fiscally. She said she believes the council needs more diversity, with members who live in a variety of areas throughout the city. Driver was one of three candidates who did not participate in an Oct. 8 forum. She said she still believes it was initiated poorly and does not regret her decision.

Paul Frankel is a business owner who has lived in Solana Beach for 10 years. He moved to the city from Del Mar, where he served on the Finance Committee and water and sewer task force. He was also a member of the Del Mar Village Association and Chamber of Commerce.

Fletcher Cove Community Center

Paul Frankel

Frankel said he believes the public was under the impression the facility would be available for events where “reasonable amounts of alcohol would be consumed.”

“To exclude it seems to be difficult for residents who support the use of the center to accept,” he said. “We have a responsibility to do what we told the public we would do and we have to reconcile that.” He said he would support recommendations from the Sheriff’s Department.

South Sierra affordable housing

“The city has done a poor job managing this issue,” Frankel said. Beach parking is already at a minimum and there is opposition from nearby residents, he said. Rather than build a new project, existing properties should be acquired and converted into affordable units, but not necessarily all at once.

“It could be a duplex here or a single-family home there,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be so intrusive on any one community. … I don’t support the project as proposed.”

Sea walls

Frankel supports council’s recent decision to continue working with the Coastal Commission. “It’s a shame this topic has divided the community to the point where people are wearing different colored T-shirts (to state their position) at council meetings,” he said. “But I’m an optimist. I believe there are opportunities to come up with solutions that not everyone will be happy with but that we can all live with.”

Plastic bag ban

While he supports policies that help reduce the city’s environmental footprint, Frankel said he would prefer a regional solution. He said businesses and employees shouldn’t be penalized when trying to pursue worthy environmental goals. “I don’t think this is what anybody wanted,” he said. “We shouldn’t treat large employers and taxpayers this way.”

Medical marijuana dispensaries

Frankel said if people really need medical marijuana there are better ways to find it. “It doesn’t have to be in Solana Beach,” he said.

City finances

Frankel said he is “very concerned about city finances.” He said residents have misinterpreted the fact that there was no opposition in the last two council races as a message that city leaders should continue “doing whatever they want.” “That’s not the case at all,” he said. Frankel did not participate in the Oct. 8 forum and said it’s unfortunate important issues such as city finances and land use weren’t addressed.

Lesa Heebner, a designer and 35-year resident of the city, is seeking a third council term. She is a member of several regional organizations, including the San Diego Association of Governments board of directors. Prior to her election in 2004 she served on the city’s View Assessment Committee.

Fletcher Cove Community Center

Lesa Heebner

Heebner favors a trial period that would allow consumption of beer and wine only. She considers the facility a community asset all residents should be able to use but said she’d be the first one to “shut it down if it starts becoming a problem for the neighbors.”

South Sierra affordable housing

“I didn’t like it at all when I first saw it,” she said. “In response to the community, the developer made some good changes and reduced the scale to fit in more.” Although the density is on par with other developments in the area, she said, more could probably be done to improve the project. She said alternate sites are being researched by the developer. “I will listen to the community,” she said. “It’s their neighborhood.”

Sea walls

Heebner said property owners want assurances they can protect their homes and staff was directed to create language to that effect in the revised LCP. “I’m interested to read the comments after the public review period ends,” she said.

Plastic bag ban

As part of the unanimous decision to adopt the ordinance, Heenber said she would re-evaluate it if businesses were losing money. She said city staff meets regularly with store managers and property owners, who have reported no revenue losses, but figures will be out in December. She believes people will adjust as they did when smoking was banned at beaches, restaurants and outdoor cafes. “Behavior modification is difficult for all of us,” she said, adding that the city is working to clarify some aspects the law. Heebner said she has offered to attend employees meetings to better explain it to store workers.

Medical marijuana dispensaries

While she understands the valid use of medical marijuana, Heebner said she is concerned about the way it is distributed and would prefer the drug be available only through a pharmacy.

City finances

Heebner said she is not concerned about the fiscal state of Solana Beach. “We are on the right track and have planned for the future,” she said. “This is one of the most desirable locations in San Diego County. I think we’ve weathered the economic downturn better than most of the region. Story poles are all over the city. I don’t think we’re hurting very much.”

Daniel Powell, an asset manager and entrepreneur, is a San Diego native who has lived in Solana Beach since 1996. He is a member of BikeWalkSolana.

Fletcher Cove Community Center

Daniel Powell

Powell said the rules for using the new center, including alcohol consumption, should mimic those at all city facilities. “Event organizers should have to apply to serve alcohol, and permission to do so should be determined through a review that includes law enforcement oversight,” he said. Permits should be granted on a case-by-case basis, he said, acknowledging there’s a big difference between a civic group having wine at sunset and a fraternity party.

South Sierra affordable housing

Turning a city parking lot into 10 affordable units is not very efficient and an extremely expensive way to solve a serious problem, said Powell, who doesn’t support the project on the proposed site. He said affordable housing should be included in other new private developments, perhaps one or two units at a time. “The problem is there haven’t been any new improvements,” he said.

Sea walls

Private owners have the right to protect their property, Powell said, adding that the Coastal Commission’s 153 changes to the document submitted earlier this year were “ludicrous and wrong.”

“Letting natural erosion take place would allow a large percentage of people’s net worth to fall into the sea,” he said. “Would they let the lifeguard tower and Fletcher Cove Community Center fall into the ocean?”

He said finding ways to allow sand to flow naturally from the San Elijo Lagoon is one way to get sand on city beaches.

Plastic bag ban

“The timing, execution and communication on this was horrible,” Powell said, adding the ban should have been adopted regionally. He said he would also prefer to incentivize behavior by offering rebates for those who bring their own bags rather than charge those who don’t.

Medical marijuana dispensaries

Powell said he doesn’t support this type of business because it goes against federal law. “There are ways to get it without retail stores that are disruptive to neighborhoods.” he said.

City finances

Powell said he is “very concerned” about the financial state of Solana Beach. He questioned why, if the city is in good financial shape, council members declared a fiscal emergency in 2009.

“I love this city,” he said. “I love most of the things about it. But the more attention I pay to (what’s going on at City Hall) the more frustrated I’ve become with some of the decisions and priorities. … Everyone has a stake in the success of Solana Beach — residents, vendors and business owners. I want to make sure all of them are heard.”

Powell was one of three candidates who chose not to participant in an Oct. 8 forum. He said if he had it to do over again, he would have taken part in the event.

Peter Zahn is a business attorney and five-year resident of the city. He is past president of the Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce and chairman of its largest fundraiser, Fiesta del Sol.

Fletcher Cove Community Center

Peter Zahn

Zahn supports City Council’s decision to study the issue and favors a trial period that includes alcohol consumption. “It’s a resource that should be open to all residents but we need to look closely and if things aren’t working, adopt stricter rules or tone down the amount of alcohol,” he said. Zahn said there should be increased law enforcement in the area when events are taking place.

South Sierra affordable housing

“I am concerned that this project is out of scale for the site,” he said. “I’d be open to evaluating alternate sites that might be more appropriate.” He suggests locations near public transportation such as the train station or bus stops.

Sea walls

Zahn said overall he doesn’t like the interaction that has taken place between the Coastal Commission, City Council and some community groups. He respects the rights of homeowners to protect their property but said it is important to balance that with access to the beaches. He supports continuing negotiations for another two months or so to arrive at a workable plan. Zahn is also concerned the city could be exposed to legal challenges if it issues permits without an approved LCP. He favors decreasing permit renewal bureaucracy and costs.

Plastic bag ban

While he considers the ordinance worthwhile given that the bags “trash our community and are harmful to marine life,” Zahn said he would have had longer introductory and education periods. Zahn, who sympathizes with consumers faced with a 10-cent fee for paper bags, said he would have had fewer harsh impacts upfront. “But I think as more people adapt this will become less of an issue,” he said.

Medical marijuana dispensaries

“I don’t favor having them in town,” he said. While Zahn supports the legal use of medical marijuana, he believes dispensaries are run too loosely. He said he’d like to see the drug distributed through pharmacies “so just the people who have the need are served.”

City finances

Zahn said the city has “made a lot of right decisions fiscally,” but given the fragile economy, council members must find ways to increase revenue and decrease costs. He said he is running because the city can’t afford to “stay still or head in any one particular direction.”

“We have to take the bull by the horns and face future challenges because there may be things coming our way we don’t even know about,” he said. “I’m very pro business but we can’t lose sight of the fact that a lot of us moved to this city to enjoy the community character.”

David Zito, a software architect, has lived in Solana Beach for 21 years. He served on the city’s View Assessment Committee, including two years as chairman, and on subcommittees focused on the view ordinance and housing.

Fletcher Cove Community Center

David Zito

Zito favors a trial period, but not events every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He said he wouldn’t support additional uses if the current study reveals impacts that are too costly to mitigate. Whatever the result, he said, all residents need to be treated equally, as do all facilities in the city.

South Sierra affordable housing

In concept Zito said the location would be fine for such a project but he has concerns about parking and the size of the development being proposed. “It may be too big for that site,” he said.

Sea walls

“No one has any intention of letting houses fall into the sea,” he said. The city needs to allow property owners to protect their homes but because the sea walls are built on public land, the public has a right to mitigation. He said there should be a review after 20 years because rapid advances in technology could result in better solutions in 20 years.

Plastic bag ban

As a regular participant in beach cleanups, Zito said he sees a lot of unrecovered costs related to plastic bags. He said the ban is the right way to go but he would have phased in the fee for paper bags, especially in the down economy.

Medical marijuana dispensaries

Zito said he supports the concept of medical marijuana use, especially having seen the benefits when his mother was going through chemotherapy. Through that experience, he said, his mother didn’t face any challenges to safe access. “Ideally it would only be available through pharmacies with a prescription,” he said.

City finances

Zito said he believes the city has “ridden out” the recession “extremely well and is set up to do so in the future.” But he expects future challenges, especially because the state eliminated redevelopment agencies. As a volunteer, he said he’s worked hard to “get the city going in a good direction, but there’s always possibilities for improvements.”

 

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  1. JohnnyBoy says:

    I just got this sample of Mapito grow medium. Pretty cool stuff. Looks like a combination of rockwool and some other material. They claim it holds a lot of water and oxygen. Going to give it a try.

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