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Meet the Solana Beach Council candidates

SOLANA BEACH — For only the second time since 2006 the city is holding an election to fill three City Council seats. In previous years the number of people seeking office was the same as the number of available seats so the candidates were appointed.

Lesa Heebner and Peter Zahn, two of three council members whose terms expire this year, are not seeking re-election on Nov. 8.

During an Oct. 6 forum, the six candidates shared their positions on issues that have been discussed recently and are likely to come before council in the next few years.

On most there was agreement. They all said the city is in good financial shape, protecting the shoreline and getting an approved Local Coastal Program should be top priorities and finding ways to increase parking would be the best way to support the business community.

They also support promoting fine arts, finding creative ways to increase the number of affordable housing units without negatively impacting neighborhoods and providing incentives so private property owners might think twice before cutting down large trees that are important to other residents.

In the following profiles the candidates provide additional information and elaborate on some of the statements made during the forum.


Jewel Edson is a small-business owner and 19-year resident of the city who has served on the View Assessment Commission for 11 years.

Although she is running for office to keep the city on its current path, Edson sees room for improvement in public communications for major developments and increasing the financial benefits from events at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Jewel Edson
Jewel Edson

“There are a number of large developments in the works,” she said. “Residents should have a voice in those projects.

“The city does a good job getting the information out with eblasts, story poles and letters … but they could increase the use of social media as an outreach tool because community interaction is really important,” she added.

Edson said her time on the View Assessment Commission would be an asset to the city.

“It’s important that people understand land use,” she said. “Residents deserve council members with experience, vision and skill to shape development projects so they fit into the community.”

Edson said there are ways for residents to become more involved and informed.

“Information is not lacking,” she said. “So it’s important to pay attention … Unless you sign up for eblasts or read the local papers you might not know what’s going on.”

As a council member she would like to fast-track redevelopment plans for La Colonia Park, upgrade infrastructure and improve the walking and driving experience on Lomas Santa Fe Drive.

“It’s not safe or attractive,” Edson said. “We need to create some beauty along that corridor.”

Having gone through the process, she said she would like to make the procedures to build or remodel a home more efficient. To help local businesses she would add parking.

“I can’t say enough about the importance of a vibrant business community,” Edson said.

If elected she would also seek to serve on the community relations committee for the fairgrounds.

“Del Mar shouldn’t get the lion’s share of the economic benefits,” she said. “And the proposal to install parking meters along Via de la Valle will impact Solana Beach. We need to work with our neighbors.”

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Judy Hegenauer is a retired special education programs director and 45-resident of the city. She was a member of the Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society and currently serves on the Climate Action Commission.

She is running for a council seat to help keep the city on its current path of “thoughtful growth while maintaining a small-town character.”

Judy Hegenauer
Judy Hegenauer

Her main focus is on clean energy, air and water.

Hegenauer is a strong supporter of Community Choice Energy, also called Community Choice Aggregation, or CCA, a program in which the city – alone or as part of another public agency such as a joint powers authority — supplies renewable energy. San Diego Gas & Electric would provide transmission and distribution services.

She disagrees with residents who claim information about CCAs is limited.

“There’s a ton of information out there,” she said. “However, the city is going through the process of evaluating it and studying the risks and benefits.

“I look forward to the results of that,” she added. “If people are interested they can always find information.”

She said she is also concerned about water supplies.

Residents have done a good job with conservation “but I don’t think the drought will ever be over,” she said.

Hegenauer said the city needs more affordable housing units but has done a good job providing them so far given its limited resources. She said the next City Council will weigh in on several major development projects.

“It’s not like our work is over,” she said.

Her experience with the Department of Education in Sacramento, working with school districts in every county managing large projects and budgets would be an asset if she is elected.

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Chris Hohn is a sports marketing consultant, former Illinois state employee and four-year resident of the city. He was appointed to the Parks and Recreation Committee in 2013 and is in his second year as chairman.

Born into an Air Force family, he said service has always been an important part of his life. He also moved frequently. Hohn said he decided to settle in Solana Beach because of its small-town charm, something he rarely felt while living in Chicago or Washington, D.C.

Chris Hohn
Chris Hohn

“Everyone was so welcoming here,” he said. “It’s still that way.”

To maintain that friendly atmosphere, Hohn said council members should knock on doors once every quarter and ask people to name one thing they would like to change about the city.

He would also like the city to host at least two town hall meetings annually “for people to say whatever they want.”

“If you invite people to an open forum it’s more personal and it helps builds neighborhoods,” he added, noting that the meetings could also be used for public outreach.

“I’m not beating up on the current City Council,” he said. “But sending out eblasts is not what I would call constituency outreach. When I worked for the state of Illinois we knocked on doors, invited people to town halls, toured the city and spent months listening to people.”

With several pending developments throughout the city, Hohn is focused on proper land use.

He said the scope and scale must be balanced and parking and traffic concerns must be addressed for all projects.

He does not support the Solana Highlands project “as it stands today,” he said, because it is out of scale for the neighborhood. He is open-minded about the train station proposal because it is so new and believes something must be done to improve the lot at the corner of Dahlia Drive and Coast Highway 101.

He supports a public vote on the city’s decision to take part in a Community Choice Aggregation program.

“I think there would be a lot less consternation if it was an opt-in program rather than an opt-out,” he said.

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Ed Siegel, M.D., is a psychiatrist and 40-year resident of the city. He served on the Public Arts and Parks and Recreation commissions and Fletcher Cove master plan and Coastal Rail Trail committees. He founded of the Thursday sing-alongs, the city’s oldest ongoing community event, and wrote the music for “Solana Beach Proud,” the city song.

Contrary to what some have said, he is not running to promote the latter. After four decades he is seeking a council seat to create a better sense of community. And increasing the use of the song is one way to do that, he said.

Ed Siegel, M.D.
Ed Siegel, M.D.

“I grew up in a town of 14,000 people,” Siegel said. “There was and still is a sense of community. When I moved here in 1976 I wasn’t sure if I was going to stay because it didn’t feel like a town.”

He began walking the streets with Margaret Schlesinger, who became the city’s first mayor.

“She encouraged me to get involved, and I did,” he said. “But since then the council has become rude and disrespectful to me and others.”

Siegel’s other recommendations for creating a sense of community include hosting more civic events and fewer triathlons, creating a more informal atmosphere at City Hall and electing a mayor to a four-year term rather than rotating the position annually, as Solana Beach does.

He supports a skateboard area at La Colonia Park, having spoken against banning the activity at Fletcher Cove in 1992.

As a council member Siegel said he would visit local elementary schools to talk about Solana Beach and share its history.

He would also like to see a piano in council chambers that could be used to play, among other things, the city song.

“People all know songs like ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Happy Birthday.’ Everyone can sing along,” he said. “That brings people together and creates a friendly environment, which makes them want to get involved and feel proud about their community.”

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Cynthia Walsh is a former merchandise manager and an 11-year resident of the city who gave up a real estate career to raise her two children. She has been a parent volunteer in their schools for 10 years.

She decided to run for public office after her home was burglarized in 2014.

Cynthia Walsh
Cynthia Walsh

“That process working with the Sheriff’s Department opened my eyes to how thinly stretched our local law enforcement is,” she said. “I did some research and discovered that we could do a better job with crime prevention and keeping our neighborhoods safe.”

She said the Public Safety Commission, eliminated last year by the current City Council for duplicity reasons, should be re-established with better direction and more authority.

Walsh said she would advocate for a citywide neighborhood watch program.

As a resident of the east side of Solana Beach, she said she could better represent that area of the city because residents have different issues depending on which side of the freeway they live.

She also said because of her years as a parent volunteer she can better represent mothers, who are a “powerful sector.”

Walsh said she also supports improving the way City Hall disseminates information to residents.

“They communicate well with people who attend the meetings regularly,” she said. “And the eblasts are effective. But for people who are busy with their children, living their lives, there’s got to be a better way.”

Walsh said increased use of social media is one way to better communicate. She also recommends forming a committee to increase use of the eblast system.

“People here are educated and savvy,” she said. “We need to tap into that younger demographic, and social media is a fantastic opportunity to do that.”

With no political experience, Walsh said she would bring “a fresh perspective and a new voice” to City Hall.

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David Zito, a software architect, has lived in Solana Beach for 25 years. He was elected to City Council in 2012 and is currently serving as mayor, a position that rotates annually.

Previously he served on the View Assessment Committee, including two years as chairman, and on subcommittees focused on the view ordinance and housing.

He is hoping to be re-elected to provide some continuity of experience to the council because two incumbents are not running.

David Zito
David Zito

“We will have at least two new people,” he said. “With three it would be hard to get things done. I volunteered for 15 years with the city before I ran for office and it still took time to wrap my head around things.”

His is proud of the city’s accomplishments during his tenure, including improvements along Coast Highway 101, installing a veterans honor courtyard at La Colonia Park, beach access stairway repairs and citywide traffic calming projects.

He said one of his biggest frustrations during his first term has been resident involvement.

“You can never communicate enough,” he said. “We do all the legal notifications but sometimes it’s difficult to get people engaged. … I understand they are busy so we have to figure out a way to get more input from the community.”

He was also surprised at how long it takes to get things done in government, he said.

“There are always multiple hearings and that can take a long time,” Zito said. “But we need input and that, by nature, slows things down. … And at the end of the day, we have to make a decision and not everyone is going to be happy.”

He said he understands community concerns about the Community Choice Aggregation program. He said part of the problem stems from a “poorly-written staff report” on a recent update.

But he stills supports moving forward to garner more information about the sustainable energy options, although he does not favor putting it to a vote.

Zito said he would like to remain on City Council to see through to the end current proposed developments such as the train station, Solana Highlands and Dahlia Drive projects.

“I want to help continue the legacy of environmental sustainability and providing healthy development that fits into the community,” he said.

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