The Coast News Group
With all votes from the Feb. 11 special election counted, a ballot initiative that dictates how Fletcher Cove Community Center will be used passed by 72 votes. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
With all votes from the Feb. 11 special election counted, a ballot initiative that dictates how Fletcher Cove Community Center will be used passed by 72 votes. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

Prop. B holds with all votes counted

SOLANA BEACH —The plus-size lady is singing — and can continue to do so at Fletcher Cove Community Center with fewer restrictions.

With all votes counted, Proposition B passed 1,947-1875, a margin nearly half of what it was after the first numbers were posted late on the evening of the Feb. 11 special election.

The initiative was leading right after the polls closed and the first round of mail ballots were tallied. At approximately 11 p.m. the count was 1,720-1,593, with Proposition B leading by 127 votes.

But about 36,000 mail/provisional ballots were uncounted, although most were for the San Diego mayoral race, the only other contest being decided.

Three days later, on Valentine’s Day, opponents had a lovely surprise. With another 28,000 ballots counted, 507 were for the Solana Beach election. The new count was 1,946-1,874. Prop. B was still passing, but by only 72 votes.

On Feb. 18, with only 2,500 votes left to tally, the count was up by one on each side. But those numbers didn’t change the following day, with 1,000 ballots to go, or on Feb. 21, when the Registrar of Voters website announced all votes were counted.

“Never had a doubt,” Solana Beach resident Mary Jane Boyd, a proposition proponent, said. In fact, Boyd said, the only time people in her camp were worried was prior to the election, when the local daily newspaper came out against Proposition B.

Despite the shrinking margin of victory, Boyd said she wasn’t concerned because a request had been submitted to the Registrar of Voters Office to pull and count the Solana Beach ballots in the first few days following the election.

“My thoughts about the evolving vote count and results have been that the exceptionally close vote mirrors how divisive and confusing the community center issue has been for Solana Beach’s residents,” Councilman Peter Zahn said. “The other reaction I’ve had is about the very high campaign cost of each vote in favor of Prop. B.

“When we get the final numbers I believe we will see a cost of around $50 per vote for the pro Prop. B votes, five times higher than the cost of each no vote,” he added. “Regardless of which side you favor, this could be the beginning of a disturbing trend of greater and greater amounts of money deployed to influence elections in the city of Solana Beach.”

The measure outlines a use policy for Fletcher Cove Community Center, a 1935 Civilian Conservation Corps barracks on Pacific Avenue that was renovated in 2011.

About half of the community wanted it to be available for private celebrations. The other half opposed such uses, fearing the impacts such as traffic, noise and drunken behavior would have on the adjacent residential neighborhood.

City Council adopted a one-year trial period that allowed two private party rentals a month for a maximum of 50 people, who could consume no more than two glasses of beer or wine.

Some residents deemed the rules too restrictive and gathered enough signatures for an initiative, which council could have adopted.

But they said the initiative was flawed, mainly because if problems occur the rules could only be changed in another election — and that is still the case. So they chose not to adopt it and instead called for a special election, which cost the city about $200,000.

Had Proposition B proponents waited a week or so to file the petition, the measure could have been placed on the June primary ballot, but that didn’t happen.

County Supervisor Dave Roberts, a former Solana Beach councilman, said the one question on that ballot “could easily have been answered by mail.”

To avoid similar future situations, the state Assembly recently introduced legislation that will allow mail-ballot elections in general law cities such as Solana Beach and Encinitas.

Reducing election costs and increasing voter participation are driving forces behind Assembly Bill 1873, the Voting Ought To be Easy, or VOTE, Act introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego).

The Feb. 11 results are considered unofficial until the election is certified.