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Solana Beach looking to change laws

SOLANA BEACH — Laws addressing food trucks, firearms, signage and story poles are among several that could be changed as council members continue to update the city’s general plan. 

About a dozen potential code amendments were presented for discussion during the June 26 meeting. Council members agreed all should be explored, with revisions, options and recommendations to be brought back for future action.

A clear definition of the term “new single-family residence” will be created to clear up any confusion when owners are considering a remodel.

“It seems that you would have to have a definition for that, so explore it,” Mayor Mike Nichols said, suggesting staff research what other jurisdictions have done.

“We could all sit up here and try to make something up but it’d be nice to see what other people do,” he said. “I think that (Del Mar’s code) would be worth looking at just from experience.”

Under the Solana Beach municipal code, business, professional, medical and dental offices cannot exceed more than 50 percent of the gross allowable floor area in a building.

“During this economic downturn we’ve had many businesses come forward to us and say it’s been easier to actually fill the space with office use, medical use than retail,” Wende Protzman, the community development director, said.

“This was limiting us as to whether or not we could actually permit that business into the building if they had already reached their 50 percent mark for office space,” she said before asking council members if they would consider some flexibility in the code.

“For financial stability and sustainability for the city we need … revenue from retail,” Councilwoman Lesa Heebner said. “I’m interested in seeing it remain the same. … If the other council members think it should be more flexible I would like to see there be a sunset (clause) as part of the discussion.”

Councilman Dave Zito agreed. “We have a vested interest to make sure … the retail is here,” he said, adding that he would be open to allowing more flexibility as long as retail space is kept on the ground floor.

“I do think that if we were going to go down this road it should be certainly discretionary for the council and not something that would be automatically granted,” Zito added.

Councilman Peter Zahn said the city could consider relaxing the restriction if 50 percent of a building has been vacant for a specified period of time.

Staff was also directed to create guidelines for kiosks, which are fixed-to-the-ground, free-standing structures less than 200 square feet such as flower and food stands, key shops, automated tellers and information booths.

“While we do have some guidance, it’s not much,” Protzman said. Some issues have to do with location, hours of operation, the amount of furniture allowed and placement in a parking lot.

The city will also consider an ordinance or mobile vendors, such as food and retail tucks, on private property.

“I definitely think we need to address this,” said Heebner, who also asked staff to address parked trucks with advertising on them. “I’d like to not see that occur,” she added.

Staff will also research prohibiting the sale of firearms and ammunition in the light commercial zone and mixed-use buildings that include residential units.

Zito said he was apprehensive about limiting the number of such businesses within a specified area. “That one is a little bit more of a hot potato,” he said, adding that his goal would be “to promote safety and keep ammunition and explosive material out of residential areas.”

Changes to architectural features such as eaves, awnings, canopies, bay windows and balconies, as well as parking standards, signage, sign twirlers and story poles should be expected.

“We don’t have a mechanism to insist that people take down their story poles,” Protzman said. “(We) just ask them very nicely.”

Limits will be set, likely after a project has been withdrawn, denied or approved.

A new state law was recently passed regulating cottage food operations, which allow people to make and sell goods from their homes.

Although cities can’t prohibit such businesses, they can permit them outright, grant a nondiscretionary permit or require operators to apply for a permit.

The city manager said he will come back with a recommendation for council members.

In addition to the list presented by Protzman, Heebner said she would like staff to explore regulations that address boats and RVs parked in yards and possibly limiting the number of chain stores in certain areas.

She said she wants the city to be business friendly while also maintaining its community character.

Heebner asked her colleagues if they had any interest in developing a formula “so we don’t have Everywhere USA” on Highway 101 and Cedros Avenue. “I’ve heard a lot of discussion about it from community members,” she said.

Nichols said he understood the concept but was concerned it could be a “sticky” issue.

“A lot of times it’s hard to rent buildings unless you have the backing of a large chain,” he said. “I’d hate to make that something that would be difficult for business owners or property owners to be able to get rents.”

The public will have opportunities to comment on the changes when they are presented to council during future meetings.