The Coast News Group
Community Commentary

What could have been

The little building, with its recent makeover of cornflower blue accented with silver, is perched high atop a bluff. Its modern lines stand bold and its shiny glass doors open to a sweeping view of the shimmering Pacific Ocean. 

Sea breezes fill the air while pelicans, in their classic V-configuration, glide overhead in the sky blue pocked with puffs of white. If buildings could talk, I would think it’d encourage us all to “just chill.”

This little house on the hill, the Fletcher Cove community center, is at the heart of a heated battle pitting the residents of Solana Beach against each other over regulations governing its use. I once believed everyone involved had only the best intentions, and disagreements and differences boiled down to perspective. Unfortunately, my belief was grounded in naiveté.

The community center could have been subjected to a one-year trial period to “test the waters.” The temporary use period was affordable, reasonable, practical, and commendably the basis for a compromise among many differing opinions. It almost seemed too good to be true. It was.

Apparently, a number of the founders of a group called Friends of the Fletcher Cove Community Center did not share the desire to be reasonable or practical, nor were they in the mood to compromise. With well over a hundred thousand of their donor dollars invested in the center, they launched a top dollar campaign to collect signatures under the guise the signers would get an opportunity to vote on the use policy governing the community center. The campaign involved hired signature gatherers, some of which accosted families attending a city-sponsored family event known as Movie night. Once the petition was filed, the group quickly pulled the proverbial rug out from under the signers. Now, the group advocates for avoiding a special election due to exorbitant costs. “Don’t let the city use our precious tax dollars to fund a special election,” the glossy brochure nuances. What it does not say is that the city had already agreed to a compromise, now usurped by the petition, which would have avoided a special election. What it also doesn’t say is if the so-called “Friends” would have held their petition for a mere couple of weeks, such a vote would have fallen within a normal election cycle bringing the high cost of the special election, billed at $200,000, down by 10-fold.

We could have had a trial period. We could have avoided a special election. Now, thanks to our “Friends” we have a city that doesn’t have many options — accept the original “overuse” initiative or spend exorbitant dollars on a special election. Rather alarmingly, the original initiative, once implemented cannot be amended except through a vote, even if a public safety issue is badly in need of being addressed or remedied. Perhaps friends shouldn’t let “Friends” win by playing dirty politics in our city? Perhaps our “Friends” should have tried to listen to the little house on the hill and just chill?

Jill Martin is a Solana Beach resident.