Solana Beach Would Thrive as a City, Analysis Says

Times Staff Writer

Spurred by a government study that shows that unincorporated Solana Beach is receiving only 43 cents worth of county services for its tax dollar, residents here are gearing up for cityhood.

“It’s not a question of whether Solana Beach can afford to be a city,” incorporation leader Jack Moore said, “but a question of whether the county can afford to lose Solana Beach.”

Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), analysts reported in a study made public Thursday that a City of Solana Beach would be an economical and efficient entity that should be able to support its citizens better than the county does.


LAFCO, a state agency that must rule on all local government boundary changes including incorporations, gave the proposed city even higher marks than its local proponents did in an earlier feasibility study.

According to the LAFCO study, the City of Solana Beach would have more than $2 million in the bank, earning interest, within two years of incorporation. That money--surplus and reserves--would be excess income, even after expenditures for police service, road repairs and more extensive beach maintenance.

Part of the surplus would be the result of the county’s policy to give new cities a “free ride” by continuing to finance most county services for a year after incorporation, even though a new city receives part of the tax income earmarked for those services.

Even without this running start, the future city will be financially sound, the LAFCO report states. The 3-square-mile seacoast community just north of Del Mar has 14,000 residents.

LAFCO executive Jane Merrill has recommended incorporation for the San Dieguito-area community, and LAFCO commissioners are expected to approve the proposal. A public hearing is set for Nov. 18 at Earl Warren Junior High School.

The issue is a sure bet for the June 3 ballot, but the outcome is not so certain. The last time an incorporation attempt was mounted--in 1981--an “11th-hour blitz” of negative “propaganda” tilted the scales by a few hundred votes, Moore said, and incorporation lost.


Citizens Intending to Incorporate (CITI), led by Moore and Gail Paparian, isn’t going to be fooled this time by the ease of this round’s 15-month drive for cityhood, Moore told a boosters’ meeting Thursday. Instead, the group is gathering a war chest to blunt any last-minute efforts to keep the community under county rule.

Moore labeled the unseen and still-silent enemy “outsiders” with economic interests in Solana Beach. Opposition to the last incorporation effort came mainly from real estate agents and developers concerned about community leaders’ stated goals of controlling growth by gaining control over land use.

Four years have brought a lot of changes. Most vacant land has been carpeted with housing and businesses, leaving little for the pro-growth, no-growth forces to feud over. Holmwood Canyon, a proposed 38-home development on the edge of San Elijo Lagoon, and a proposed 171-unit hotel complex on a point of land overlooking the lagoon are the only two Solana Beach projects now being considered by county planning bodies and the Board of Supervisors, the groups that now control Solana Beach development.

In Holmwood Canyon, the county is planning to use state loans and grants to purchase the land and include it in the adjacent San Elijo Regional Park. A public hearing on the plan is scheduled Tuesday before the county board. On Friday, the county Planning Commission will hear an appeal by opponents of construction of the three-story hotel along Old Highway 101 at the northern edge of the community.

Although neither issue featured prominently in the newest drive for cityhood, Solana Beach old-timers point to both as examples of what is wrong with being unincorporated. Residents and members of the Solana Beach Town Council must travel to Kearny Mesa or downtown San Diego to voice their opinions on developments planned for their neighborhoods. Often their opinions are not enough to sway county officials, who do not live near enough to be affected by a development.

“I know that if we had incorporated (in the 1981 vote), there are a lot of things in town that would have been done differently,” Moore said.


This most recent incorporation drive was “born of frustration with the lack of responsiveness of county government,” Moore said. “We need a local, not an inaccessible, long-distance government.”