San Diego County supervisors on Wednesday denied a request from officers-elect of the future coastal city of Solana Beach to stop issuing building and grading permits in their area for two weeks.
The newly elected city council members said they were worried that between the June 3 vote that incorporated Solana Beach as a city and July 1, when local control begins, developers would rush permits through in the final days of the county's rule.
Solana Beach residents said they saw the county's denial as a final slap in the face from a board that they say has not adequately controlled commercial development.
"It's very disappointing," said Richard Hendlin, a Solana Beach councilman-elect. "Obviously the callous attitude of the board toward Solana Beach has continued."
The board vote Wednesday was 3-1 against the moratorium, with Supervisor Susan Golding, who represents the community on the board, dissenting. Paul Eckert was absent.
Solana Beach residents requested the permit freeze last week after they perceived a rush on permits.
"We want to take a look at the projects as a new city," said mayor-elect Margaret Schlesinger. "That's the whole point of local control."
One particular project, the Inn Suites hotel on Pacific Avenue, has troubled local residents.
"It's something the community will be stuck with for most of its residents' lifetimes," said Celine Olson, a Solana Beach councilwoman-elect. Residents say the Inn Suites project will ruin the ocean view, threaten a nearby lagoon and encroach illegally on a state- and federally-controlled bike path.
"We're not in favor of putting a long-term moratorium on everything," Olson said. "If we had more cooperation from the county earlier, a moratorium would not be necessary."
The Inn Suites builders received a grading permit Monday and have been leveling the site this week.
According to a county planning official, there is no extraordinary push for permits and only seven commercial projects are awaiting building permits.
"Nothing has really changed, and a lot of people are afraid that we are providing expedited service or slowed-down service," said Randy Hurlburt, deputy director of the planning department. "We are doing neither. We intend to provide normal service."
County supervisors said they were unwilling to freeze permits because they said such a move would undo past decisions.
"What we would basically be saying if we approve this is that what we had done in the past was wrong and that we want to stop," Supervisor George Bailey said. "I don't want to make that suggestion about what's in the pipeline. We have absolutely no choice."
Legal questions also weighed heavily against the Solana Beach request. Recognizing an immediate public threat, and ordering a comprehensive study to remedy it, would be the only way to justify a permit moratorium, said County Counsel Lloyd Harmon Jr.
County supervisors were reluctant to order a study on land that will shift to local control in two weeks. Supervisor Leon Williams said the county should not risk being sued by developers for an improper permit freeze.
"It puts this board in a questionable situation to go against the recommendation of county counsel," Golding said. But she eventually voted with Solana Beach as a statement of sympathy with the new city officers. "I brought it forward . . . because it came from the five officials from Solana Beach," she said.
Solana Beach's Hendlin said the county could face a lawsuit from the new city if permits granted this month are granted without considering Solana Beach growth concerns. He said a June 13 letter from the state requesting that progress stop on the 50-foot stretch of bike path on the Inn Suites site had been ignored.
Williams, after a parade of speakers began trying supervisors' patience, jokingly suggested his own solution. "You could always talk until the first of July," he said.