Whatever Voters Decide to Call Town's Street, It Won't Be Easy

Times Staff Writer

Like the street itself, the fight over Lomas Santa Fe Drive has split Solana Beach in half.

On one side are civic activists who promise that changing the east-west boulevard's name to Solana Beach Drive will provide the community with greater civic elan and freeway identity.

On the opposing side are homeowners and business people who say the name change, to be decided by voters June 7, is unneeded, costly and, as one put it, "just plain dumb."

Of such differences of opinion are community controversies born, and the Lomas Santa Fe Drive debate has been a doozy.

Second Name-Change Debate

For the second time in its two-year history, the new city has become distracted from the business of government by a name change. Last summer the issue was whether to change the name of Pillbox Beach to avoid any hint of a drug connection.

No sooner had Pillbox been rechristened Fletcher Cove than a move began to rename Lomas Santa Fe Drive, which stretches 2 miles from Rancho Santa Fe to Highway 101 and provides one of two Interstate 5 interchanges for Solana Beach.

In recent weeks, passions over Proposition U have become so aroused that the chairwoman of the Solana Beach Parks and Recreation Committee pleaded with both sides to refrain from politicking during the city's Cinco de Mayo celebration.

And celebration organizer Lucy Rodriguez wrote an open letter urgently requesting the antagonists to "respect our wish not to have our guests annoyed by political propaganda in the form of handouts, etceteras."

An uneasy truce allowed Cinco de Mayo to proceed without incident, but campaigning now promises to continue unabated until Election Day.

Russell Vollman, a mechanical engineer and resident of the upscale Lomas Santa Fe section of Solana Beach, east of the freeway, said a new name will be "a symbol of pride in our city and a beginning of a new era of representative government in North County."

As a practical matter, Vollman said, a change will eliminate confusion between Lomas Santa Fe Drive and Santa Fe Drive, an I-5 interchange just north in Encinitas.

"I don't think any confusion exists," retorted Archie McLerran, a retired engineer and chairman of the anti-name-change group, Citizens Advocating Responsible Decisions and Spending (CARDS). "I've never lost a friend or relative yet."

McLerran foresees more tourists being lured to the city's beaches by freeway signs with the name Solana Beach Drive.

"If you're trying to attract more transients, putting out big signs is a good way to do it," he said. "We'll have all the beach bums with their trash and garbage" heading for the city's already packed shoreline.

But A.L. Childs, a retired employee of now-defunct Solana Lumber, said Solana Beach can better establish its identity by having a main thoroughfare bearing its name.

Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas and Leucadia already have such streets within their borders. Carlsbad, which has Carlsbad Boulevard, likes the self-promoting idea so much that it is changing Elm Street to Carlsbad Village Drive.

"It always irritated me that the first (seaside) condo project was named the Del Mar Beach Club, and then came Del Mar Shores, and you look up and you see businesses everywhere in Solana Beach with the name Del Mar," Childs said. "It just irritates me. Now it's time for Solana Beach to put it all together and show we're a real community."

Further, Childs notes that the name Lomas Santa Fe Drive is relatively new. The four-lane road was built in the 1920s by pioneer Solana Beach developer Ed Fletcher--now of Fletcher Cove--as Plaza Street.

Later, much of the road that extends from the Pacific Coast Highway to the beach was rechristened Skyline Street. And, in 1972, Skyline was dropped in favor of Lomas Santa Fe Drive, as part of a deal with developer Ted Gildred, who was then beginning construction of his exclusive Lomas Santa Fe subdivision and country club.

The proposed change to Solana Beach Drive was adopted 3 to 2 by the City Council in late October. Weeks later, however, the council voted unanimously to put the issue on the ballot in the city's first-ever referendum.

A major part of the dispute has involved money: the cost to businesses (few homes front on the street) to switch their letterheads and advertising signs and the cost of putting up new freeway signs and new street signs when the change would become effective on July 1, 1989.

The anti-U faction says those changes will total more than $250,000, but that figure is derided by the pro-U side as inflated and designed as a scare tactic.

A similar difference of opinion has flared over the cost of new signs alone. Mayor Margaret Schlesinger, who favors the name change, predicted that cost would be about $25,000. But she was immediately challenged by CARDS, which noted that an earlier estimate was closer to $45,000.

"The issue has divided the entire community," said bank employee Teri Renteria, a director of the Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Childs, a resident of Solana Beach since 1945, is confident a name change will break down any feeling of superiority that residents of the Lomas Santa Fe neighborhood might feel toward their less affluent neighbors west of the freeway.

"We don't want a situation like La Jolla, where residents of La Jolla won't admit they live in San Diego," Childs said. "We don't want people in Lomas Santa Fe not to realize they live in Solana Beach, that's the wrong kind of feeling. A street that cuts through the city clear to the beach will show we're one community."

Not so, said Steve Weston, who owns Weston & Muir, a Solana Beach publishing firm specializing in microcomputer software. His business is not located on Lomas Santa Fe Drive, but he still finds Proposition U "just plain dumb."

"The argument of the proponents that this will bring us together is plainly ludicrous," Weston said. "Even since this issue was proposed, it's been nothing but divisive, and is becoming more so."

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