Deputy Mayor Lesa Heebner is helping people stop, sit, and shop in Solana Beach, CA

Solana Beach, CASolana Beach, CA’s Cedros Avenue Design District. Photo via the Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Solana Beach, CA, is not your average beach town. By combining smart street design and placemaking strategies, the city is creating economic growth and drawing residents and visitors downtown.

“A sense of community really comes from the people, but can be promoted by the place. That’s why we are trying to create vibrant places in our downtown,” says Lesa Heebner, the Deputy Mayor of Solana Beach and a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council. Solana Beach is the second smallest city in the region, but that does not mean it lacks flavor. “We’re aiming to create quality locations that serve our residents and attract visitors,” Heebner adds.

Solana Beach has two main commercial areas — Cedros Avenue and Highway 101. Cedros Avenue has been drawing residents and visitors for years, and South Cedros Avenue, a former industrial site, was one of the first areas in the city to be redeveloped through a public-private partnership. The area is now walkable and bikeable, with narrowed streets and angled parking, providing a walking destination for residents and visitors alike.

A short walk from Cedros Avenue, over one of three pedestrian bridges, is Highway 101, where the city recently completed a major revitalization project. Along with new bike lanes and wider sidewalks, the city created 11 distinct gathering places for residents to enjoy. These gathering places feature unique touches such as public-use bike tools, a recycling fountain, art installations, and tile work depicting the constellation in the sky the night the town was founded. These destinations create a sense of community for residents and give visitors a reason to explore. The project has also been a catalyst for economic growth, encouraging drivers passing through town to slow down and visit the many shops, restaurants, and gathering places along the corridor.

One of the City’s next big projects is a new placemaking effort on North Cedros Avenue. The iconic train station and surrounding area will be redeveloped into a mixed use project, complete with underground parking and other placemaking features designed to encourage public use.

Solana Beach residents have a clear vision for their future, and Heebner and the City Council want to make it happen. “We want to see more sidewalk cafes, more places where people can walk to get their groceries instead of driving, and we want to see kids on bikes and walking to school more often,” says Heebner.

These and other placemaking projects have greatly improved the quality of life in Solana Beach. Says Heebner, “We have more amenities for residents, retail sales tax revenues have increased and we’re seeing economic growth. But, I think mostly whats so great about the work we’ve been doing in Solana Beach is that it has created a really cool place to go.”

Local Leaders Council