I discovered Solana Beach because of a pig — well, two pigs, actually — Sporky and Frances Bacon.
Frances (name variation because she was female) lived on the middle Barbara in Solana Beach. Before I met Frances, I didn’t know that there are three Barbara Avenues in this town and that none of them connect.
Frances Bacon belonged to Linnea Dayton and her family. Sporky was my pig.
We (the pigs, Linnea, and I) went on a walk back in 1989 that started at North Rios, wound east through the San Elijo Lagoon Preserve, and eventually headed south, up through Holmwood Canyon. It was so beautiful, this piece of undeveloped land. We walked by a bench with a plaque thanking Gemma Parks for saving Holmwood Canyon from developers. I thank her every time I walk past.
When we went on this hike, Linnea and I were hoping we could pigsit for each other. I met Linnea because I wrote a how-to article for a computer graphics publication she edited. Eight years later, I ended up moving to Solana Beach, coincidentally within a block of her house (and perhaps more importantly, within walking distance of the Belly Up Tavern).
Twenty-five years ago, Linnea, along with Linda La Grange and Bobbie Hilton, started the alternative class that has become the Global Education program at the Skyline public school in Solana Beach. My seven- and ten-year-old children attend this program and have since kindergarten. I even ran for the school board (and lost) because I feel so beholden to these teachers. It is a breath of fresh air for people with inquisitive children — kids who want to participate in their own education and not have it force-fed to them. And for parents who want to participate as well. My daughter learned her geometric solids in kindergarten. At the same time, she learned about the domestication of wheat and the rise of Egypt, and the domestication of corn and the rise of the Aztecs — cultures that share the pyramid as a focal point. Bobbie and Linda still teach at the school. My children live within blocks of their teachers. We regularly stop by their houses to say hi. That kind of stability, of localness, is very rare in growing urban communities. This is exactly why I moved here six years ago, after living ten years in La Costa (a community that’s being raped by Carlsbad).
I always used to say that no house in Solana Beach is completely up to code. That endears me to a city. But with the recent gentrification driven by high housing prices, I’ve had to stop. Admittedly, Solana Beach is a town with a schism. Besides the wealthy influx, there’s the artistic community (some members have lived in Solana Beach for over 20 years), who helped install the big, voluptuous woman named Star (created by the late Niki de Saint Phalle and on loan for only a while longer) on the corner of Lomas Santa Fe and Cedros Avenue.
There’s the developer posse, which can be seen throwing its weight around with the Gateway Hotel (and muchos condos!), which is being foisted upon the Solana Beach public. The developer is having private meetings with important locals to try to subdue the community. (If it were so good for the community, why would the meetings be private?)
But what makes Solana Beach interesting for me is not only the Hispanic history, which infuses the area with words of Spanish origin: Rios, Cedros, and Granados (rivers, cedars, and pomegranate trees), but that the town, because of these roots, has adopted the feeling of a zócalo — where people walk just to walk and to talk to friends and neighbors, and they don’t rush to get anywhere in particular.
I moved here because the town has a beautiful view and was unpretentious. I worry about it becoming more affected as it goes upscale, but Linnea assures me a pig could still go on a walk in Solana Beach these days.