Solana Center actively looking for new home
Solana Center for Environmental Education, an Encinitas nonprofit known for recycling and hosting sustainable workshops, is actively looking to relocate.
The nonprofit occupies part of a 10.4-acre parcel owned by the county. In late 2013, the county stated it would like to sell or lease the plot in the not-too-distant future.
Jessica Toth, executive director of Solana Center, said the county’s announcement initially caught her off guard. She was worried that Solana Center could be uprooted with little notice.
But more than a year later, Toth has a different perspective on the matter. She said given Solana Center’s ambitious goals, the county’s plans are “a good thing that kicked us into gear.”
“We’re limited in a lot of ways by our current space,” Toth said. “That’s why we want to be proactive and find a spot that can accommodate us for the next 25 years and beyond.”
Solana Center’s ideal spot would be 1 to 2 acres, allowing more space for workshops and other educational features. Currently, the nonprofit hosts demonstrations so that residents can learn everything from composting to rain harvesting.
Extra space, if in the cards, would also let Solana Center add infrastructure to divert more waste. The nonprofit estimates it keeps 1.3 million pounds of organic waste away from the landfill annually. And it wants to increase that number with a greater focus on diverting food scraps.
Toth said properly disposing of food scraps — composting and distributing them on farmland, for example — conserves valuable soil nutrients, saves landfill space and reduces greenhouse gases.
Roberta Walker, the nonprofit’s communications coordinator, said Solana Center pioneered the first comprehensive curbside recycling program in the county more than three decades ago. Likewise, the nonprofit wants to take the lead on county food scrap recycling, she said.
Another reason Solana Center wants to move: Its old leaky building is in need of repairs. If the new spot allows for it, the nonprofit wants to construct a new facility with sustainable materials and techniques.
Besides public workshops, Solana Center contracts with the county, cities and school districts for educational classes and other services. According to Solana Center, its outreach efforts touch 10,000 people annually.
So far, Solana Center has spoken with a few possible landlords about a new lease, but talks are early. One challenge: The new spot’s zoning would likely have to be public/semi-public to accommodate the group’s mission, Toth said.
Toth said Solana Center, which has been in Encinitas for 25 years, would like to stay in the city. However, the nonprofit is casting a wider net to include surrounding North County areas so it has more options.
She noted the county hasn’t stated when it might sell or lease the land. The county’s Department of General Services, which handles real estate deals, did not respond to a request to comment from the Encinitas Advocate regarding future plans for the property.
Solana Center’s 10-year lease with the county expired last March. Last spring, the nonprofit and county inked a new five-year lease, with a clause letting the county cancel the lease with three months’ notice. The contract also gives Solana Center the option to get out of the lease with a month’s notice.
Toth hopes Solana Center can find a new home soon, adding the nonprofit is taking suggestions from the community.
“I would hope the community recognizes the importance of our role over the years and wants to help,” she said.
Those with potential leads for new locations can contact email@example.com. Solana Center is located at 137 N. El Camino Real, just east of the Encinitas Sheriff’s substation.
To find more information about the center, visit www.solanacenter.org.