Posted May 26, 2017
Radiating a warmth that resonates with virtually every visitor, the cities that line our coast each have their own unique vibe that reflects the personalities and lifestyles of the people who are lucky enough to call them home.
Solana Beach Marine Safety Lieutenant
Always thinking on his feet, Jason Shook has a quick answer to the question of what makes a perfect day:“Surfing in the morning, then lunch with wife and kids at maybe Tony’s Jacal for carnitas, Masuo’s for fresh sushi, Tidewater Tavern for calamari tacos, Pillbox Tavern for chicken wings, or Chief’s for a good burger.” Then, the family would head over to dog beach for a long walk with their dog, Ziva, watch the sunset from Fletcher Cove Park, and end the evening at Belly Up for live music. Shook started visiting Solana Beach in the 1970s with family. It played into his favorite local memory of being hired by Captain Paul Dean back in 2001. At that moment, “I could just remember my dad taking my brothers, sister, and me to the beach here when I was a little kid,” he says. “That was a great feeling.” It remains a special place to Shook today. “What makes Solana Beach so special is the small-town vibe it has. It’s a very picturesque little beach town — it has more character than some of the outsized beach cities elsewhere,” he says.
Solana Beach was a natural pick for Denise Wheeler and her husband, Gabriel, after they opened Naked Café in 2002. “We wanted to live in a coastal community. We adore the beach, and of all the beach communities, it was the best fit for us — it’s laid back, family-oriented, and focused on the arts,” Wheeler says. And, things have improved ever since. The transformation of Fletcher Cove Park from a dirt lot to a beautiful community park has made it a regular stop for their family. It’s no surprise that Naked Café is their top food spot, with the “Plate of Prosperity” dish and the green tea latte her current go-to pick. Shopping along Cedros and at Leaping Lotus are favorite destinations. “It’s huge, and has clothing, jewelry, home decor, art, and most importantly, I buy all my large brim hats there,” Wheeler says. You will likely find her working out at Orange Theory, in the salon at Ubuntu, listening to music at Belly Up, or in the audience at North Coast Repertory Theatre. Her charity effort of choice is working with the development committee of Feeding San Diego.
County of San Diego
Kristin Gaspar has seen much change since moving to Encinitas when she was five years old. “I have seen it grow from an unincorporated, sleepy beach town into a city that prides itself as the ‘Flower Capital of the World,’” Gaspar says. “You can be riding a horse and 15 minutes later riding a wave at the beach. It’s unique that a town of its size with only six miles of coastline has three distinct and certified main streets: Encinitas, Cardiff, and Leucadia.” A force behind some of the changes she’s seen, the former mayor of Encinitas recalls one favorite local memory: “Walking onto the grass for the first time at the opening of Encinitas Community Park. It was a great honor as Mayor to bring this project across the finish line after a 20-year struggle.” You might see Gaspar eating at her favorites, The Crack Shack, Bentley’s, Solterra Winery and Kitchen, or The 3rd Corner Bistro. Her love for the city doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. For Gaspar, “One item of unfinished business was developing a theatre on city property in the Encinitas Ranch Town Center.”
San Diego Botanic Garden
After coming from Indianapolis 22 years ago with two cats, a box turtle, and 800 plants in tow to take over as director of the San Diego Botanic Garden (then called Quail Botanical Gardens), Encinitas has grown alongside Julian Duval and his wife. “Encinitas is a community that demonstrates an understanding of how our natural environment needs to be preserved and protected,” Duval says. The couple feels lucky to live in a 1920s home on the garden’s grounds. “We have spectacular ocean views, and after the Garden closes, we have a 37-acre beautiful garden all to ourselves,” Duval remarks. When not enjoying the scenery, the pair frequents La Especial Norte, or orders the chile relleno burrito at Juanitas. They also find TC Tandoor and sushi at Blue Fin delightful. Duval is really looking forward to the opening next year of the 7,000-square-foot Dickinson Family Education Conservatory. “The experience will be like immersing yourself in a giant terrarium full of the most exotic plants.”
Carlsbad City Manager
After 30 years of living and working in Carlsbad, Kevin Crawford doesn’t mince words about what makes the city special. “This may sound corny, but really it’s the people and the sense of community we have maintained, even as the city has grown,” Crawford says. “Community members care deeply about their city and want to be involved. No matter where you go, you are bound to run into friends and neighbors.” Smart growth is a focus. “We talk about ‘growth management’ a lot, and for good reason. [We] make sure that we retain an excellent quality of life, plenty of parks and open space, wide enough roads and other infrastructure needed to accommodate growth as it happens. We have a sustainable city with quality of life ratings in the high 90s, year-in, year-out. I think that’s pretty remarkable,” he says. When he has the time, Crawford tries to live the Carlsbad tagline, “Life in Action.” That includes walks on the beach, hiking on one of the city’s 50+ miles of trails, or squeezing in a quick run on the sea wall.
Omni La Costa Resort & Spa
Although he only has been running Omni La Costa for the last two years, Carlsbad has been on Gary Sims’ list for a long time. “I had visited Carlsbad many times over the past 20 years and I always had a desire to live here, so this opportunity was a dream come true,” Sims says. “I’m impressed with the city leadership and active citizens’ groups that have worked very hard to establish Carlsbad as a perfect blend of residential and commercial infrastructure.” Early in the day, you might see him and wife Marilyn eating breakfast at Beach Plum. And, for culture in the evening, it’s The New Village Arts Theater. “[The theater] is a hidden gem that I would encourage everyone to experience.” The resort’s new Bob’s Steak & Chop House is also a favorite venue. Sims says what makes Carlsbad special is its “perfect weather, perfect beaches, and some of the best people on the planet.” He also looks to the future. One great addition would be scheduled commercial air traffic at McClellan-Palomar Airport, benefiting “both the residential and commercial sectors.”
Photogprahy by Vincent Knakal