Cafe Vacanza opens at Discovery Center

Cafe Vacanza continues the movement toward green energy in Carlsbad


Hanna Seemann

A barista at the new Cafe Vacanza brews a cup of coffee for excited customers. Vacanza is located off of Cannon Road by the Discovery Center.

The Discovery Center in Carlsbad hosts events to raise awareness for the environment and encourage protection of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. But while visiting the Center allowed a greater understanding of lagoon life, there was no easy place to get food. Lisa Rodman, Executive Director of Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation, discovered the solution: install a cafe.

“We have school programs here, and I would watch the parents that chaperone here go off and come back with a tray full of Starbucks and a little bag,” Lisa Rodman said. “I asked a couple people who had coffee places in downtown Carlsbad to see if anyone would want a neat satellite cafe, but nobody liked the idea.”

After appealing to the coffee houses in Carlsbad, Rodman turned to Foundation members.

“In the quarterly newsletter, they sent out an ad, which said they were interested in starting a gourmet coffee cart–were any members interested in participating in a partnership,” Robin Gattinella said. “I have worked in the restaurant business and different customer services, and I put all those skills together for the cafe.”

While the cafe works as a convenient place for visitors to get a coffee and treat, it also is an example of green energy–visitors to the Center can see the electric carport, which acts as a roof and powers the cafe. Thanks to the collaboration of the Foundation, San Diego Gas and Electric and Peder Norby, Chair of San Diego County Planning Commission, Cafe Vacanza is able to push further green energy use.

“Julie and I are longtime residents of Carlsbad, and we live near the lagoon,” Norby said. “We are net 0 energy, electric car drivers; our goal is to help this organization achieve the same thing and reduce their emissions. They asked me to be their energy coordinator, and we have been working on incremental improvements. This will get us more than half-way to energy neutral, and we will continue our efforts in the upcoming months.”

Another contributor to the carport component of the cafe is San Diego Gas and Electric. The Sustainable communities program finds projects to support–in this case, solar panels. Started in 2004, SPC has overseen 40 completed projects, including municipal buildings, schools, non-profit centers and commercial buildings. Since last year, SDGE has worked on the solar canopy for the cafe.

“It has been a really cool project,” Chris Nanson of SDGE said. “We have been able to work with the cafe to give it a little bit of a protection from the environment, outside seating, so when it is sunny out, this will be a great place to stop grab a bite to eat and have a coffee.  Robins been great working with, and we are happy to be able to incorporate something to help in this area.”

Part of the green energy movement involves teaching students the value of green energy.

“I go out into the elementary schools and try and promote our educational field trips we have for 3rd and 4th grade,” Lisa Rimbach, Educational Outreach Coordinator said. “It was always a plan for Agua Hedionda to have solar panels because we are going to use them as a teaching tool for the kids. Even though it houses the coffee cart, we will be using the carport to teach the students how to use solar panels.”