Garden Del Mar continues on a tight timeline

The Del Mar City Council at a special June 30 meeting devoted more than three hours of discussion to approval aspects for the Garden Del Mar mixed-use project. The council is working under a tight timeline to include the measure on this November's ballot.

No formal action was taken on the project last week - that will come at the council's July 21 regular meeting - but the council inched toward signing off on several aspects of the project, including a specific plan, environmental impact report and exceptional public benefits (EPB), all required under Measure B, a voter-approved initiative that requires larger commercial projects in the city receive voter approval.

The clock continues to run on the project. Without a certification of the EIR and approval of the specific plan by the council on the 21st, the project could be in jeopardy of missing November's ballot.

Garden Del Mar is a mixed-use commercial development with restaurant, retail and condominium/office uses situated in five two-story structures built over a two-level subterranean parking garage located at 941 Camino del Mar - the site of what was the city's last remaining gas station. A total of 19,650 sq. ft. of building space is proposed, not including an underground garage for 106 cars. The floor area ratio (FAR) for the project is proposed at 77 percent on the submitted plans and in the associated draft specific plan. Because that figure exceeds the current 45 percent FAR allowed in the city's central commercial zone mitigation is required through benefits to the public.

The design elements for the five buildings of the project involve features such as pitched and flat roofs, trellis elements and open plaza areas including three designated for public use. Some of the design elements have been driven by the developer's desire to have the buildings achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Green (vegetated) roofs are proposed with a water recycling system to use runoff to irrigate the roofs' plantings.

The project has received an enormous amount of attention and discussion over the past two years due to Measure B and the prospect of the project stimulating revitalization in the southern section of the city's downtown. Besides previous stops at City Council, the Planning Commission and the city's Design Review Board, the Gas Station Site Steering Committee conducted some 60 public meetings. The staff report for last week's meeting came in a at a whopping 175 pages, and that did not include the environmental document or the draft specific plan, which comes in at about 150 pages.

This latest examination by the council focused mainly on traffic concerns by residents of the 10th Street area and on the proposed public benefits of the project.

From a list of over 60 possible benefits proposed (with the help of the public) by the Gas Station Steering Committee, a council subcommittee of Mayor Dave Druker and Councilman Richard Earnest has whittled them down to a handful.

"These were the most difficult to get our arms around," said Earnest. "There were a lot of things people thought were appropriate and frankly there were a lot that were appropriate. We're not ready to give you exact EPBs, but we can tell you what we're thinking."



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