Residents cite impaired views, narrow sidewalks
The four sidewalk cafes along 15th Street are not all finished, but residents are already calling for their removal, outraged by the cafes' brick walls and heat lamps impairing views to Seagrove Park and the ocean, and narrowing the sidewalk.
"Please give back our downtown," resident Victoria Bradshaw said. "Tear down the frigging fortresses."
Bradshaw was one of 14 residents who spoke to the City Council on June 8 in opposition to the sidewalk cafes as they've been built.
Many residents also expressed dismay the sidewalk cafes were not required to go before the Design Review Board under the new rules the council approved last August.
The sidewalk cafe ordinance streamlined the review and permitting process to encourage property and business owners to build welcoming outdoor seating areas as part of revitalizing downtown Del Mar, said Mayor Crystal Crawford.
"The outdoor cafe dining and pedestrian experience that we all envisioned was not realized," said former mayor Brooke Eisenberg-Pike. "You made a huge mistake."
In response to citizen's concerns, the council agreed to hold a public hearing about the sidewalk cafes on Monday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m., as part of the Shores Property meeting, which was moved up to begin at 5:30 p.m.
"They're asking the same questions, have the same kind of concerns I and other council members have expressed," Crawford said.
The city is already investigating options to widen the sidewalk in front of Del Mar Pizza, Crawford said. While the sidewalk meets the specifications of the engineering plans, it does not feel very wide, she said.
"If I had to do it all over again, it would have been nice to have a marker on the sidewalk to give us more information how this was exactly going to fit," Crawford said.
However, some things are unavoidable to create the outdoor dining areas, including the new level patios, Crawford said. The steep slope of 15th Street makes it impossible to simply put out tables, chairs and planter boxes as some residents suggested, Crawford said.
Also, restaurant owners have to make the cafes accessible for wheelchairs. Crawford said the owners are helping the city comply with the Americans with Disability Act by paying for the sidewalk construction.
Crawford said she was hopeful the council, working with staff and the community, could find solutions to address the residents' concerns.