By Richard Earnest
Mayor, Del Mar
These are unprecedented times that require strategic thinking and prudent decision-making to ensure that the city maintains a strong financial position enabling it to continue to provide a high quality standard of care to its residents. As the Mayor, I met with my colleagues, the City Council and the city manager and her executive team to map out a course of action for the next 12 to 18 months that allows for investment in our assets, works towards revitalizing our downtown by engaging our community, and focuses on protecting our environment. The meetings, two special retreats, were on Jan. 8 and 19.
The council members acknowledged that although they identified 31 important projects, they narrowed the plan down to 16 emphasis projects that rebuild infrastructure and engender economic and environmental sustainability for the city. These will virtually require all of the city's time and resources, and the other items will need to be placed on the back burner for now.
This plan includes upgrading, rehabilitating and replacing aging infrastructure including the seismic retrofit and reconstruction of the 553-foot-long North Torrey Pines Bridge while retaining the bridge's historic architecture; replacing the aging 21st Street Sewer Pump Station with a new station and a public restroom for the adjacent park, a new basketball court, and improved ADA accessibility; as well as developing a funding plan and building a new Beach Safety Center by replacing the 17th Street Lifeguard Station.
While all of these projects have been in the planning process for the past few years, the bridge and the sewer pump station are scheduled for construction before fiscal year end.
Retiring the Shores debt; continuing to work with the Del Mar Fairgrounds — the largest landholder in the city — to recover the city's costs for the services it provides; and participating in the 22nd DAA's Master plan processes to ensure Del Mar is not impacted negatively are critical items on our dashboard.
At the same time, the council is steadily moving forward with developing the means by which the city can revitalize its village while protecting its residents from unwanted consequences. We are now making improvements, between 12th and 15th Streets along Camino del Mar, to our sidewalks, curbs, medians and street surfaces which has not been done in more than a decade.
The council created a Form Based Code Ad Hoc Committee, made up of citizens, who are developing alternative visions based upon the principles of the Community Plan that focuses on building forms and view sheds in the downtown and strives to incentivize property owners in the village to invest in their properties to provide for a healthy economy for the next 20-plus years.
While all of this is being formulated, traffic, undergrounding and providing a Del Mar that is worthy of generations to come is the priority.
Over the next year, the city will make progress on its Housing Element, its Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan, the city's Fire Safety goals, and implement a Model Landscape Ordinance focused on conserving water and protecting this scarce natural resource.
The city has its financial limitations, but with the abundance of courage, talent and commitment, Del Mar will continue to be a progressive city with its small-town charm reflecting the quality of its inhabitants.