Del Mar workshop focuses on revitalization

By Claire Harlin

editor@delmartimes.net

Wider sidewalks, two-lane roundabouts and an increased height limit were among ideas that garnered overwhelming support at a Del Mar Village revitalization workshop held on Oct. 20.

The purpose of the event, which more than 80 people attended, was to get suggestions and answer questions about revitalization, which will extend six blocks along Camino del Mar from Ninth to 15th Streets. Planning and Community Development Director Kathleen Garza also staffed an outreach booth at the Del Mar Taste and Art Stroll event on Oct. 2, and Del Mar City officials are calling for more continued public input. The revitalization plan is scheduled to be completed by the end of next summer and go to public vote in November 2012.

Four council members were present at the workshop and community members sat at circular tables, each headed by a Del Mar staff member. Garza opened the workshop by explaining the process and goals of revitalization, and led attendees through a number of topics, including traffic lanes, parking, sidewalks, floor area ratio and building height.

“This isn’t the end all,” she said. “This is just be beginning.”

Garza said city staff has “taken great pains” to stay consistent with the Del Mar Community Plan that was written in 1976, which outlined maintenance of Village character, commercial-residential mixed use of space and alternative transportation options, among other themes.

She pointed out that 49 percent of leased space in downtown Del Mar belongs to offices, 16 percent to retail, 13 percent to restaurants and one percent to housing. The city is seeking input on how to add housing, which city planner Matt Bator said could include units that aren’t large and high-end, and cater to students or part-time residents.

Councilman Terry Sinnott said city staff wants to keep with the “smart growth concept,” which concentrates growth in compact, walkable, urban centers to avoid sprawl, decrease use of cars and advocate bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly use of space.

Planners and city staff have pointed to both Encinitas and Bird Rock as good examples of revitalization — Encinitas for its parking, traffic and walkability, and Bird Rock for its successful implementation of roundabouts.

In regard to parking, Bator said planners are trying to cater not only to short-term drivers, patrons who quickly visit shops, but also to long-term drivers like employees of local businesses. City planners are working toward making parking more regular and continuous. There are currently a number of types of parking spots, including diagonal, parallel and town-and-country, which means half of the space is on public property and half is on private property. Some businesses allow parking in their front yard, which some say congests sidewalks.

Parking was a more contentious issue presented at the workshop, but was not discussed in detail because a parking study is underway by Del Mar’s Environmental Impact Report consultant. Options include use of permits, increased diagonal parking, on-street meters and incentives for private properties that provide parking.

Three options for traffic on Camino del Mar were presented, the most popular being a reduction from four to two lanes, with the addition of roundabouts. Other options include maintaining the current four-lane structure, or keeping two northbound lanes with a reduction to one lane going southbound.

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