Del Mar discusses impacts of downtown revitalization

By Claire Harlin

editor@delmartimes.net

Mitigating the effects of outdoor dining that would be welcomed with Del Mar’s proposed revitalization concept was one of several topics to cross the table April 2 at the city’s first formal discussion dedicated the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) of the Village Specific Plan.

The EIR is meant to examine a number of alternatives and potential impacts — such as noise, traffic and aesthetics — of the revitalization plan, which aims to steer city development and land use toward a more pedestrian-friendly, vibrant downtown Del Mar. The plan includes features such as two-lane traffic with roundabouts, increased building height and expanded sidewalks with more outdoor dining. The public comment period for the EIR runs through May 4, and input from community members can be emailed to planning@delmar.ca.us.

In the case of outdoor dining, City Manager Scott Huth pointed to the possibility of restaurant activity causing noise issues at night — a concern shared by some residents at the workshop. He said city officials have looked into a “special-use or conditional-use permit that would restrict restaurant activity at night, knowing that noise in residential areas drops off significantly at night.”

“We need to put measures in place as part of the process instead of dealing with them later,” Huth said, adding that reducing business operation times could be a solution to mitigate noise impact.

The EIR examined noise caused by traffic, however, it did not take into account noise caused by people, one resident pointed out. Del Mar City Councilman Mark Filanc said noise impact needs to be examined from an engineering standpoint, and city consultant Bobbi Herdes agreed that is an additional calculation that can be made.

“Let’s say you add another three or four more restaurants,” Filanc said. “Is that going to add more noise to nearby residents? I don’t think from an engineering standpoint it will, but it needs to be examined.”

Resident Bill Michalsky said businesses must be closed instead of open-air.

Herdes, who collaborated on the EIR under Recon Environmental Inc., presented findings of the report, which for the most part favored the Village Specific Plan. In fact, it concluded that sticking to the status quo in Del Mar would actually produce negative impacts.

The “do-nothing impact,” she said, would have a negative impact primarily because the infrastructure wouldn’t be able to deal with excess traffic volumes, which is estimated to reach more than 25,000 vehicles a day. Keeping four lanes in the downtown area would only be able to support 15,500 cars per day, whereas decreasing the street to two lanes with roundabouts would support 25,000 cars per day. Adding signals to the current four lanes would support 30,000 vehicles, however, that would not provide the space to expand sidewalks.

Herdes brought up the issue of cultural resources and historical preservation, adding that consultants are working with the city to formulate a measure that would require historical evaluation for buildings more than 45 years old. There are two historic properties in Del Mar — the Del Mar Library and Stratford Square — that would be protected under the current historic preservation ordinance.

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