By Claire Harlin
Matthew Bergman, owner of Folio Design, doesn’t live in Del Mar, but he said downtown Del Mar is like his living room — and he’s ready to see it get renovated.
“There will be immediate hardships, and the construction period is going to be a challenge,” said Bergman, comparing the city’s proposed streetscape improvements to the home interior overhauls he oversees at his Del Mar Plaza design business. “But the long-term improvements will be so much greater than that.”
The City of Del Mar is the closest it has been to implementing changes meant to reflect the community plan goals set forth in 1976, which outlined a need for a pedestrian-friendly, vibrant downtown. Revitalization is no new concept for Del Mar — parking, traffic and aesthetics have been much-discussed for years. But this month the city finally released its first draft of a Village Specific Plan, along with a corresponding Environmental Impact Report (EIR), and it’s headed for a community vote in November — but not before the community gets its say in the proposed changes, estimated to total between $4.5 and $5.5 million. The City Council will hear input on the EIR at its April 2 meeting, and there will be several opportunities for input thereafter, including question-and-answer sessions on April 4 and April 10, a full workshop on April 30 and a special business community meeting in mid-May.
Many owners of businesses along Camino Del Mar are more reluctant than Bergman, and there’s some concern that the interests of residents may not reflect the interests of business owners — many of whom will not get to vote on the Village Specific Plan if it makes it to the ballot as planned.
“If you don’t live in Del Mar, you don’t vote in Del Mar,” said Nicolo Becucci, owner of Crepes & Corks, located at 1328 Camino Del Mar. “A lot of us business owners don’t live in Del Mar and we want Del Mar to be more business-friendly, but the people who live in Del Mar don’t always like that.”
Becucci said the Del Mar City Council is good at being pro-business, but “as a whole, they are scared of bringing up new ideas because they are afraid of being shut down by the public.”
Becucci said all the ideas presented in the Village Specific Plan are good ones, however, a priority should be placed on parking.
“Adding a parking structure at Ninth Street would stretch out the entire town center,” he said. “Parking is the No. 1 complaint of customers. A parking garage would be the best money spent for tomorrow.”
Randy Gruber, owner of Americana Restaurant, located at 1454 Camino Del Mar, said he wants to see revitalization, but he’s not sold on the concept of roundabouts.
“All these other towns around us didn’t put in roundabouts,” he said, using Encinitas as an example of a city that has done a great job of enticing new business and upgrading its commercial center. “They fixed the sidewalks and the storefronts and it’s rocking over there.”