By Claire Harlin
If Del Mar residents somehow failed to catch wind of the city’s proposed revitalization plan — a 250-page development blueprint called the Village Specific Plan (VSP) that’s been in the works for years — they’ll likely hear about it now.
Only two days after the council gave final approval of the VSP, sending it to the Nov. 6 ballot as Proposition J, organized campaigns emerged on both sides of the debate. But this division of the community, which opponent Hershell Price fears could be “hard to put back together,” didn’t completely start with the VSP that is currently on the table.
In 2009, the city made a revitalization attempt with the formation of the Ad Hoc Form Based Code Committee, which sought to rezone property by property, creating a master plan that would take into account factors such as view protection, noise and traffic — a change from traditional zoning that just focuses on building elements like height, floor-area ratio and setback. The committee’s four members spent well over a year collecting data on every property in Del Mar before the city decided to change direction and start drafting a VSP.
But those committee members — Howard Gad, Nancy Sanquist, Kelly Kaplan and Al Corti — kept working on revitalization as vocal residents whose unyielding dedication showed through their participation in workshops and feedback at council meetings. Now, they’ve created the FOR Del Mar’s Future campaign, which consists of about seven paid staff members and seven volunteers and is steered by the consulting services of Tom Shepard & Associates. Shepard, a Del Mar resident, was also successful in his direction on two other major local projects: Garden Del Mar and the Del Mar Plaza.
Kaplan said her work on the Form Based Code Committee not only led to her fully-informed support of the VSP, but also made her realize that Del Mar is in critical need to develop — and develop as soon as possible.
In a Sept. 12 kick-off event for the campaign, proponents said one of the main focuses will be to combat misinformation about the VSP and present the facts. FOR Del Mar’s Future campaigners will be mailing brochures, going door-to-door talking to residents and putting signs in windows.
“People have to be informed to support something,” said Kaplan. “It’s easier to say ‘no’ than to say ‘yes,’ and we are the ones with the uphill battle.”
Meanwhile, the Save Olde Del Mar Committee has come forth, and it’s headed in part by Dave Druker, who was on the City Council for eight years and left his seat as mayor in 2008, just before the form-based code approach was set in motion.
“As I was leaving the council, I warned the council about the over-development of Del Mar,” said Druker, who at that time only wanted to create a specific plan for the City Hall site, not the entire commercial zone. The Save Olde Del Mar Committee has nine members on it, and that includes five former mayors. They plan to put up yard signs and talk to neighbors, but are trying to raise money that will allow more mobilization.