A healthy downtown business area attracts people, and makes Del Mar a more desirable place to live and work. Business prosperity results in an increase in property values, which benefits our residents. It also helps the City pay for the basic services we expect as residents of Del Mar.
But our downtown businesses are not prospering. Approximately 45 percent of the Plaza is vacant.
The Flavor restaurant has closed. Our sales tax revenues, which indicate the amount of business being conducted in the City, have not been increasing, and are flat over the last 10 years.
The amount of competition from surrounding shopping areas has increased dramatically, with the renovation of the Del Mar Highlands and Flower Hill malls. Our restaurants have not expanded or invested in new facilities. Feedback from some business owners is that the City’s permitting and regulation processes contribute to the perception that Del Mar is not a good location to operate a business or restaurant.
Yet, our City Council has taken steps in the past to encourage downtown revitalization. We have supported the Del Mar Village Association and the efforts to follow the Main Street improvement model. We have initiated the Tourism Business Improvement District that promotes our local hotels. The City has permitted outdoor dining or sidewalk dining, which has helped improve restaurant business. We have proposed the Village Specific Plan, which would have altered downtown development standards to encourage investment and improvements in the downtown. However, the Village Specific Plan was not approved by the voters.
Although these efforts have been made to stimulate economic health in the downtown, it remains difficult to open a business in Del Mar and survive. That is due largely to economics. But how we implement our regulations also plays a role. And the perception is that Del Mar does not support downtown businesses.