Del Mar's venture into the sidewalk cafe world has a bug in the mix that should be a lesson to neighboring communities - one that the City Council members got an earful about this week.
The idea behind allowing the cafes to reach outside their walls was a good one that would foster new business and create a European feel along the street. Yet trying to accommodate the sloping streets, state regulations and disability requirements has created an undesired effect: block walls in the way of pedestrian flow and views. (Maybe they should be called blocking walls?)
Yes, state law requires a separation between pedestrians and areas where food and alcohol are served. But what the city calls "demarcation barriers" in its permit application have become total barriers. Why, when a railing or plexiglass is accepted in Solana Beach or Encinitas, does Del Mar have to approve block walls? Had the design review committee been involved in the process, would such a structure have been OK'd?
And do the kind of walls that have gone up really "preserve the visual character" that city officials said they wanted when they approved the ordinance a year ago?
We don't think so.
But we do applaud the council for listening to residents' concerns and setting a hearing for Monday to try to find a solution. Perhaps the council should take a field trip to communities where railings are sufficient barriers.
While it's not likely that it will change what's already been built, maybe it will find a way to avoid any more damage to the character of the village.