By Joe Tash
In a bid to help struggling businesses in Del Mar’s downtown village area, the Del Mar City Council on Monday, May 6, voted to establish a new advisory committee to come up with ideas to make the city more business friendly.
The idea of a committee that would look for ways to eliminate red tape and make it easier for businesses to locate in Del Mar or upgrade their facilities was proposed last month by Mayor Terry Sinnott and Councilman Al Corti.
The council voted unanimously, with members Sherryl Parks and Don Mosier absent, to approve the formation of an 11-member committee that would be composed of representatives of different types of businesses and property owners.
The new committee’s mission, also approved by the council, will be to discuss and provide advice to the City Council on the challenges facing Del Mar Businesses. In particular, the committee will focus on city processes and regulations with the goal of making the city as business-friendly as possible.
A staff report said the intention is not for the new committee to duplicate efforts of the Del Mar Village Association (DMVA), which focuses on marketing, promotion, events and economic improvement.
“This is to complement the DMVA and what’s already taking place,” said Sinnott.
A number of merchants and business supporters Monday urged the council to move forward with the committee, contending that downtown businesses need the city’s help.
“There needs to be a sense of urgency… we’re at the brink,” said Daniel Schreiber, manager and co-owner of the Rendezvous restaurant.
“Things are not fine,” said former Del Mar Mayor Richard Earnest. “Somehow we need to break the cycle.”
Jen Grove, executive director of the DMVA, said, “This is a time for us to work together. We need to stay strong and steady behind our business community.”
In a memo last month, Sinnott and Corti noted that Del Mar faces a range of current and future competition, from the recently renovated Flower Hill mall, to plans for the One Paseo mixed-use development in Carmel Valley. Larger economic issues also make it tough for downtown businesses to thrive, the memo said.
According to statistics contained in the memo, in 2003, sales tax represented 24 percent of city revenues, which dropped to 18.7 percent in 2012. By 2045, the memo projected, sales tax will make up just 7.6 percent of city revenue. Sales tax revenue was projected to decline slightly this year, to just under $1.5 million.
The city’s rules and regulations may be part of the problem, the memo said. “We get strong feedback that Del Mar does not support downtown businesses.”
The committee, as proposed, would include two restaurant owners, two retail business owners, two hotel owners or operators, one office or medical business, two property owners, one Del Mar Plaza representative and one DMVA member.
The city will advertise for applicants to serve on the new committee, and then the council will select its members. Two council members will be appointed as liaisons to the committee.
Councilwoman Lee Haydu suggested that the composition of the panel could be changed to add an additional representative of retail businesses.