By Richard Earnest
Mayor, Del Mar
On June 14 the City Council was presented with the ideas and recommendations of the nine- member Ad Hoc Form Based Code Committee. This diverse group of Del Mar residents has been hard at work for the past 14 months on how to revitalize Del Mar's village. The council heard from a variety of other community members that had concerns about many of the Ad Hoc Committee's recommendations. The one concept that both groups supported was the need to revitalize the Del Mar village. So, the question is "What does revitalization mean and how do we do it?"
To the committee, revitalization meant new investment in the village that had not seen anything substantial built since the 1980s. They identified the impediments to revitalization centered around Del Mar's Floor Area Ratio (FAR) requirements that were too restrictive when compared to what exists in successful commercial areas, such as Solana Beach, Coronado, Encinitas or La Jolla. Add parking requirements that are not in line with today's need to develop comprehensive and centralized solutions for compact commercial areas and the lack of a continuous pedestrian sidewalk throughout the village which discourages a walkable shopping experience. Finally, inconsistent architecture that does not create a village edge adds to the atmosphere of an underutilized shopping and restaurant district.
The Ad Hoc Committee sees the road to revitalization as a zoning implementation program that will encourage the private and public sector to invest in creating a pedestrian friendly commercial village that reflects the goals of the original Community Plan. Their ideas call for allowing expanded residential uses on the second floor, additional building opportunities for the development of new retail businesses between 15th and 8th Street and a new parking management strategy.
At the council meeting, other community members offered support for revitalization but wanted a public vote on any zoning solution, Design Review Board involvement with any new development review process and questioned whether a zoning code that dictated building forms over uses, (Form Based Code) was the right approach to create commercial revitalization. They also expressed concern over a reduction in parking standards or change in traffic circulation and its impact on the surrounding residential neighborhoods.
The good news is that there is consensus that the village needs revitalization. We have been presented with at least one clear alternative that has been created by the Ad Hoc Committee. Now it's time to see if there are other solutions that can achieve revitalization of the village. Over the next six months, the council and city staff will reach out to all of the community to see what you think of the Ad Hoc Committee's approach and listen to your other ideas and solutions.