Once a bustling downtown community hub, the Del Mar Plaza now faces lower revenues and attendance levels, representatives of the retail center told the Del Mar City Council Monday, March 4.
The owners of the Del Mar Plaza — Del Mar couple Patty and Marc Brutten of Brixton Capital — are looking to amend their property's specific plan to add more quasi-public spaces and enhanced signage, as well as lessen restrictions for restaurant opportunities. The center's specific plan hasn't been updated since the late 1980s when it first opened.
Patty Brutten, who purchased the Plaza with her husband for $45.5 million in early 2017, said net operating income in 2018 declined by nearly 10 percent and is expected to drop an additional 13 percent in 2019.
A slew of tenants have already left due to poor sales, and more are threatening to leave, she said.
"We're awaiting positive news and we're just not getting positive news," Patty Brutten said in a presentation to the council.
One of the owners' ideas for revitalization is opening a small market at the Plaza, located at 1555 Camino Del Mar. The center's former Harvest Ranch Market, which once attracted shoppers from all over the city, abruptly closed in January 2013.
Patty Brutten said such an opening could help the Plaza compete with nearby centers, including Del Mar Highlands, Flower Hill Promenade and One Paseo.
She also said restrictions on restaurants need to be lessened and the center’s parking master plan needs to be revisited to modernize the space and attract more businesses.
"Quasi-public" spaces with community events and outdoor cafes, similar to the sidewalk cafes in the business district, should also be allowed, she added.
She also advocated for better signage so people can be better aware of the Plaza's tenants.
Council member Sherryl Parks said she would be fine with additional signage as long as it blended in well with the rest of the community.
Adam Birnbaum, who presented with the Bruttens, also suggested the Plaza could allow a retailer that sells Cannabidiol, or CBD, products. Unlike THC, CBD does not get users high and can instead help relieve pain, according to Medical News Today.
Council member Dwight Worden noted that CBD is legal and "not psychoactive." He said he was on board with the idea.
"This is not a place where you would go and buy your stash," he said. “This would be more of a boutique pharmacy or cosmetics shop where you get your oils and creams.”
Mayor Dave Druker said CBD shops could also bring in sales tax that can “make Tiffany’s look very inexpensive.”
While the council was not tasked with voting on the matter Monday, residents and council members expressed their support for the Plaza's plans.
"We are so blessed to have a local resident come to the rescue," said resident Jim Lodkins. "... It got to the point where the Plaza could have closed."
In a December interview, Patty Brutten said the former owners, who lived in Germany, were "just letting [the property] go."
She and her husband have begun addressing repairs and maintenance issues that have gone ignored to bring the center "back up to a class AAA standard," she said in December.
That month, the Plaza welcomed two retailers, Sea Biscuit and Kim Kelly Fit. Patty Brutten said future additions are also planned for the center, including a casual sports bar-like concept on the plaza level. That restaurant, owned by local operators, is planned to open in late summer 2019.