2015 in Del Mar: A year in review

Del Mar may be the county’s smallest city, but it was one of the busiest in 2015. Here’s a look back on the community’s top 15 stories of this year.

Del Mar Lifeguards celebrate 50 years

March 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the Del Mar Lifeguard Department. When Del Mar was incorporated on July 15, 1959, the city contracted its lifeguard services from San Diego County. In 1965, the city ceased the county contract to form its own department. A little more than 50 years later, current and former lifeguards marked the department’s milestone with a party organized by the Friends of the Powerhouse on June 27 at Powerhouse Community Center.

Compromise saves nearly half of San Dieguito River boardwalk

After negotiations with the California Coastal Commission, supporters of the popular boardwalk that runs along the San Dieguito River were able to save a portion of it. The San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority Board of Directors voted 7-0 on April 8 to accept a compromise with the Coastal Commission, keeping a little less than half the structure in place.

In a 5-5 vote, Coastal Commission on March 11 denied the JPA’s request to allow the boardwalk to remain in its location next to the river on the south side of the Del Mar Fairgrounds. In an effort to save it, elected officials and community members gathered March 21 to protest the Coastal Commission’s decision. More than 200 people from Del Mar, Solana Beach and surrounding communities participated in the rally and hiked the 1,200-foot-long boardwalk.

Council creates advisory committee on Del Mar design review process

The Del Mar City Council established a nine-member committee in May to address concerns raised by some in the community that a number of recent residential construction projects have had an adverse impact on the city’s character. The ad-hoc development review process citizens’ advisory committee’s role is to identify concerns related to the community impacts of new and remodeled homes. Committee members must also identify the goal to be achieved in potentially modifying regulations and recommend solutions, including possible amendments to the municipal code and development review procedures.

The committee recently held four workshops to gather input from stakeholders in the community, including the Design Review Board, applicants or neighbors who have gone through the process, applicants’ representatives — architects, engineers, contractors and land use planners — and, finally, the general public. City staff also provided input throughout the process. The committee is expected to report back to the council quarterly, with the first report on its initial recommendations early 2016.

Council Oks plans to extend River Path Del Mar

The council on June 1 unanimously moved forward with plans to extend River Path Del Mar, a stretch of land between San Dieguito Drive and the San Dieguito Lagoon. Council members adopted a mitigation program and approved a conditional use permit for the project, linking River Path Del Mar with the Lagoon Viewpoint at the Old Grand Avenue Bridge. River Path Del Mar is part of the San Dieguito segment of Del Mar’s scenic loop trail, a seven-mile hiking trail around the city’s perimeter that is divided into seven key sections. It provides pedestrian access along the river’s south edge between the river mouth and Jimmy Durante Boulevard.

Community celebrates completion of Del Mar’s Jimmy Durante Boulevard Streetscape Project

City officials and community members commemorated the completion of the Jimmy Durante Boulevard Streetscape Project with a ribbon-cutting ceremony July 9 at the Del Mar Plaza. Street, sidewalk and drainage improvements along a southeast portion of Jimmy Durante began in mid-February. The project included the construction of about 2,500 feet of new curbs and gutters, 16,000 square feet of sidewalks, five retaining walls, 2,500 feet of utility pipeline replacement, and 87,300 square feet of pavement rehabilitation. The ceremony marked the completion of the second segment of the more than $4 million citywide street, sidewalk and drainage project, which is being implemented in phases.

Del Mar welcomes Special Olympics athletes

The 2015 Special Olympics World Games took place in Los Angeles, but San Diego welcomed athletes from around the world in the days leading up to the weeklong sporting event. As part of the San Diego North County Host Town, the cities of Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas hosted Special Olympics athletes from Ghana, Swaziland and Thailand from July 22-24.

Del Mar dissolves Tourism Business Improvement District

The council opted not to renew the city’s Tourism Business Improvement District in September, deciding to instead promote downtown through transient occupancy tax. The district, which was formed in 2010, allowed hotel operators to charge guests a 1 percent fee that was collected with the transient occupancy tax and used to attract more visitors to the city. With the council’s vote, the assessment was abolished and the transient occupancy tax was increased by 1 percent for marketing efforts, creating a funding level similar to the district model. An 18-month initial agreement was established with Del Mar Village Association to facilitate marketing of the city’s hotels and other commercial entities, which will evolve to a fiscal year agreement after 2017 to coincide with the city’s budgeting cycle.

City welcomes new Sheriff’s captain

John Maryon was appointed captain of San Diego County Sheriff’s North Coastal Station in October. As the new captain, Maryon oversees law enforcement in Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas and unincorporated county areas such as Rancho Santa Fe. Maryon has worked in law enforcement for nearly 23 years and previously served as the Sheriff’s Department homicide lieutenant. He replaced Theresa Adams-Hydar, who is handling internal operations within the Sheriff’s Department.

Community shares ideas for Shores Park

With the site’s master plan process underway, Del Mar residents have had multiple opportunities to provide input on Del Mar Shores Park. Workshops were held in May and October. The landscape architect firm working on the project, Schmidt Design Group, also received feedback from interest group interviews, informational pop-up booths, an online survey and an online information-gathering tool called MindMixer.

The city purchased the property from the Del Mar Union School District for $8.5 million in 2008, in an effort to preserve open space and recreational uses, continue the operation of The Winston School, and initiate a master plan process. The long-range plan will guide the development of the 5.3-acre park, which is bounded by Camino del Mar, Ninth Street and Stratford Court.

Schmidt Design Group is developing three preliminary design concepts to present to the council on Jan. 19, 2016.

Council approves civic center design

Following months of input from council and community members, the council on Nov. 2 unanimously approved the architectural design for Del Mar’s new civic center, which will feature a 3,200-square-foot town hall for community gatherings and government meetings on the site of the city’s facilities at 1050 Camino del Mar. Plans also include a 9,250-square-foot city hall for administrative services, a 15,000-square-foot outdoor public plaza for community activities, and 160 spaces for parking in both a two-level underground parking garage and a surface parking lot. The final environmental impact report has been prepared for the project. The council will conduct a hearing on Jan. 4, 2016 to consider certification of the report.

Council considers short-term rental regulations

The council on Nov. 16 discussed a draft ordinance that would regulate short-term vacation rentals. The city’s zoning code does not define or list short-term rentals as an allowed use, yet another section of the code allows residents to rent rooms in their homes for undefined periods of time. To clarify and update those rules, the council in August directed staff to draft an ordinance that would deal with the increasing number of short-term rentals in the community, which has prompted some residents to call for restrictions. City staff is currently revising the proposal.

Council appoints Sherryl Parks as city’s new mayor

In a unanimous vote, the council on Dec. 7 appointed Sherryl Parks as the city’s new mayor and Councilman Terry Sinnott as deputy mayor. Having served as deputy mayor throughout the last year, Parks replaced outgoing Mayor Al Corti. A Del Mar resident since 1974, Parks was elected to the council in 2012. This is her first term as mayor, a position that rotates annually among council members.

Council considers plastic bag ban

The council on Dec. 7 directed staff to draft an ordinance that would ban single-use plastic bags from restaurants and retailers across the city. The city’s Sustainability Advisory Board brought the issue before the council in an effort to enact a citywide ban, which board members said would conserve resources, reduce litter and pollution, and protect wildlife. Solana Beach became the first city in the county to ban plastic bags in 2012. Encinitas adopted a similar ban two years later.

Draft environmental report on San Dieguito intersection improvements now available

A draft environmental impact report concluded that installing a roundabout at the intersection of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and San Dieguito Drive is “environmentally superior” compared to other improvement alternatives. The traffic-calming device was originally included in a citywide sidewalk capital improvement project. After community concerns about the necessity of a roundabout and impacts on traffic, however, the council pulled the proposed roundabout from the overall project at the start of the year and opted to pursue it as a separate project, complete with its own environmental review. The draft report, which was released Dec. 1, is available for a 45-day public comment period. Comments must be submitted in writing via email, mail or hand delivered to city hall.

City releases draft climate action plan

In preparation for a presentation to the council on Jan. 19, the city posted its draft climate action plan online in December. The plan proposes a 15 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and a 50 percent reduction by 2035. City staff has worked with the city’s Sustainability Advisory Board since early 2014 to update Del Mar’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory, determine greenhouse gas reduction targets, identify mitigation measures and strategies, draft the plan and prepare an implementation plan. A community workshop on the draft plan and greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals was held in September and city staff previewed the project during the Dec. 7 council meeting.