Neighbors share concerns about proposed Del Mar civic center

Now that the City Council recently approved designs for Del Mar’s new civic center, neighboring residents had an opportunity to share their concerns during a recent Citizens’ Participation Program meeting for the complex.

The CPP was established in 2010 so neighbors could learn about development proposals early in their design phase, meet with project applicants and discuss concerns before the projects go before the Design Review Board. As part of the required outreach process, the Nov. 19 meeting was intended for residents within 300 feet of the project site, but was also another opportunity for all community members to ask questions and make comments.

The proposed project would replace Del Mar’s deteriorating facilities at 1050 Camino del Mar. The complex would include a city hall and town hall with administrative offices, meeting rooms, a catering kitchen, an outdoor public plaza, view terraces, a parking structure and surface lot.

For months, architects from The Miller Hull Partnership have updated their plans based on feedback from council and community members at several meetings and workshops. The council unanimously approved the civic center design in November.

An early concept drew concerns from some residents that the project was too boxy, modern and inconsistent with the community character. When the updated designs were unveiled, many who have long been involved in the process praised the plans.

Some who live near the project site, however, still have concerns. A small group of residents shared their thoughts, from problems with access and traffic, to problems with light and privacy.

Concerned about traffic, one 11th Street resident argued that the architects have not listened to comments from neighboring community members.

“Nothing has been done,” he said. “This is really a joke.”

In response, Mike Jobes, principal with The Miller Hull Partnership, explained that his team developed their plans based on recommendations from traffic engineers. He said most of the traffic flow will come in and out on 11th Street because 10th Street is steep and only allows a right turn onto Camino del Mar.

“We have to enter the site as we do now,” he said. “This side is not a connected through street like this one is. You can’t cross Camino del Mar up here, you can only (make a) right turn out.”

Jobes noted that his team have heard similar concerns from residents who live on 10th Street.

“Nobody wants the cars coming in and out on their street,” he said. “We’ve heard that from both sides.”

Planning Director Kathy Garcia assured neighbors that their comments weren’t being ignored and that any potential impacts would be addressed in the project’s Environmental Impact Report. The EIR is expected to be released early December.

Other residents questioned why the public space is being planned with potential events in mind. The 15,000-square-foot public plaza could be used for community activities, including the weekly Farmers Market. The town hall was also expanded to include additional seating.

“I’m wondering with the city hall is trying to compete with the Plaza, L’Auberge and our own Powerhouse building and park,” one resident said. “I’m sure that building will be a wonderful city hall, but I’m having trouble understanding all the extra functions and events being planned in the neighborhood.”

Jobes explained that the site is being designed in a way that would allow for a variety of uses. In fact, the entire site was designed to provide flexibility to allow for future expansion.

“It could go on the way it does now,” Jobes said.

“The city can choose to have as few or as many functions as possible,” he added. “We just don’t want to preclude anything from happening.”

One resident noted that existing city facilities such as the Powerhouse Community Center can not accommodate large crowds.

“There are a lot of people that are looking forward to having benefit functions,” she said.

Some neighbors had concerns about lighting. Jobes said lighting would be designed for low impact.

Others were concerned about privacy, which Jobes said would be protected with a wall and plantings.

Architects presented the project to the Design Review Board the previous night on Nov. 18. Story poles, which depict the outline of the proposed project, have since gone up on the site.

The project will go before the Design Review Board for a formal hearing on Dec. 16. The council will then hold an EIR certification and entitlement hearing on Jan. 4, 2016.