Del Mar Council approves Citizens’ Participation Program for city hall project

As planning for Del Mar’s long-awaited city hall moves forward in 2015, so do opportunities for community members to get involved in the process.

The City Council on Jan. 5 approved a Citizens’ Participation Program so Del Mar can receive input from the public during the planning process. This is the latest effort by the city to encourage community involvement in the project.

Del Mar initiated the city hall planning process in June 2013. Since then, the council has discussed the project at about two dozen council meetings, issued a citywide survey and held three public workshops. Del Mar voters will also soon get to choose their preferred city hall alternative to replace the deteriorating facilities at 1050 Camino del Mar.

“We’re trying to, as a council, receive as much input as we possibly can,” said Councilman Terry Sinnott. “The philosophy is good, and it uses a proven spirit of what we normally do.”

The Citizens’ Participation Program includes giving notice to nearby residents, property owners and the general public of the start of the design process, hosting at least two design workshops before the initial Design Review Board review, and hosting a third meeting after the board’s initial review but before the board’s permit hearing, among other outreach efforts.

City staff must also provide a written response to any concern raised within 14 days after each workshop. Responses will be sent to all meeting attendees, posted on the city’s website and included in the Citizens’ Participation Program report, which staff will prepare before the Design Review Board’s initial workshop.

With the council’s unanimous vote, council members also approved a Design Review Board process. That will include at least two meetings, the board’s initial workshop and permit hearing.

“We’re still in what we called, originally, the ‘master planning process,’” said City Manager Scott Huth. “We’re hopefully trying to get out of that master planning process through feedback from the community on core issues that are important to the city and community.”

Although the council approved a program that expands community participation, council members opted to put off establishing an ad-hoc advisory committee to oversee the project.

Councilman Don Mosier said he didn’t like the idea of an ad-hoc committee “filtering input.” He pointed to how such committees for previous projects, such as Garden Del Mar, added “another layer of management” and slowed down the process.

“I want to have a process that gives a lot of community input, but also gives the design team the freedom to be innovative and come up with solutions that we can afford and (that) serve our needs,” Mosier said. “I think the more layers you put on top of that, the less innovation you’re going to get.”

Agreeing with the sentiment, Sinnott said the council could revisit the idea of an advisory committee later, particularly if Huth believed one was needed.