Public to vote on Del Mar City Hall choice

Community members will once again have an opportunity to voice their choice on a new city hall, as Del Mar City Council’s top concepts will soon go to a vote.

After the third public workshop in October, the council regrouped on Nov. 17 to review the results and recommend next steps for replacing the deteriorating facilities at 1050 Camino del Mar.

More than 70 people attended the Oct. 29 workshop, where 57 percent of attendees wanted a civic center-only complex, while 40 percent preferred a mixed-use village concept.

With residents clearly divided, council members decided to further develop three alternatives and return to the public for more feedback.

“We got some input from the workshop, but I will feel better if we allow everybody to get it in their hands and look at it,” said Councilman Terry Sinnott.

With a goal to have some form of public vote, the council asked staff to further develop three concepts and return in December with costs and timelines.

The “basic” option, which has no commercial or residential uses, features a 9,250-square-foot city hall, a 3,200-square-foot town hall, a 15,000-square-foot plaza and required parking.

The second option includes the same basic municipal plan with additional parking and flexible space to allow future development. In this concept, the city hall and town hall would be constructed on half the site, while the other half would remain undeveloped.

The third option is a multi-use village concept, such as the one designed at no cost to the city by locals Jim Watkins and Kit Leeger. The concept by the father-daughter duo proposes a smaller city hall and slightly larger town hall at 8,450 square feet and 3,788 square feet, respectively, as well as 9,250 square feet of commercial space and six townhomes. In addition, the plan features a 25,000-square-foot plaza intended for the Del Mar Farmers Market and other social and cultural events.

Deputy Mayor Al Corti was the only council member who voted against the council’s recommendation, believing that the city should further develop a basic design that would accommodate phased development. A multi-use site, he noted, would trigger Measure B, a voter-approved initiative that governs large developments in the downtown area and could add a year to 18 months — or even longer — to the project.

“I’m not afraid of a public vote; I’m not afraid of Measure B or what the outcome of that would be,” Corti said. “I just think that that’s three or four years down the road before we break ground and can provide a new city hall for our employees, and I don’t think that’s right.”

His fellow council members, however, disagreed. Mayor Lee Haydu said she preferred a design that would feature the city hall and town hall on the lot’s south end, leaving the other space open for later development, but that members of the public should weigh in on their preferred plan.

“I’m happy that we have those three options,” Sinnott said. “I think those three options are all viable. Some of them have … a great deal of complications to them that will last longer, but I think it’s worth taking a formal measure of the community. … Then we can go into design knowing that we’re moving forward in a way that the community generally wants.”