Council approves temporary location for Del Mar City Hall


As plans for the city’s new civic center complex move forward, so do plans for a temporary home for city hall.

The Del Mar City Council on July 20 voted 4-0 in favor of a staff proposal to temporarily relocate city hall to modular buildings in the lower parking lot of Del Mar Shores Park. Councilman Don Mosier was absent from the vote.

“When you look at all we’ve been doing and what are our options, this has the least impact on the community,” said Councilman Terry Sinnott.

Del Mar’s facilities at 1050 Camino del Mar will be demolished in early 2016, with the new city hall and town hall under construction in mid-2016. City administrative offices and council chambers will be temporarily relocated during that time for approximately 30 months.

In April, the city issued a request for proposals to secure temporary facilities in Del Mar. The city did not receive any proposals for existing office space, but received two proposals for modular buildings that meet the required square footage. With limited land available in Del Mar, city staff recommended modular buildings be placed in the lower parking lot at Shores Park.

“We believe that the use of the Shores location is not inconsistent with any prior council actions regarding the Shores Park,” said Assistant City Manager Mark Delin. “We believe that it’s consistent with the city’s policy of making the best possible use of the property and it will not impair the use of the Shores Park for any purpose.”

Some community members, however, disagreed with the city.

In a letter to the city, several homeowners of Stratford Pines objected to the relocation of city hall to Shores Park. The letter cited a variety of impacts to the residential neighborhood and suggested other alternatives.

Robert Hajek, a local attorney and author of the letter, questioned whether other options were fully explored.

“I’m not saying that a reasonable job wasn’t done, but there’s no backup in the community to determine that,” Hajek said before the council’s vote. “No one knows what’s really gone on here tonight. To approve this, I think, would be fundamentally wrong.”

City staff determined that the Shores Park lower parking lot is the most appropriate site for the interim use because it offers a conveniently accessible, centralized location with the lowest installation costs. The temporary buildings would be located directly on top of the site formerly occupied by the Del Mar Union School District maintenance building that the city had demolished and removed two years ago. Therefore, the buildings would take advantage of the existing in-ground plumbing facilities to reduce costs.

Because of the small footprint available at the Shores property, staff specified a minimal 4,000-square-foot administrative office space and an additional 2,000-square-foot space that would serve as council chambers, Del Mar TV facilities and public meeting space.

Some storage may need to take place off-site.

The site will also provide for more than the minimum parking requirements as specified in the city code, which requires one parking space for each 300 square feet of office and one parking space for each five seats of public seating space in a public assembly area.

Delin explained that the Public Works Yard at 2240 Jimmy Durante Blvd. was ruled out as an option because of its floodway zoning and additional environmental, permitting and building requirements. The privately owned Garden Del Mar property is also not available, he said.

Del Mar purchased the Shores 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. With the site’s master plan process underway, the city aims to create a long-range plan that will guide the development of the 5.3-acre park, which is bounded by Camino del Mar, Ninth Street and Stratford Court.

Temporary use of the Shores property “will not impede the Shores Park master plan process,” according to an email announcement from the city of Del Mar.

“The Shores Park master plan process will continue as planned,” the statement reads. “The park master plan is expected to be completed by winter 2016. Since no funds are budgeted for construction of the park, the next step in development of the park will be figuring out how to pay for the park to be built.

“Prior to construction of the park, more detailed design work must be completed, including preparation of construction documents. That process will take time. The timing to be ready for construction of the park is expected to coincide well with the completion of the newly constructed city hall.”

City staff is working closely with the Winston School, a private school that leases a portion of the property.

In support of the relocation plan, Mike Peterson, headmaster of the Winston School, said the school would continue to work with city staff to address concerns such as student safety, traffic and parking. He added that the school’s auditorium would also be available for council meetings.

“I think it will be cozy, but I think if we work together and continue to solve problems, we should be able to come up with a plan that works,” Peterson said.

The relocation of city hall to Shores Park is subject to full compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act and issuance of required permits.

The council also approved up to $450,000 for the relocation. The funds will cover the costs of the 30-month lease, installation, furniture, equipment and utility hook-ups.