Del Mar residents provide input on city hall plans, draft environmental report

Del Mar City Hall
(Kristina Houck)

With an understanding of what the community wants, Del Mar City Council members instructed the design team to draw up plans for a civic center the city needs.

“We’re getting a lot of good input and we’ve got great people working on this project,” Councilman Don Mosier said during a Sept. 28 public workshop on the latest phase of the project. “Let them design it, come back and see what they present to us.”

The city brought The Miller Hull Partnership on board in April, and since then, the architectural firm has worked closely with the community, from the initial concept to the current design of the project.

Del Mar residents had an opportunity to discuss the project’s latest designs and draft environmental impact report during the recent workshop. Following presentations by the city’s consultants, workshop attendees were divided into three groups, rotating every 20 minutes or so to discuss architectural design plans, landscape design plans and the draft EIR report.

Located on the site of the city’s facilities at 1050 Camino del Mar, the proposed project includes a 9,250-square-foot city hall for administrative services, a 3,200-square-foot town hall for community gatherings and government meetings, a 15,000-square-foot public plaza for a variety of outdoor uses, and up to 160 spaces for parking.

The plan also features a roughly 6,000-square-foot public overlook in the northwest corner of the lot and a roughly 3,000-square-foot public space in the southwest corner.

If all goes according to schedule, Del Mar’s facilities 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 to modular buildings in the lower parking lot of Del Mar Shores Park.

From walls to windows, workshop attendees provided input on the latest project design plans.

Project architects presented the most up-to-date plans, a month after hearing concerns from community members about the project’s direction during a Design Review Board meeting.

In an effort to design something that aligns with Del Mar’s community character, the design team drew inspiration from the city’s “natural textures” and other buildings in the community, said Mike Jobes, principal with The Miller Hull Partnership.

The latest plans included features such as an anchor wall in town hall. The wall, which Jobes said would serve as a backdrop to council members and presenters, was favorably received by the public.

The type of roof for the buildings, however, was the single-most discussed topic, Jobes said.

In an attempt to maintain views and maximize functionality, the design team proposed a tipped roof that would run parallel to the upslope views of the Pacific Ocean. But many attendees disliked the idea and favored a gable roof, or steeply pitched roof, like those found in a number of downtown buildings such as L’Auberge Del Mar.

After further discussion, residents seemed to settle on a hip roof for town hall, a type of roof where all sides slope downwards to the walls, usually with a fairly gentle slope.

“I learned that showing some in-progress sketches wasn’t maybe such a great approach,” Jobes said at the end of the workshop. “A lot of the design elements that we’re imagining and we’re working on right now weren’t depicted well.”

Attendees also looked at the landscape design plans for the project.

“We had pretty good consensus about a number of things between the three groups,” said Andrew Spurlock of landscape architecture firm Spurlock Poirier. He noted that attendees focused on plaza uses, materials and trees.

There was a general consensus that the weekly Del Mar Farmers Market should take place on the lower surface parking lot, rather than on the plaza. However, people said that the material that makes up the lot should be easy to clean and that the lot should be divided from nearby residents.

Those affiliated with the market expressed concerns about visibility and said that some aspect of the market should take place on the plaza. Market operators also requested access to the lower lot from 10th Street.

Some expressed interest in bringing the Alvarado House to the expansion area south of the parking lot.

As for the plaza, Spurlock said attendees were divided on features but shared “the desire to have something that is an attractive use or a comfortable use so it brings people to the plaza.” Possible features included a fire pit, water feature and plantings. Most agreed that plantings and seating should be placed along the outside of the plaza, Spurlock said, while plantings and furniture inside the plaza should be movable to keep the space flexible.

Spurlock said there was strong opinion that there should be at least one Torrey pine on the site. There should also be smaller-scale trees along the edge of the plaza for shade.

Finally, attendees also provided input on the draft environmental impact report for the project, which is now available for review.

As part of the required California Environmental Quality Act review, the city’s consulting firm RECON Environmental, prepared the report.

According to the environmental analysis, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, land use, traffic agriculture and forestry resources, biological resources, hazards and hazardous materials, mineral resources, geology and soils, hydrology and water quality, population and housing, public services, recreation, and utilities and service systems, would not be significantly affected by the project.

The report, however, found a few areas that could be significantly affected and require mitigation. These include the cultural resources of the project site and temporary relocation site, including improvements to the driveway at the Shores property.

Other effects that require mitigation include noise from construction and operation at both sites, as well as aesthetics, including landscaping, building features, and light and glare.

Finally, the report also found that the impacts to the aesthetics of the project site — with construction of the building pad in the northeastern part of the property on the civic plaza — would be significant and unmitigable.

RECON also considered project alternatives that would lessen or avoid impacts. These include no redevelopment or new development of the existing properties. A reduced project alternative suggested removing the parking spaces along the western perimeter in the surface parking lot, as well as no expansion of the building pad.

As for the temporary site, the report suggested holding public hearings at Powerhouse Community Center or the Winston School. Temporary facilities could also be placed on the upper Shores Park property. The city could also temporarily house its administrative offices at commercial properties.

“The community really did have a good sense of what the environmental impact was about,” said Bobbi Herdes of RECON, adding that community members discussed relocation site alternatives, construction impacts and potential mitigation measures, such as installing a noise barrier early in the process.

Released Sept. 11, the report will be available for a 45-day public comment period. It is available on the city’s website at www.delmar.ca.us/cityhall. Copies are also available to review at city hall and the Del Mar Library.

Comments must be submitted in writing to the city by 5 p.m. Oct. 26 to 1050 Camino del Mar or emailed to cityhallceqa@delmar.ca.us.

Del Mar initiated the city hall planning process in June 2013. Since then, the council has discussed the project at dozens of council meetings, held four public workshops, issued a citywide survey and launched an online poll.

“We are moving in to finalizing the design, if we can, and trying to perfect it,” said Mayor Al Corti. “It’s been a year and a half of hearing a lot of public comments. It’s moved to this point, and I think the architects, the landscape consultants and the other professionals need to hear our input and give it their best shot.

“I didn’t expect to be wowed, but I think the next time I do. We’re at that point.”

Thus far, Corti said much of the focus and comments have been on the city hall building, when the town hall was promised to be the “iconic building.”

Mosier agreed, adding that city hall is intended to serve as a functional office space for city employees.

“I think there’s been a lot of emphasis on design features that are more importantly applied to (town hall) than to city hall,” he said. “I want this to be a modern building that functions well for our employees, to be naturally ventilated, to be very energy efficient. When you start talking about full Craftsman style, with small windows and hip roofs, you lose all those opportunities.”

Noting the city’s budget and height limitations, Mosier acknowledged that the design team is “working under a lot of constraints.”

“I trust the design team,” he said. “I think they really listen to the community well — that’s why we chose them. I think they’re fulfilling that promise. But I think some of the expectations are both unrealistic in terms of the function of that building and unrealistic in terms of architectural compatibility with the rest of the community.

“We’ve got a good team, but we need to work with that team. In this kind of project, nobody gets everything they want, but everybody gets something they want.”


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