Del Mar approves permits for new civic center complex

A rendering of Del Mar’s new civic center. / Credit The Miller Hull Partnership
A rendering of Del Mar’s new civic center. / Credit The Miller Hull Partnership

After two and a half years of working with the community, the Del Mar City Council on Jan. 19 unanimously approved permits for the construction of a new civic center complex.

The $18 million project, which will be located on the site of the city’s current facilities at 1050 Camino del Mar, includes an 8,722-square-foot city hall and a 3,172-square-foot town hall that will be connected by a 956-square-foot breezeway. The town hall will be able to accommodate 150 people or as many as 250 people using the breezeway as overflow space. The project also includes a 15,000-square-foot public plaza and up to 160 parking spaces in a two-level partially below-grade structure and surface lot.

Throughout the design process architects from The Miller Hull Partnership updated their plans based on feedback from council and community members at meetings and workshops. Although an early concept drew concerns from some residents that the project was inconsistent with community character, many people who have long been involved in the process were pleased with the updated plans, which the council unanimously approved in November. Still, some residents who live near the project site continue to have concerns.

The council certified the project’s environmental impact report at the Jan. 4 meeting, but deferred a decision on the required permits after hearing concerns from nearby neighbors and receiving a petition from some residents requesting the issue be continued to a later date.

With concerns about light, noise, privacy and traffic, neighbors shared their problems with the project during recent workshops and the citizens’ participation program — a program created to gather community input on development proposals early in the design review process. They also brought their concerns before the Design Review Board on Dec. 16, when the board voted to recommend approval of the project with modifications to reduce impacts.

Most of the light, noise and privacy concerns were addressed by the addition of a 10-foot wall and landscaping. The proposed traffic circulation plan, however, continued to be controversial.

Despite the board’s recommended modifications, some residents again stressed their concerns during the Jan. 4 meeting, particularly their problems with the plan.

Current access to the site includes two entrance and exit points on 10th Street and one on 11th Street. The proposed circulation plan allows vehicles to enter the new parking structure from 10th and 11th streets but only exit with a right turn onto 11th. Additionally, an entrance and exit to and from the surface lot from 11th Street will be gated except during special events or to accommodate large vehicles. Access to the lot will be from inside the garage.

The traffic engineer recommended the plan because 10th Street has a steep slope and vehicles can only enter that roadway going south. Eleventh Street has a four-way controlled stop sign, allowing drivers safer and easier access to Camino del Mar.

Some neighbors, however, argued the ingress and egress between 10th and 11th streets should be balanced. A total of 63 residents signed a petition requesting balanced traffic flow on both streets.

To try and resolve the traffic circulation concerns, city staff and council members Al Corti and Don Mosier, who serve on the city hall project subcommittee, met with neighbors on Jan. 7. A total of 11 property owners attended the meeting.

According to a staff report, attendees agreed that exiting traffic should be redirected east toward Camino del Mar, traffic control plans should be prepared for large events when site parking is at capacity, and if there is going to be an egress onto 10th Street, it should be in a location opposite the central commercial zone.

Additionally, a member of the public suggested that the 10th Street garage driveway be widened to allow ingress and egress, rather than just ingress, and to use traffic control measures to direct exiting traffic easterly to Camino del Mar on both 10th and 11th Street garage exits. The plan stated that the gated parking lot driveway on 11th Street, as conditioned by the Design Review Board, should be maintained, but not used for special event traffic. Instead, all special event traffic should exit through the garage onto 10th or 11th streets. A majority of the people in attendance of the meeting supported the plan, according to the staff report.

After a two-week delay, the council on Jan. 19 unanimously approved the project’s permits, including design review, costal development, land conservation and tree removal permits.

Council members also approved the subcommittee’s traffic circulation plan recommendations, including the modification of the 10th Street garage driveway to allow egress for special events, with traffic control measures to direct traffic east to Camino del Mar. The council directed staff to work with consultants and study whether the the driveway should allow both ingress and egress at all times, not just during special events.

Prior to the meeting, city staff and the subcommittee also better defined how the facilities will be used.

During the planning process, many residents requested a facility that could accommodate the farmers market and community events. Some nearby neighbors, however, shared concerns surrounding how the facility will operate, specifically related to the special events that could take place at the site.

To address some of these concerns, staff presented the framework for a special event plan for the new civic center complex, which will be brought back to the council for review and approval prior to the opening of the complex. The council on Jan. 19 already approved the recommended parameters for the plan, which outlined the types of events, event size and event hours, among other requirements for special events at the new civic center.