Workshop unveils initial concepts of Del Mar’s new civic center

The Miller Hull Partnership, LLC, unveiled three initial ideas during a June 1 public workshop.
(Kristina Houck)

Community members got a glimpse of what Del Mar’s new civic center could look like during a June 1 public workshop with the design team.

The Miller Hull Partnership, LLC, unveiled three initial ideas, all of which included a 3,200-square-foot multipurpose Town Hall that allows for a range of functions, a 9,250-square-foot City Hall for administrative services, a 15,000-square-foot plaza for community activities, 11,000 to 20,000 square feet of future expandable space, and 160 parking spaces.

“We’re thrilled to be here tonight because this is the first opportunity for us to share with you some of our earliest ideas for a civic center,” said Mike Jobes, principal with The Miller Hull Partnership, at the start of the workshop. “We’re here tonight to check in with you, to see that we’re on the right track and to get your input to help us prioritize the next steps.”

The new civic center will be built on the site where the city’s current facilities sit at 1050 Camino del Mar. Nestled between the village of Del Mar and Shores Park, the site features an upper and lower terrace. It slopes up as it goes south and down as it goes west.

All three of the team’s concepts feature a 160-space parking structure with 50 surface parking spaces and a combined 110 stalls on two lower levels. The structure would sit on the middle third of the site.

“We realized that providing 160 stalls was going to be the primary driver behind what could happen with the other program elements on the site,” Jobes said in an interview before the workshop. “So we tackled the parking first.”

He explained that the parking area was the “engine underneath the hood” of all three concepts.

Concept A features the plaza on the upper terrace along Camino del Mar, with the Town Hall and City Hall connected on the lower terrace over the parking structure. The concept offers about 16,000 square feet of future expandable space.

Concept B features the plaza on the upper terrace, with the Town Hall in the southeast corner. City Hall is located on the lower terrace over the parking structure. The concept offers about 16,550 square feet of future expandable space.

Finally, Concept C features the plaza in the center of the site, with City Hall and Town Hall flanking it. Town Hall is on the northern side of the lower terrace, with City Hall on the southern side of both terraces along 10th Street. The concept offers about 13,400 square feet of future expandable space.

All the concepts feature viewing platforms with views of the Pacific Ocean.

Before creating the initial concepts, the design team met with Del Mar residents during a meet-and-greet May 4 outside City Hall. The public forum gave community members a chance to get to know the team, ask questions and make comments. Consultants from environmental firm RECON Environmental Inc. and landscape architecture firm Spurlock Poirier were also in attendance.

“Our public meet-and-greet was a great chance for us to meet face to face with a lot of you, hear a lot of your ideas, and sometimes, even more importantly, your concerns for civic center,” Jobes said.

“Seeing a community that’s this engaged is unorthodox for us,” he added in an interview. “It’s pretty encouraging, because for a public project to take in a community, it needs a lot of the community’s voice and desires to be baked into it from the beginning. Otherwise, it’s a foreign object.”

About 60 people were in attendance at the start of the two-hour event. Nearby neighbors had an opportunity to meet the design team an hour earlier.

Three major themes emerged from the event.

“First and foremost, people really want civic center to be the public heart of Del Mar,” Jobes said. “Secondly, context is a big issue. People really want civic center to fit into the context of the Village, the Camino del Mar corridor and the residential neighborhood adjacent to the property. Finally, that this project provides a lot of flexibility for the city moving forward.”

After introducing the three ideas at the June 1 workshop, the design team welcomed questions and comments during an outdoor open house. After the open house, some community members made comments before the council.

Comments were generally positive, but opinions varied on the preferred concept.

Some of the 14 speakers preferred Concept A because the plaza would be a prominent feature along Camino del Mar. Community events such as the Del Mar Farmers Market would be visible from the street. Others liked the idea of City Hall and Town Hall being connected.

“They’ve brought in the essence of what we’re trying to accomplish, that of a village square, a civic center design as a gathering place for the entire community to enjoy,” said resident and developer Jim Watkins.

“I like A for a variety of reasons,” he added. “It creates more space for more options. It creates open space. It creates a beautiful park-like setting.”

Other speakers preferred Concept B. Resident Phyllis Cardon said the layout would buffer noise from activity at the town hall. Charley and Marilyn Wheeler, who also live nearby, agreed.

“I think one of the things Del Mar does really well is that you consider the impact of what you’re doing on the neighborhood,” said Marilyn Wheeler, who thanked city staff and the design team for listening to the neighbors. “We’ve waited a long time for City Hall. It’s been talked about for years and years and years. I think all three scenarios are beautiful — of course, Charley and I are partial to Concept B.”

And others preferred Concept C. Some said it would offer the best views.

“I really liked C best because it gave the residents more ocean-westward view,” resident Robin Crabtree said. “You look at A and B, and we’re kind of cut off from the view.”

Although opinions differed on the concepts, many attendees praised the team’s parking proposal.

As Jobes explained, the parking structure scheme would allow the architects to build structures within the city’s height limit, provide a buffer for neighbors, ensure traffic circulation, meet the project’s cost and schedule requirements, and retain natural ground at the plaza.

“These all have good things about them,” said resident Jeffrey Barnouw. “I think it’s brilliant to stack the parking in the middle.”

Like the community members, council members agreed that the proposed parking structure offered a great solution and differed on which concept they preferred. Most of the council members said there were benefits and drawbacks to every concept and encouraged a hybrid layout.

“I think the architect has done a great job at presenting three very exciting ideas,” said Councilman Terry Sinnott. “And I appreciate you presenting the logic, the criteria that you used to try to solve some problems, because there are all kinds of different things we’re trying to accomplish at the same time.”

“Great work,” added Councilman Dwight Worden. “I’m very pleased with it.”

With the council and community’s feedback, the design team will revise their concepts and return with one or two ideas at the next council meeting on June 15.

In addition to the workshop, the June 1 special meeting included a scoping meeting, in preparation of a draft environmental impact report for the proposed project.

A scoping meeting is required as part of the environmental review process under the California Environmental Quality Act. The purpose of the meeting was to focus on what needed to be studied in the report, including land use, planning and visual quality; air quality and historic resources; noise and vibration; and circulation, access and parking.

The 30-day public comment period closes June 22, after which the consultant will prepare a technical analysis and draft environmental impact report. The draft will be published and circulated for a 45-day public review in September. The final report will be available in December, said Alyssa Muto of RECON.

For information about the project, visit www.delmar.ca.us/353/City-HallTown-Hall-Design.


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