Evaluating city’s design review process selected as a top priority for Del Mar City Council

In preparation of the budget workshop May 11-12, the Del Mar City Council reviewed its top-priority projects for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 fiscal years during the May 4 council meeting.

At the top of the council’s list is evaluating the city’s design review process. The process is intended to preserve and protect Del Mar’s community character.

Community members expressed their dissatisfaction with the city’s development and design review process in a citizen satisfaction survey conducted Nov. 20 through Jan. 12. When the council engaged advisory committees in its Feb. 3 council priorities workshop, committee members also listed evaluating the design review process among their goals. Members of the public again expressed concerns with the design review process and residential construction when the council discussed its priorities at the April 20 meeting.

After recently meeting with concerned community members, Deputy Mayor Sherryl Parks and Councilman Terry Sinnott proposed establishing a citizen task force to go over the city’s design review ordinance, as well as planning procedures to ensure that new homes comply with the community plan.

“We fast-tracked this,” Parks said. “We’ve really heard you, and we’ve really worked hard to quickly get this on the agenda, put it at the top of the focus for us. We’re going to do our best to have it work.”

With a packed agenda, the council briefly touched on its priority list at the meeting, but heard public comments and discussed the design review process for about an hour.

During that time, 13 community members addressed the council, all in favor of the proposed task force. Several others submitted slips in favor, but chose not to speak.

“There’s something in the process that’s not working right, and we’d like the city to fix it,” said Tim Haviland, who was later appointed to the Design Review Board by the council in a separate agenda item. He replaces Scott Crouch, whose term ended April 1.

“And when I say the city,” he said, “it really has to be a citizens-driven program.”

Concerned about the size and scale of new homes in Del Mar, resident Anne Ferrell also asked for the community to be more involved in the process.

“I think the community needs a stronger voice,” Ferrell said. “I think this is a hugely important project for all of us, and for our children and grandchildren. Del Mar is changing very fast, and I’m scared what it might be if we don’t do something about it.”

“Small is beautiful ... Del Mar is different,” said resident Bud Emerson.

“What’s really good about what you’re hearing is, people are up in arms,” he added. “People care. They’re taking ownership of our town.”

Because the item was not placed on the agenda and was only included as part of the council’s discussion on priorities, council members could not move forward with establishing a committee during the meeting. Since it is a top priority, City Manager Scott Huth said it would be placed on the council’s May 18 agenda.

“I think this is a very worthwhile cause,” Sinnott said. “The DRO has been in place for many, many years. The DRB process has contributed greatly to the quality of our community. It’s appropriate and timely, I think, to take a look at it.”