It’s ‘smart’ to add parking, be flexible on space, says Del Mar Mayor Corti of City Hall options

Al Corti
( / Courtesy)

With the “Voice Your Choice” poll now online, Del Mar Mayor Al Corti is sharing his thoughts on what he thinks the new city hall complex should offer the community.

Through Feb. 13, registered voters in Del Mar have an opportunity to voice their choice on the issue, ranking three options for the facilities that will replace the city hall at 1050 Camino del Mar.

While all three options feature a 9,250-square-foot city hall, 3,200-square-foot town hall and 15,000-square-foot civic plaza, only two offer additional parking and space for future development.

Although Corti didn’t specify which option is his favorite, he said he prefers the alternatives that provide more parking.

For years, Del Mar has studied ways to tackle its parking problems — problems Corti knows all too well, having served on the city’s Traffic and Parking Advisory Committee before he was elected to the City Council.

In January, staff unveiled a draft plan to help alleviate parking problems in the downtown commercial area. The plan estimates a need for about 140 additional spaces for local employees and customers, as well as a minimum of 50 “in-lieu” parking spaces, for a total of 200 spaces in the area. Del Mar has an in-lieu parking fee program, which allows developers to pay fees for off-street parking projects instead of providing the required parking on site. The city’s code requires designating a parking “reservoir” and creating parking and/or a shuttle.

“The parking issues always come up, and it has for the last 15, 20 years,” Corti said. “This is a natural opportunity to add additional parking. I think that’s a smart thing to do.”

Besides adding parking spaces, Corti favors the options that allow future development on the site.

“The property is much larger than it’s needed for the facilities, so it’s got the ability to add more stuff later on,” he explained. “A design or plan that doesn’t allow or accommodate future growth or expansion, I think, doesn’t seem like a wise decision.

“The problem is there’s costs that go with it,” he continued. “I want flexibility, and I think we can use these 100 extra parking spaces to satisfy some parking deficiencies in the community, but it comes with a cost.”

Option A features civic uses only. It includes approximately 60 surface parking lot stalls and is estimated to cost $7 million to $8 million.

Options B and C feature civic uses, plus additional parking and space for development.

Option B, which is estimated to cost $9 million to $14 million, includes approximately 160 parking stalls, 60 stalls in a surface parking lot and 100 stalls in a parking structure. It also supports about 11,000 square feet of future development area and about 100 additional parking stalls.

Option C, which is estimated to cost $12 million to $18 million, includes about 160 parking stalls in a below-grade parking structure. It also supports about 20,000 square feet of future development area and about 100 additional parking stalls.

Although Corti prefers the options that feature flexible space, he has no preference on how the site should be developed in the future.

Since Del Mar initiated the city hall planning process in June 2013, the council has discussed the project at dozens of council meetings, held three public workshops, issued a citywide survey, and most recently, launched an online poll. During that time, community members have expressed varying opinions on whether the site should include other uses, such as commercial or residential space.

“I don’t think that’s a decision that needs to be made today,” Corti said. “To me, it comes down to just moving forward with city hall and starting the design process. We’ll do what we need now and the property’s got the ability to expand later on.”

The online “Voice Your Choice” poll describe the three options and includes pop-up windows for detailed information, such as costs and features. Respondents are asked to rank each option as a first, second or third choice.

Council members, city staff and the city’s consultant, Everyone Counts, collaborated to craft the poll so that the questions were objective.

“There was a sensitivity to not trying to lean toward one or the other; we’re just giving factual information,” Corti said.

Corti, however, decided to be open about his thoughts on the city hall options because members of the public have asked him to share his opinion. In fact, while at a Del Mar coffee shop for this interview, Corti was approached by a few residents who wanted to hear his view and share their thoughts.

“If you ask for somebody’s opinion and they give it to you, you need to respond,” he said. “It’s all about communication, whether it’s in the coffee shop, at the council meetings, through the city website or the newspapers.”

Letters regarding the poll, which included a unique password, were recently mailed to registered voters in Del Mar.

A polling station with a tablet is available at city hall for those without Internet access. Paper surveys are also available.

No matter what voters choose, Corti encourages all community members to voice their choice in the poll.

“I encourage everybody to get involved, take a look at the options, read them, call the city, speak to their council people, talk to their neighbors and form an opinion,” he said. “It’s their city hall.”

The poll closes 5 p.m. Feb. 13. Results will be presented to the council at the March 2 meeting.

For information about the city hall project, visit www.delmar.ca.us/cityhall.


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