New short-term projects would impact Del Mar’s two-year work plan

With several major projects already underway, Del Mar council members quickly realized they couldn’t add many new short-term projects without eliminating some from their two-year work plan during the Feb. 3 council priorities workshop.

“This is a very full work plan,” said Councilman Don Mosier. “If anything is going to be added to this two-year priority list, something has to come off. Even with expanded staff and budget, we’re still going to run out of manpower, womanpower and money.”

The city has already started most of the council’s 20 top-priority projects on its two-year work plan. Short-term objectives include planning a new city hall and creating a master plan for Del Mar Shores Park.

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 three public workshops, issued a citywide survey, and most recently, launched an online poll. The city is also on track to have a master plan for the 5.3-acre park by early 2016. In October, the council hired a consultant to produce the plan.

Other major projects in process include the city’s sidewalk, street and drainage improvements, construction of a wastewater pipeline to Solana Beach, construction of the River Path Del Mar extension, a comprehensive parking plan, and an assessment of public safety costs and options, among several others.

“We have a lot on our plate,” said Mayor Al Corti.

With a mid-year financial report scheduled in March and budget workshops set for May, the council held a three-hour public workshop to discuss its top goals for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 fiscal years. Although only a handful of people attended, City Manager Scott Huth said staff would summarize the council and community’s comments before returning to council in March for further discussion.

“There is still an opportunity to weigh in on what you heard tonight,” said Corti to audience members and viewers at home. “You can weigh in with your council, staff or come to the next meeting. The decisions haven’t been made as to what the priorities are.”

Council members agreed that city hall and Shores planning remain high on their priority list. They agreed a comprehensive parking plan is also needed. In January, staff unveiled a draft plan to help alleviate parking problems in the downtown commercial area.

“I emphasize these because I know that they take a lot of work,” Corti said. “When I see a schedule, I want to stay focused and get them done.”

Council members also agreed to continue to look at ways to improve public safety. In January, the Finance Committee recommended establishing a small police force to supplement the efforts by the Sheriff’s Department, and the council agreed to “cautiously explore” the idea.

Other priorities include maintaining the streets, as well as implementing the housing element and building affordable units.

“Affordable housing is an investment of time, effort, money, heart,” said Deputy Mayor Sherryl Parks. “We need to make sure that we get some outcomes and spend some money, if we have to.”

Although council members acknowledged the full work plan, the council still discussed a number of new short-term, mid-term and long-term goals.

Among their suggestions, Councilman Dwight Worden wanted to look at ways to better communicate with and engage the public, from informing community members on what the city is doing, to recruiting more residents to volunteer on committees or run for council. Councilman Terry Sinnott suggested evaluating Dog Beach and considering the feasibility of undergrounding utilities. Mosier said the city should decide whether or not horses are allowed on the beaches before the Coast to Crest Trail is completed.

Instead of adding new priorities to the council’s list, Parks said her goal is to preserve the city’s resources, including the costly sewer system. The Powerhouse Community Center should be painted when needed and the restrooms need to be better maintained, she said.

“Preserving what we’ve already built is what I look at mostly,” she said.

This year, at Corti’s suggestion, the council engaged the advisory committees in the process, inviting the committees to also submit their list of short-term, mid-term and long-term goals. Ideas included ideas completing a Climate Action Plan, developing a public art policy and evaluating the city’s design review process.

Because so many ideas were positively received, the council asked staff to let them know when they and committee members could help accomplish items on the priority list.

Mosier said he, other council members and committee members could work on evaluating the city’s design review process, to help alleviate staff workload.

“I’m very reluctant to load anymore work on our planning staff because they’re overworked now,” said Mosier, who noted city staff dedicates time to residential projects, as well as development projects such as the potential projects at the Garden Del Mar and Watermark properties. These projects are in addition to the city’s major projects, including the city hall and Shores master planning projects.

“I think we have to be flexible with our timing or augment staffing,” Mosier said. “That’s a lot of stuff to deal with in the next couple years.”


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