Council gets look at early concepts for Del Mar Shores Park

The City Council recently got its first look at what Del Mar Shores Park could look like after a master plan is completed for the site.

Schmidt Design Group, the design consultants hired to produce the plan, presented three “bubble diagrams” during the Jan. 19 council meeting, in an effort to confirm the early concepts align with the community’s vision for the park. The long-range plan will guide the development of the 5.3-acre city-owned park, which is bounded by Camino del Mar, Ninth Street and Stratford Court.

Schmidt Design Group’s presentation on the project’s progress kicked off the final phase of the three-part master plan process.

The first phase, called the “discover” phase, began in fall 2014 to learn how people want to use the park. Input was gathered from interest group interviews, informational pop-up booths, an online survey, an online information-gathering tool called MindMixer, and the first Plan Your Park workshop in May 2015. Combined, these helped the consultants identify seven guiding principles and a list of potential park amenities.

The second “imagine” phase looked at the character and style of amenities, as well as layout ideas for the park. Community members again shared their thoughts during a second workshop in October.

Now in the final “create” phase, the group crafted three initial concepts for the park using the public’s input.

All three concepts include the top amenities identified in the first phase of the master plan process. These include a fully accessible park for visitors with disabilities, open turf for flexible play, an off-leash grassy area for dogs, gardens and landscaping, indoor meeting and recreational community space, picnic areas, fitness stations, walking paths, a restroom, benches, trash and recycling receptacles and parking. They also feature educational plant tags and signage, overlooks and “signature structures” for shade.

“It would be a beautiful part of the park and a focal part for everyone,” Glen Schmidt, president of Schmidt Design Group, said about the shade structures.

Currently, there is a driveway on Stratford Court that winds through the park. The concepts propose adding a new driveway off Ninth Street.

Under Concept A, the existing 1,800-square-foot community building would be expanded with a 1,200-square-foot one-story addition and covered patio. There would be 33 parking spaces, including four accessible from Ninth Street and near the building, 14 shared spaces at The Winston School, a private school that has been on the site since 1988, and 15 spaces near the hotel that sits on city property.

There would be a natural children’s play area and a full multiuse court. A restroom would be integrated into the slope.

The southern portion of the site would be divided into flexible turf and off-leash dog space. The dog park would be approximately 175 by 130 feet and the open space would be approximately 240 by 130 feet. The existing field is about 215 by 175 feet.

A “ha-ha” fence would be installed on the slope and surrounded by vegetation to separate the spaces.

Under Concept B, the community building would have a two-story addition with 2,500 square feet and a terraced deck. There would 31 parking spaces, including nine by the building, seven by the school and 15 by the hotel.

There would be a smaller children’s play area, half-court basketball court and an informal amphitheater.

Unlike the other two concepts, Concept B features shared open space, rather than two separate spaces for flexible turf and off-leash dogs. But because the site is on a slope, the 340-foot wide space is naturally divided with a 17-foot slope, creating two terraces at 200 by 150 feet and 170 by 115 feet.

Concept C, Schmidt said, is the “most grand scheme.”

“Each of these get a little more grand as we go along,” Schmidt said.

“Think of it as a menu of things,” he added. ‘We can pick and choose as we go through this process. It will eventually be a hybrid of some of these different ideas.

Under Concept C, a below-grade parking structure would be constructed where the community building is currently located. Vehicles would enter the garage off Ninth Street. There would be 50 parking spaces, with 35 available in the structure and 15 by the hotel.

A new two-story community building would be constructed along Camino del Mar. The 3,000-square-foot building would be at street-level with a lower level accessible to the park.

There would be a children’s play garden, potential joint-use multiuse court and an informal amphitheater.

The southern portion of the site would be divided into flexible turf and off-leash dog space. The dog park would be approximately 135 by 200 feet and the turf would be approximately 160 by 150 feet. A “ha-ha” fence would separate the spaces.

“We got a ton of input from the community, and I, for one, think Glen and his group have really captured or tried to put down in a creative way the kind of things that they heard from the community,” Deputy Mayor Terry Sinnott said.

Prior to presenting to the council, the consultants unveiled their concepts before the Shores Park Committee, an advisory committee that oversees the master plan process, and officials from The Winston School.

The five committee members present at the Dec. 9 meeting unanimously agreed that all three concepts reflect what has been heard from the community so far. Mike Peterson, headmaster of The Winston School, thanked the consultants for including the school in the process.

“We’re pleased to give our vote of approval here tonight,” he said at the council meeting. “We’re anxious to help contribute to the process as it moves on and we look forward to the next phase.”

Two other residents commended Schmidt Design Group’s progress and the way the city and the group has involved the community in the process.

Joel Holliday, however, said the council should move forward with the two designs that separated the dog park and open space. And Joe Sullivan, president of Friends of Del Mar Parks, said the council needs to make decisions on whether the two spaces will be separated, the community building will be relocated and underground parking is needed.

Councilman Al Corti agreed that the council should make some of these decisions sooner rather than later.

“Until we do, I think we might be wasting time and money,” he said.

And with the state’s ongoing drought, Corti also questioned whether so much turf is needed at Shores Park.

“If there’s any place that we should put turf, usable turf, it’s in public parks,” said Schmidt, who added that he’s been involved in water conservation and landscape for 30 years. “This is the highest and best use of our resource.”

Schmidt said the city also has to provide an open grass athletic area, according to its lease with The Winston School.

Council members were not asked for project direction as the informational presentation was intended to only confirm the early concepts align with the community’s vision.

A March 13 workshop is scheduled so residents can share their thoughts on the concepts. The workshop is set for 2-4 p.m. at The Winston School’s auditorium.

“We’re just at the beginning of this process,” said Kristen Crane, assistant to the city manager. “We’ll be seeking a tremendous amount of community input on these concepts before we move forward in this stage.”

“There’s a temptation, I think, for us to try to further direct from the three concept diagrams, but my recommendation would be to hold off and allow the process to move forward and allow the community to react to these concepts so that we reaffirm what the community wants us to do,” Sinnott said.

“I want to make sure that we are not closing ideas off in what we present to the community.”