With opening day penciled in at less than two months away, the finer points of day-to-day operations and special events at Del Mar’s new city hall and civic center are taking shape.
A slight—but to neighbors, significant—tweak to the traffic-circulation plan for the 1.5-acre complex between 10th and 11th Streets took center stage at the city council’s March 19 meeting, after which council members chiseled away at rules regulating small and large events.
Two years ago, city officials negotiated a careful compromise with neighbors surrounding the complex, inking a deal on traffic to and from the underground parking garage that would allow ingress only from 10th Street while the 11th Street side would allow ingress and right-turn egress.
As opening day neared, officials wanted to allow vehicles to exit the garage onto 10th Street but limited to left-hand turns to prevent traffic from spilling onto residential streets west and south of the complex. An environmental review found no significant impacts from the proposed change, but some neighbors grew concerned when the city started considering the change a few months ago.
Joseph Weiss, who lives on 10th Street, opposed the change—but if it was approved, he asked the council to ask the city’s Traffic and Parking Advisory Committee (TPAC) to consider installing a four-way stop at the intersection of 10th Street and Stratford Court, since neither 10th nor 11th streets were designed to hold commercial-level amounts of traffic.
And Julie Maxey-Allison, who also lives on 10th Street, has lobbied city officials at length about what she says are the “many” and “interconnected” dangers of allowing full-time ingress and egress on 10th Street. She urged the council to hold off on a decision and join her in looking at how problematic the intersection of Camino del Mar and 10th Street already is.
“You can now not make a right turn without peeling out. You cannot see to the left,” she said.
Ira Sharp, former TPAC chairman, was one of three community leaders who spoke in support of the traffic change, saying it will create a better vehicular flow while still honoring the 2016 agreement with neighbors.
“I’m looking at it overall for the benefit of the community, not necessarily for the benefit of the people on 10th or 11th street,” he told the council. “All the studies have been done … . There’s been no change in the circumstances and there’s no reason to disturb the decision that you’ve previously made.”
The council agreed in a 3-0 vote, with Councilman Terry Sinnott absent and Councilman Dave Druker having to recuse himself because he lives within 500 feet of the site.
Mayor Dwight Worden said he walked the site and saw nothing of concern in any of the traffic studies. He reminded neighbors that egress onto 10th Street will be limited to left turns only, and that the new traffic plan matches the circulation pattern for the 40 years of the old city hall.
“I wish we could make everybody happy but we can’t,” he said. “But to those of you on 10th street who may go home less than happy, we will monitor this and if there is a problem we will address it.”
Construction of the city hall and civic center is set to wrap up by the end of April, followed a month later by the logistical feat of relocating equipment and operations—but without interrupting city services—over Memorial Day Weekend so that the new city hall is open for business on May 29.
The council’s March 19 discussion honed in on the terms of a one-year transition plan for operations and events once the complex opens.
So far, the rules include the following:
All events must end by 10 p.m. Private social events such as weddings will not be allowed, nor will events thrown by for-profit entities. Town hall will be available only for official city business and eight community groups: the Del Mar Foundation, Del Mar Community Connections, Del Mar Friends of the Library, Del Mar Friends of the Powerhouse, the Del Mar Village Association, the Del Mar Historical Society, the Del Mar Garden Club and Friends of Del Mar Parks.
Other civic groups will be considered after the first year.
Activities that exceed 25 attendees will require a special event permit. Events expected to draw more than 250 people—the town hall’s maximum interior capacity—will have to get approval directly from the city council. During its first year, the complex will host a maximum of four events of 250 or more attendees, not including the farmers market or official city business.
No full-capacity events will occur before the complex’s June 30 dedication ceremony. After that, the next large event is not expected until October, when Del Mar Community Connections throws its annual gala.
City staff are still figuring out more details, such as WiFi access, helping residents use audio-visual equipment, and whether to keep the garage open 24 hours.
“This set of rules is a good start, but it’s going to have to be a living document. Problems are going to come up that we didn’t anticipate or things are going to be a problem we thought wouldn’t be a problem,” Worden said. “… But you have to start somewhere.”
One thing that is certain is that a time capsule will be buried in the civic center’s featured planter—which holds a Monterey cypress—to await opening in 2059 on Del Mar’s 100th anniversary.
The council also agreed to put the city seal on the city hall’s dedication plaque, but was split 2-2 on whether to engrave it with the following quote:
“Dedicated to the citizens of Del Mar, past present and future. May this be a place of good civic decision-making and a hub for community life.”
After a few minutes of back-and-forth, the council decided not to include the quote on the city hall plaque and instead wait for Sinnott’s return in order to vote on including it on a separate plaque that will honor the many donors who helped make the civic center possible.