Redesign of Shores Park on course for September selection

A decade since its purchase by Del Mar, two options for the overhaul of Shores Park will see public review this summer en route to selection of a final layout this fall.

The Del Mar City Council gave a unanimous go-ahead on April 16 for city planners to devise cost estimates for two designs for remaking the 5.3-acre park on 3-D renderings to help visualize the tiered hillside that plunges 50 feet toward the Pacific, and to begin a $30,000 traffic study before The Winston School lets out for the summer.

Del Mar bought the park—located on the western edge of Camino del Mar, south of 9th Street—in 2008 for $8.5 million and started a master plan process in 2014, which included the creation of the Shores Advisory Committee. Three design concepts were introduced in January 2016. At the time, city officials were not in dialogue with The Winston School. In January 2017, under new lead administrator Dena Harris, the school signed a memorandum of understanding with the city that produced three new schemes three months later. Stakeholder feedback eliminated one of those options in October.

Amenities are the same in both schemes, but vary in their arrangement.

Both feature a roughly 4,700-square-foot community building to replace the building that currently holds offices for the Del Mar Foundation and Del Mar Community Connections. Both schemes also call for an underground parking garage with 80 spots; two open-space turf areas, one of which would allow dogs; a full-size multisport court; and picnic areas, gardens, seating, overlooks, and children’s play areas.

Both plans call for The Winston School to be demolished and rebuilt. After being on hold since re-signing its lease a decade ago, school administrators were eager to see the Shores Park plan take its incremental step forward.

“These designs represent both partners together,” Harris said. “The biggest question everyone asks me is, ‘How much is it going to cost?’ For me to move forward, and I look at our lease terms, and I look at fundraising, this is really the next step for us to continue our partnership.”

The primary difference between the two schemes is placement of the community building and parking structure. Scheme A keeps the building where it is, while Scheme B moves it nearly to street level along Stratford Court. The parking garage in Scheme A sits within the footprint of the current Winston School, with the school to be built on top. Scheme B places parking in the southwest corner of the property with turf on top as part of the athletic field.

As it sits now, the field covers slightly less than 1 acre and allows intermittent dog use. Scheme A is more “organic” in arrangement, with a 0.8-acre field. Scheme B, by being more linear, allows the field to expand to 1.2 acres.

Both schemes set aside a 0.6-acre dog park, but do not yet specify whether the space will be exclusively for dogs or shared among dogs and people. That hampered the plan’s progress last year as opponents of separating dogs and people reignited the debate. Resident Betty Wheeler impugned a city-commissioned survey that claimed 70 percent of respondents preferred separate use. She pored through the individual responses and said she believes the survey firm, True North, mischaracterized their findings.

Councilman Terry Sinnott said he was satisfied that the concepts will see another round of public reaction in a few months.

“These do represent what the community is asking for, but we’ll check again this summer,” he said.

Another potential snag is the possibility that the city may have to place affordable housing on the property.

Del Mar is scheduled in June to tackle its affordable housing program, called “22 in 5” because of the need to create 22 affordable housing units in five years. State law requires cities to evaluate the viability of all city-owned properties for affordable housing. That will force city leaders at some point to decide whether to keep Shores Park as a potential housing venue.

Laura DeMarco, vice president of The Friends of Del Mar Parks, asked the council to take affordable housing off the table because she said it violates the terms of the fundraising campaigns.

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