Decision will affect future downtown development

The Del Mar City Council unanimously approved moving forward with developing form-based codes to help revitalize the downtown commercial area after a lengthy and heated joint meeting with the Finance Committee on Jan. 12.

The council decided against a staff recommendation to proceed with developing a downtown specific plan along with the form-based codes, which was estimated to take about 16 months.

That was too long for some residents and council members.

“We’ve working on this for a long time,” Deputy Mayor Richard Earnest said. “It’s time to do something.”

The council directed that the specific plan process continue on a separate track at a later date.

Form-based codes tailor zoning regulations to each parcel, focusing on how a building is designed and positioned on a lot rather than mathematical calculations. They help streamline the development process by allowing the community to work with property owners to envision the type of redevelopment they would support, Brian Mooney, interim planning director, said.

A final product is expected within six months from the time an advisory committee representing varied stakeholders is formed. However, it may take longer to adopt the codes if environmental analysis is eventually required.

Earnest and council member Don Mosier were appointed to finalize the types and how many stakeholders should be included on the panel, which will participate in the development of the new codes.

A five-day meeting process in the spring will allow the entire community to provide input as well.

During the joint meeting, members of the city’s Finance Committee argued against pouring money and time into a specific plan and even form-based codes. Instead, they want the city to quickly adopt design guidelines and zoning changes, so as to not lose the potential for redevelopment of downtown in the troubled economy.

Not everyone was convinced providing development incentives would work in such difficult economic times, and recommended proceeding with caution.

“We’re not going to fix this in six months,” Mosier said. “We have an opportunity to take time to do it right, be thoughtful and get good community engagement.”

Representatives from the Friends of Del Mar Parks voiced strong opposition to relocating the City Hall to the Shores site, which was mentioned in the Finance Committee’s report.

Councilman Carl Hilliard said it was premature to discuss the issue, though a 2007 council resolution stated city facilities cannot be located at the site.

Up next:

  • Horizontal Zoning Public Hearing
  • 7 p.m.
  • Del Mar Communication Center, 240 10th St.
  • Council will establish a set of regulations for in the Central Commercial Zone