Del Mar proceeds with revitalization plan

By Claire Harlin

The Del Mar City Council gave the go-ahead on Dec. 5 to continue with the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process and approved the project description of the Del Mar Village Specific Plan, which will significantly change the way downtown Del Mar is developed in the future.

The project description was derived by city staff from community input and direction from the City Council, however, there is still sentiment on the council that more input is needed to accurately reflect what the community wants for the future of Del Mar.

“We need to reach out more and let people know this is something not voted on by the council but by all residents of Del Mar,” said Councilwoman Lee Haydu. “Residents will decide what we will do in the end. We need more outreach … We need to hear from more than the usual residents who come speak out.”

The project description, which defines what exactly will be assessed in the EIR process, includes mixed-use zoning that supports multifamily residential units within a commercial district, as well as additional land use that will support boutique hotels and parking structures. The description also specifies that Camino del Mar will be a two-lane street with roundabouts, making room for 10-foot-wide, continuous sidewalks. The height limit would also increase to 26 feet on both sides of Camino del Mar, up from 14 feet on the west side of the street.

The EIR will analyze more than 15 topics, from noise to transportation to cultural preservation, and will also examine cumulative impacts in concert with other city and regional projects. It will also lo ok at project alternatives.

According to the approved project description, based on studies by the city, there is approximately 600,000 square feet of parcel lot area within the Specific Plan area (not including L’Auberge Hotel and the Del Mar Plaza), making the maximum development potential within the study area about 279,000 square feet — using the current floor-area ratio (FAR) of .45.

To increase redevelopment potential, staff is proposing approximately doubling the development potential to make use of some 600,000 square feet of developable parcel. Percentage-wise, housing would see the greatest increase under the project description, increasing from 1 to 28 percent of utilized space in the Village. Retail, restaurants and personal services would also see substantial increases, while office space will decrease from 61 to 28 percent.

A handful of community members and business owners both thanked the council and staff for their hard work on the project, as well as voiced concerns over several issues, namely traffic flow.

“A lot of people travel up and down the coast all times of year, and they need to be able to pass though and have access to the town and find a parking spot,” said Randy Gruber, owner of Americana restaurant, located at 1454 Camino del Mar. “If you reduce the number of lanes, that could be detrimental to the businesses.”

David Goodell, owner of The Frustrated Cowboy boutique, said slowing down traffic might cause drivers to congest other neighborhood streets in order to avoid Camino del Mar. He made reference to Solana Beach’s recent approval of a two-lane Highway 101 revitalization plan, which seemed to happen more quickly than the process in Del Mar and also may add to the traffic problems.

“You all remember the problems we had when we put all the stop signs on Camino del Mar,” he said. “That put the traffic up on Crest Road, and then you had to put the chicanes on Crest to deal with traffic there. If you take it down to two lanes, you’re going to have people on Crest and your going to have people on Stratford.”

He said he hopes a traffic study will be sufficient, and also raised the question: “Do we need to revitalize the Village?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I think it works pretty well the way it is.”