Del Mar residents want a new City Hall at same location

By Kristina Houck

Although there were mixed opinions on project details, residents who attended a community workshop Dec. 2 agreed that Del Mar needs a new City Hall.

City officials hosted the workshop to gather input from citizens on how to replace Del Mar’s current facilities at 1050 Camino Del Mar. It was never the city’s plan to remain in the former schoolhouse permanently after moving there in 1975, city officials noted. Due to seismic instability, much of the current 9,256-square-foot building is now used as storage space.

To share their thoughts on the project, more than 50 people filled the Del Mar Communications Center, the 1980s TV studio across the parking lot where City Council meetings are held.

“It feels like this space is a little too intimate for Del Mar,” said 19-year Del Mar resident Drew Cady. “I don’t know whether we’ve outgrown it or just become more politically active. Clearly, we’re a full house tonight.”

Community members gathered at six tables where city staff helped facilitate discussion about what amenities a new civic center should offer, where offices should be located and how the project should be financed. Council members visited each table to hear ideas.

Residents who attended the meeting agreed a new City Hall should be constructed in the same location as the current facility rather than the city’s public works yard at 2240 Jimmy Durante Blvd., or privately-owned properties in downtown Del Mar or the north commercial district. Nearly all attendees agreed the city should not build new offices at the Shores property.

Most residents said they wanted the project to include administrative offices and a council chamber. Other priorities included community meeting rooms and public parking.

Constructing a new civic center could cost about $8 million for an 11,000-square-foot building, said Del Mar City Manager Scott Huth. Buying and renovating an existing building could cost $5 million to $7 million. Leasing a building would cost about $330,000 to $430,000 per year.

All attendees agreed the city should not finance the project using cash reserves and a “pay as you go” policy because it would take too long to complete. Many attendees said they would consider a public-private partnership or a bond to finance the project. Others said Del Mar should sell some city assets to partially fund the project.

Above all, attendees agreed they wanted the city to move forward with the project.

“Decide now what you’re going to do rather than keep having more and more and more workshops 10, 20 years from now,” said attendee Greg Rothnem. “Decide now, so we can move the ball forward.”

“We want the quickest path,” KC Vafiadis said.

City staff will analyze the information gathered during the more than two-hour workshop and present it to the City Council during its Dec. 9 meeting.

“I’m looking forward to actually kicking this ball down the road,” said Councilwoman Sherryl Parks.

“I think it’s time we move on with it,” said Councilman Al Corti.

“I do think that we need to move forward, and we’ve got a consensus that would allow us to move forward,” Councilman Don Mosier said.