Del Mar shares results of revitalization public comment period

By Claire Harlin

From public financing to community integration and benefits, the Del Mar City Council on June 4 discussed the various topics of concern that resulted from the more than 70 comment letters sent to the city regarding the Draft Village Specific Plan.

The comment period lasted from March 19 to May 4, and involved weekly tabling by city officials at the Del Mar Farmers Market, as well as meetings at residents’ homes. While various questions have been raised, a number of residents have shared opinions with the City Council and the majority of feedback at the meetings has been highly praising, even if constructive.

The Village Specific Plan consists of road, pedestrian and streetscape improvements totaling up to $5.5 million and a parking structure that would cost $5.7 million. In general, most comments shared by the community have dealt with how the projects would be funded with respect to residents, the city and businesses, according to a city staff report. There have also been questions raised about the types of fees that would be required, the timing of the development and the impact of construction on business activity.

There are two main financing sources for Village revitalization: bank financing and TransNet bonds. The city secures $178,000 per year in TransNet revenue. After tapping into bond money, the city estimates about $125,000 will be used from the city’s general fund.

Additional funding sources could include parking in-lieu fees, paid by businesses that are not meeting the parking requirements outlined by the city, and traffic impact fees, which “allow growth to pay for growth,” said Assistant City Manager Mark Delin. A traffic impact fee is an assessment imposed by the city on new development projects to help fund traffic improvements.

The City Council approved $10,000 for a traffic impact fee and parking in-lieu fee study, and further discussion will follow the study.

Parking meters are also a potential funding source, Delin said. Del Mar hasn’t seen paid parking on Camino del Mar in 30 years, but he pointed out that the meters near Seagrove Park bring in about $20 each a day.

Planning and Community Development Director Kathy Garcia agreed in particular with one concern of the community — that the draft report did not clearly outline the benefits of the project. So, she clarified those benefits, which range from increasing pedestrian safety to adding housing choices and additional parking. A presentation by Delin also pointed out that walkable communities create value for nearby residents and increase city revenues, making it possible for the city to spend more on public safety, maintenance and amenities like parks and recreation centers.

Garcia said she will revise the plan to clarify the community benefits, and discuss potential community benefits for the future.

When it comes to construction, the city estimates the effects to be minimal. Delin said businesses should not have to close “except under the most extreme situations” and, if so, the city will compensate. He added that there will be a tight and limited construction schedule, sidewalks will be maintained during construction, and businesses will be provided with additional sales opportunities, such as tent sales on city property, to offset any impacts.

Other concerns included lack of clarity on community benefits, parking impacts, noise, height, bulk, mass and property value impacts.

Resident Tom McGrail said when he thinks about 140 new residential units, the amount proposed in the plan, it seems excessive for a six-block radius.

Deputy Mayor Terry Sinnott said the city must be conservative in dipping into capital funds. He also said he is not sold on the idea of a traffic impact fee, adding that he wants to be careful about imposing new costs on businesses and potential businesses.

“Let’s remember what we are trying to do and who we are trying to motivate here,” he said.