Del Mar: Year in Review
2013 has passed very quickly. It is easy to miss the progress that the City of Del Mar has made since January. But as Mayor (for 12 months), it is my obligation to list out some of our accomplishments for our residents. This is our “report card” for 2013.
Our Council has worked effectively as a team for the betterment of Del Mar. We all have different views, but we eventually come to agreement. Here are some of the Council accomplishments for 2013:
•Del Mar successfully responded to an unsatisfactory proposal by the Fairgrounds board to form a joint powers governing board with the County of San Diego. The initial proposal in April did not have any representation from Del Mar on the governing board. A revised proposal being worked on now strives to provide Del Mar and local stakeholders with better representation on the governance body.
•We did partner with the Fairgrounds in three constructive areas. We are working with them to explore the construction of affordable housing at the Fairgrounds; and we are conducting a joint cost of services study and a traffic control study.
•The Council held four extra workshops this year, resulting in a balanced two-year Operating Budget, a Capital Improvement Budget, a clear set of priorities for the City and a better focus on the community’s expectations for a new City Hall.
•We reviewed the progress of the Tourism Business Improvement District for Del Mar. This is the group that uses hotel tax money to promote Del Mar as a destination for visitors. We asked for more rapid progress and better measurement of results for the next reporting period.
•The Council gave its support of the expanded Fall horse racing days.
•We reviewed the development of a City Facilities Plan with an emphasis on taking steps to replace our aging City Hall. This plan will involve a great deal of community input as the feasible alternatives are reviewed and ultimately narrowed down to the cost effective options that best serve the community.
•The Council adopted a sidewalk improvement plan that will see new sidewalks along Camino Del Mar downtown and in the Beach Colony, and a new sidewalk along Jimmy Durante Boulevard from downtown to San Dieguito Drive.
Our City employees achieved some important milestones during the year. Under the leadership of our new City Manager, Scott Huth, we saw major progress in 2013:
•The City completed an updated Housing Element for our Community Plan and had it certified by the State of California. This makes the City eligible for more grant opportunities in the future.
•We quickly responded to a new emerging business, food trucks. A new mobile vending ordinance was adopted that allows these entrepreneurs to safely do business in Del Mar.
•A great deal of effort was spent hammering out an agreement with the 22nd District Agricultural Association to settle our lawsuit over their Master Plan. The agreement specifies how the impacts of noise, traffic and special events will be mitigated in the future.
•The City proposed and adopted an “in-lieu” parking fee that allows property owners a way of contributing to the cost of parking spaces in the City when they cannot provide the required spaces.
•Staff began the monumental task of digitizing all of the paper records that have been stored at City Hall for years.
•The City signed a new Fire Management Agreement with our neighboring cities of Solana Beach and Encinitas. The new agreement creates a single Fire Chief position and reduces the number of Battalion Chiefs, for a savings of $15,000 annually.
•The Staff received approval to design a new wastewater pipeline from our 21st Street Pump Station to Solana Beach. This new link will allow the City to shift wastewater flows from the City of San Diego to the San Elijo wastewater treatment plant, for a potential savings of $113,000 per year.
•The North Torrey Pines Bridge is near completion, and on budget.
I have a particular sense of accomplishment for the following items that have been implemented in 2013 by the Council and hardworking volunteers in our community:
•Del Mar has always been at the short end of the bargaining stick when it comes to our Sheriff’s contract. The City and the Finance Committee successfully hired an independent consultant to determine how we can reduce costs and improve service. We now have the specific recommendations on how to work with the Sheriff to improve service, and if that is unsuccessful, how to set up our own police organization — for similar costs.
•SANDAG will be installing a new double track and “special events” platform at the Fairgrounds by 2030. We saw that the early design of the platform was beginning and that we needed to be involved early in identifying the impacts that the platform would have on the community. The Council formed the ad-hoc Double Track Advisory Committee, which has developed a list of impacts that need to be mitigated as part of the project.
•When the City acquired the Shores Park property, it inherited a vacant modular building that was previously used by the Del Mar School District for its maintenance offices. The building was not usable and was a public nuisance. It was demolished and removed from the park.
•Early on in my assignment as Mayor, I heard from business owners that they needed some help from the City on dealing with processes and regulations that were hindering their efforts to successfully compete in Del Mar. The Council agreed to set up the Business Support Advisory Committee to gather a list of issues from business and property owners to help the City make Del Mar a positive business environment.
•The City is faced with an unfunded pension liability of $9 million. After a great deal of analysis by Staff and the Finance Committee, the City Council agreed to do two things. First, the City paid off a $3 million side fund pension liability using the City’s General Fund and Water Fund reserves. This will save the City $1 million in future interest payments. The Council also agreed to establish a pension reserve fund, setting aside enough money to eliminate our unfunded pension liability over 15 years.
•Working with the Finance Committee, Staff developed a 30-year projection of the City’s financial health. This is a tool that can be used to predict outcomes based on financial decisions. Since the Council is currently evaluating whether Del Mar should finance some of its needed capital improvements, this will be very valuable tool in the months ahead.
•The Mayor and his colleague Al Corti were able to win the annual Turf Bocce Ball Championship with a victory over Solana Beach.
We have many new opportunities coming to Del Mar in the months ahead. I am particularly anxious to see the completion of the Torrey Pines Bridge, the proposals for new development of the Garden Del Mar and Watermark projects, and the implementation of a customer satisfaction survey for all our residents who use city services. And of course we need to move forward on plans for City Hall.
I want to thank City Staff and my fellow Council members for their hard work and dedication to Del Mar. It has been a good year.
Del Mar Mayor