Design review, roundabouts issues raised at Del Mar Prop J meeting

By Claire Harlin

If you live in Del Mar, you’ve probably received your fair share of political signs, mailers or visits from campaigners, but if you’re like the some 30 residents who attended a city question-and-answer session about Prop J on Oct. 16, you might also have a fair share of questions.

The city held a public workshop to answer questions regarding the Nov. 6 ballot measure, a plan that will guide revitalization efforts in downtown Del Mar, implementing a number of changes, including a height limit increase, roundabouts and a parking structure.

For much of the meeting, residents crowded around Seth Torma, a traffic engineer with Katz, Okitsu & Associates, to inquire about the plan’s proposal to reduce Camino del Mar from four to two lanes and install roundabout traffic circles. Several attendees expressed concern that emergency vehicles wouldn’t be able to circle the roundabouts with ease, and Torma showed a video of two large firetrucks circling the roundabout that’s on Santa Fe Drive in Encinitas.

Bobbi Herdes, an environmental specialist with Recon, was on hand to answer questions regarding the project Environmental Impact Report. City manager Scott Huth answered questions about parking and Mark Delin addressed finance issues. The format of the event was casual and allowed residents to sit at a table with city officials and ask questions in a personal way, with no formal presentation. Another event with the same structure will be held on Oct. 29, also at the city hall annex at 6 p.m.

Kathy Garcia, the city’s planning and community development director, said many questions revolved around parking, as well as development.

For example, some asked about what kind of review would be in place for new projects, and she said that the Design Review Board, a citizen panel known for its often stringent assessments, would still be in effect. Whether or not Measure B, also known as the downtown overlay zone, would be in effect also came up, and Garcia said that it would. Measure B, approved by voters in 1986, requires specific plans for downtown properties larger than 25,000 square feet or proposing more than 11,500 square feet to be approved by voters, but no further Measure B vote would be required for developments that are “designed, reviewed and implemented in accordance with the specific plan,” city documents state.

Attendees were greeted at the door of the event by several Prop J opponents who were distributing information.

Among them, 26-year resident Nitza Cady said she was concerned that the height increase element of the plan would strip Del Mar of its village feel. She said she came out with other opponents to the event because there needed to be more input from residents.

“All the people here giving information are employees of the city and they are all pro-J,” she said. “This is for the people who live here, not the people who are getting paid by the city.”

For uncontested councilman-elect Al Corti, the meeting was about the 60th of nearly 90 meetings about the Village Specific Plan that he’s attended, and his motivation is to fully understand what people want out of the process and how to move forward whether or not Prop J passes.

“There are so many moving parts that you can’t please everybody,” he said. For example, some people voiced concern at the meeting that two lanes with roundabouts won’t move traffic through efficiently, however, some wanted to reinstate the part of the plan that included a roundabout at 15th Street, which was taken out in response to community concern.

Corti said from what he’s seen, the No. 1 hot button issue is traffic.

“It just can’t be 100 percent for everyone, but what we’ve got in downtown Del Mar doesn’t work,” he said. “There hasn’t been change between 9th and 14th streets in 30 years.”

For more information, the executive summary of the Village Specific Plan is available online at