Paralysis is not a good legacy — 10 reasons to vote for the Village Specific Plan
Here are 10 reasons why I am voting for the Village Specific Plan.
The Village Specific Plan (VSP) is a well-constructed, thoughtful plan that addresses how the Del Mar Village will be developed over the next 30 years. It describes specific ways that buildings can be improved, parking spaces increased, pedestrian walkways enhanced, and traffic congestion reduced.
Since the approval of Del Mar’s Community Plan in 1976, our City has been discussing and studying how to implement the goals of the Community Plan. But after 36 years of talking and over 10 major studies, the City has not implemented any zoning changes that would encourage a pedestrian friendly village environment. Our zoning and parking requirements are throw-backs to the 1960s. This is the first real effort to implement changes to zoning, parking, and traffic that will implement the goals of our Community Plan.
A great concern I have is that our small city must not only be a wonderful place to live for residents, but we must attract people to eat at our restaurants, stay in our hotels, and buy goods and services from our businesses. We cannot survive as a city unless our sales tax revenues and hotel tax revenues keep pace with the growth in San Diego’s economy. Encinitas, Solana Beach, Flower Hill, Del Mar Highlands, Del Mar Heights and One Paseo are all investing and improving their shopping areas to stay vibrant and financially sound. If we don’t encourage improvements in our Village, we will not only lose financially, but we will be unable to attract the type of businesses that residents want in the Village.
The Plan incorporates the basic goals of the Community Plan of 1976, including Goal #2 “to minimize the impact of the automobile on the character of Del Mar”, and Goal #3 “to preserve the residential character and small town atmosphere.” It addresses our desire for pedestrian friendly sidewalks, better traffic flow, improved safety , and reduced pollution. In addition, the Plan has received a great deal of community input and modifications. Since April of 2011, 90 meetings and workshops have been held to gather public priorities and improvements for the Plan. Over 50 substantial changes were made to the Plan based on public review and comments. These changes included reducing the amount of square footage that can be developed, reducing the allowed height of buildings along Camino Del Mar, increasing credits for building residential units downtown, shortening the schedule for building a parking structure downtown, reducing the number of roundabout proposed for Camino Del Mar, and making sure that the Design Review Board, Planning Commission and City Council play an expanded role in reviewing development projects.
The VSP has very specific measurements that are used to track how the implementation is proceeding. The Plan sets out measurable goals for Village improvement at 10, 20, and 30 year intervals. These measures include pedestrian and bicycle safety, vehicular circulation, improved parking, land usage, satisfaction of residents, economic vitality, and sustainable environments. These goals will keep city government focused on achieving the correct results and adjusting the Plan if any negative impacts occur.
One of the key changes made to the Plan, based on community input, was the addition of “thresholds” or “safety milestones” that would trigger a review of the Plan to make sure it is meeting the community’s goals and that there are not any unintended consequences of the VSP improvements. An example of a “threshold” is for heights of buildings along the west side of Camino Del Mar. Every 10 years, or whenever 50 percent of a block reaches 26 feet, whichever comes first, the VSP will be reviewed by City Council to make sure the community is still positive about the new development. If not, the height restrictions can be changed.
The 1976 Community Plan calls for a mixed use of commercial building and housing in the downtown. We have never been able to provide mixed-use housing in our City. This is the one opportunity we have to encourage developers to include housing in their plans for the future and allow the City to meet its affordable housing goals.
Since coming on the Council I have been studying roundabouts and whether they would be a good thing for our community. After traveling to other cities and observing roundabout installations, I am convinced that roundabouts would be far better than what we have today. They will allow traffic to flow smoothly through our downtown while reducing noise, and reducing car/pedestrian accidents. Also, a key point to consider is that traffic will be increasing as population increases. Camino Del Mar will be jammed and at a standstill with our current stop signs and stop lights. Other than roundabouts, the only other solution is traffic signals from one end of town to the other. That is not the “village atmosphere” called for in our Community Plan.
Del Mar has a median age of 48.6 years. We anticipate that the Village Specific Plan will take 20 to 30 years to be fully implemented. In that period, half of us will be gone. We owe it to the future generations to plan a better future for the Village of Del Mar; to take what we enjoy today, and make sure it is even better tomorrow. If we stop making Del Mar a better place, we will stagnate and decline as a community.
My overlying fear is the baby / bathwater scenario. The VSP is a complex plan balancing the goals of pedestrian access, business vitality, parking, traffic and the environment. At the core, it is a very good roadmap for the future. Will people recognize the basic value of the Plan, even though they might have a concern about one feature of the Plan?
And after all this effort, all of this community involvement and outreach, if this Plan is rejected, it will be much harder for our City to move forward on improving any public areas in the future …. City Hall, the Shores Property, the south end of CDM. Property owners will not be motivated to invest in their properties. Our paralysis as a City will continue another 20 years, until our generation has passed on. Paralysis is not a good legacy.
If you approve the Village Specific Plan, we can move forward, confident that the development that takes place in the next 20 years will truly reflect the community’s priorities identified first back in 1976 and reaffirmed again this past year.