Revitalization efforts heat up

Continuing its effort to jumpstart downtown revitalization, the Del Mar City Council on Sept 8 approved four new municipal zone code amendments.

But they didn’t OK perhaps the most controversial change: a proposal to establish a set of regulations that prevent non-retail businesses from using ground-floor space in the downtown area.

The city is currently under an urgency horizontal ordinance that expires within months. Interim Planning Director Brian Mooney pulled the item, citing concerns over the ordinance’s language. He said the item would be rescheduled for the council’s Oct. 6 meeting.

Fall is proving to be a busy time on the revitalization front in Del Mar. Besides the October discussion; the council’s Sept. 22 meeting will include a discussion on an overall downtown specific plan for the city.

Mooney will present a strategy to begin the planning process for a specific plan, which is designed to set standards and guidelines for downtown development including increasing residential density in mixed-use structures. The plan may also include new “form-based” codes addressing development in specific districts or on a block-by-block basis. It is estimated the specific plan could cost the city about $250,000.

Specific plans should be familiar to Del Mar residents by now, since they’ve seen them for the L’Auberge Hotel, the Del Mar Plaza, and most recently for the Garden Del Mar project.

“We are trying to provide opportunities downtown,” said Mooney and all this is part of this process.”

The latest code amendments included, one simply allowing so-called “blade” signs to extend over public right-of-way sidewalks without the need for encroachment permits. Another established a minimum employee workspace requirement for business throughout the city of 125-square-feet per employee.

Two parking-related code changes included altering a process to better maximize common, shared and off-site parking for businesses and another grants businesses an allowance for reducing required parking spaces if parking for the disabled were provided.

A fifth proposal, that would establish an in-lieu parking program that allows businesses to satisfy some parking requirements in exchange for a fee, proved more problematic for council members.

When the city’s Planning Commission first examined the in-lieu fee proposal, commissioners decided the program could not be effective until a municipal parking lot could be identified. Council members agreed.

“It dooms the whole thing to failure unless the city could build a structure and then be reimbursed,” said Councilman Richard Earnest. “But I don’t see that with the city’s current finances.”

“Unless we have someplace to put it we’re shooting in the dark,” said Mayor Dave Druker. ‘We’re putting the cart way before the horse.”

Nonetheless several ideas for parking areas were discussed including a shuttle service from the fairgrounds and use of the Ninth Street Shores property.

“I can see this happening,” said Deputy Mayor Crystal Crawford. “The Shores needs a lot of improvement but they do have parking. Maybe it will help to get a new set of eyes on this like Brian’s (Mooney).”

Mooney, who replaced longtime Planning Director Linda Niles a few months ago, said he had received support for the fee program from developers and property owners. He said several relayed they would be willing to pay up to $50,000 for the privilege of providing less parking - an amount already in place in the city of Beverly Hills.

The proposal was returned to staff for further honing.


A new change makes signage installation easier.