Survey says Del Mar residents want new City Hall at current site

By Kristina Houck

Community members want Del Mar to move forward with constructing a new City Hall at the city’s current site, according to a recent survey.

Representing roughly 9 percent of Del Mar residents and 17 percent of households, 425 residents, property owners and business owners responded to a city-issued survey about replacing Del Mar’s current facilities at 1050 Camino Del Mar.

About 40 residents weighed in on what amenities a new civic center should offer, where offices should be located and how the project should be financed during a community workshop on Dec. 2. The Del Mar City Council on Jan. 6 directed staff to issue a survey so all members of the public could have an opportunity to voice their opinions.

Like workshop attendees, a majority of survey respondents agreed on the project amenities and location.

Three-quarters of respondents said that city administrative offices should be the top priority of the project, followed by a town hall, which 72 percent of respondents believed should be the second priority. Other priorities included public parking, community meeting rooms and plazas/open space.

Seventy-five percent of respondents said the new City Hall should be located at the current 1050 Camino Del Mar site.

With most of the survey results echoing the results of the workshop, the council on Feb. 18 directed staff to move forward with the project and focus efforts at the city’s current facilities at 1050 Camino Del Mar. In a 4-1 vote, council members instructed staff to prepare a space program and cost estimates for City Hall, town hall, parking, community rooms and plaza/open space.

“I think we need to look forward and keep moving forward and make some decisions,” said Councilman Don Mosier. “The decision is clear from the workshop and from the survey that this is the preferred site and a new City Hall is a top priority. We need to pay attention to that.”

One member of the public said the survey asked the wrong questions.

Del Mar resident Ken Olson said a new City Hall could be located elsewhere in the community. Therefore, the survey should have asked what community members believe is the “best use” of the property at 1050 Camino Del Mar, he said.

“The reason I thought it was bogus was because I thought it was designed to give answers that would yield a preconceived conclusion,” said Olson, who participated in the survey.

Councilman Terry Sinnott, who casted the sole dissenting vote, said the council should clearly eliminate alternative sites before moving forward with the Camino Del Mar site.

Other locations discussed during the workshop included the city’s public works yard at 2240 Jimmy Durante Blvd., the Shores property, and privately owned properties in downtown Del Mar and the north commercial district. Twelve percent of survey respondents preferred private properties on Camino Del Mar, and 13 percent had no preference.

“I am not opposed to moving forward toward CDM (1050 Camino Del Mar), but I don’t think we have been given a complete picture, a decision analysis, where you make this kind of a decision,” Sinnott said. “I don’t think we have all the information, and I feel that we should at least put that together in one piece so we can share with the community why we’re moving in this direction, why we’re eliminating certain alternatives.”

The survey also asked community members to consider financing options.

Workshop attendees agreed the city should not finance the project using cash reserves and a “pay as you go” policy because it would take too long to complete. Many attendees said they would consider a public-private partnership or a bond to finance the project. Others said Del Mar should sell some city assets to partially fund the project.

Like workshop attendees, survey respondents were in favor of obtaining a bond and selling city assets to help finance the project.

Sixty-three percent of respondents said the city could get a lease revenue bond, and 66 percent of respondents said the city could sell non-essential assets to raise funds.

Unlike workshop attendees, however, survey respondents did not approve of a public-private partnership. Only 29 percent agreed the city should enter into a public-private partnership to finance the project. Forty percent of respondents disagreed, and 30 percent neither agreed or disagreed.

Two percent of respondents said the city should not build a new City Hall.

Disappointed in the public’s view on public-private partnerships, some council members questioned whether respondents fully understood the meaning of a public-private partnership.

“I think that is an option that would bring both retail facilities to the site and space for a new City Hall,” Mosier said. “I think that would make financing the project easier because part of the cost would be born by the developer, who is a partner.”

“It’s what’s happening across the country,” added Councilwoman Sherryl Parks.

The Del Mar Finance Committee is currently reviewing financing options for the project, as well as assessing non-essential city assets. The committee is expected to present its findings to the council in April.

Staff is expected to return to council in March with a consultant contract for the program evaluation and construction cost estimates. The council could make a decision on the project’s next steps in June.