Will Proposition J (the Village Specific Plan) re-vitalize Del Mar?


Let’s take a look. Zel’s (previously Café Del Mar) has been in a holding pattern for several years; opening just enough to keep the permit from expiring. Numerous corporate restaurant chains want to locate in Del Mar. So why can’t this restaurant be leased to one of them?

Located at the southeast corner of 13th Street, this 1,127-square-foot building was previously an AT&T payment office. It was purchased in 1983 by Zel, one of Del Mar’s favorite merchants. Zel leased the property to Mr. Dominelli who converted it to a “take-out deli” with an additional 946 square feet of outside dining area. However, Del Mar allowed it to operate as a restaurant called Café Del Mar, even though it had only three parking spaces instead of 23 parking spaces required by Del Mar’s parking ordinance.

An attempt was made to convert this “take-out deli” permit to a restaurant permit by filing a request for variance for Café del Mar, and although never processed, this variance request is still in the City files, and it lists two other properties that were also operating as restaurants, even though they only had “take-out deli” permits.

While Del Mar’s transaction with Mr. Dominelli failed to satisfy Del Mar’s parking requirements, restaurant use at 1247 Camino del Mar is now vested, because the City has collected a yearly business license fee for the past 29 years. The City’s solution to the parking shortage created by this restaurant is stated in a 2009 Parcel Survey (pages 62 and 63 of FBC_2009 Aug. 18 presentation) in which the City described the abundance of on-site parking at 1201 Camino del Mar by stating:

“It appears that the existing underground parking (at 1201 Camino del Mar) could possibly be integrated into any future underground parking schemes located to the north of the site, creating a ‘shared use’ parking scenario for the entire block.”

Proposition “J” formalizes this “parking lot taking” by requiring all new development and existing development to open private parking to the public when applying the “Del Mar Park Once” (SANDAG) parking standards for intensification or change of use. Otherwise Del Mar’s current parking ratios (which are three times SANDAG standards) apply. (Page VII-11 of the Village Specific plan.)

Zel’s is an example of one of Del Mar’s “limbo properties” for which Proposition “J” (the Village Specific Plan) provides no solution. If I’m missing something here, I invite Del Mar’s Planning Department to explain.

George Conkwright

1201 Camino del Mar