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It’s All About Process
October 2008

The process of public transparency and clarity of purpose expected of corporate executives and civic officials is recently a recurring theme in the news. Whether it is the transparency of operations within Wall Street firms or clarity of the political positions of our presidential candidates, the point is the same. As a nation or a community, as citizens or residents, we want to be involved in the process of the open discussion and decision-making that directly affect our lives.

Two recent Del Mar issues, the Garden Del Mar project and the proposed increase in the TOT (both on the ballot for community voter approval in November) have brought to light how important that process is to Del Mar residents.

In the case of the Garden project, the selection of Exceptional Public Benefits (EPB’s) by the Council to allow the developer to exceed zoning floor area ratios were negotiated by a Council sub-committee. That process nearly killed the project. The Council's decision process on the EPB's failed to involve its own appointed citizen committee. These citizens had to pull the Council back into reconsidering the EPB's. The result of more public involvement was an increase in EPB’s. The bottom line is that more involvement probably increases the chance that the project will win voter approval.
 
Again, within weeks of the Garden Del Mar issue, the City Council moved hastily with the discussion of the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) – to benefit the city with an increase of annual funds from the TOT and to keep a verbal agreement to work with the Del Mar Village Association. The city’s hoteliers proposed a Transient Marketing District (TMD) that would fund marketing efforts to increase visitor traffic – but this was not based upon input of the entire community. Now the TOT has met stiff community resistance with the existing TMD tethered to it in any form.

Within these issues is the lesson that Del Mar, as a community, was founded on a process of resident involvement that requires transparency and clarity with all issues, small and large. When the City Council or the city management work in isolation and haste to meet compressed deadlines or in fear of financial loss, they risk circumventing the most important part of the Del Mar process - full resident input. They also risk unduly raising community anxieties that the City Council, as representative of the community, is compromising the Community Plan with approvals and ordinances that have crevices; crevices that would allow an opportunist to challenge the intent of these approvals and ordinances with actions that would negatively impact Del Mar for many years in the future, if not permanently. This is not acceptable.

For Del Mar, in all areas of community planning and city management, full process of community input trumps the best intentions of decisions made in isolation and haste. The present City Council and future City Councils would be well served to keep this in mind if they want to avoid the risk of repeating the contentious resident reactions of this past summer.

 

   
 

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