The City Council is making a good start in “community conversations” trying to engage the entire community in planning the future of our downtown. Our Community Plan is very clear in its vision of a viable, pedestrian, resident-serving business community. Now the Council is asking today’s citizens to help nail down the specifics of how to implement that vision.
The ideas and suggestions from these meetings will be the raw material for a comprehensive specific plan to be drafted by the Planning staff for another round of community review. That round of community input will inform a final plan which will eventually go on the ballot for all voters to decide. The integrity of this process will increase the odds of voter approval.
The Sandpiper will offer print and web space for citizens to discuss and propose a variety of ideas for shaping our downtown. We encourage citizens to participate in this process by attending meetings, writing ideas and suggestions, talking to Council members, talking to business operators, and reviewing draft proposals. By the time we get to the voting stage, we ought to have a working community consensus.
Of course, once we have approved a plan, the final test will be whether commercial land owners and business operators are incentivized to invest in our future. The role of the Del Mar Village Association (DMVA) will be critical in recruiting businesses and facilitating workable lease terms.
One way to jumpstart the development process then will be to identify targets of opportunity that are already in the works or can be undertaken by the city. That list would include the Shores property, the city hall block, the old gas station property, and the train station property. Street and intersection changes can also be initiated by the city. Perhaps there are some small or medium size plots where the city could work with a willing owner to develop as a demonstration of what could be accomplished or could have a “spill-over effect on adjacent areas? The clearer we are about taking action on these opportunities, the greater the incentive will be for the private sector to jump in and keep the momentum going.
We trust that the process and the final plan will incorporate critical elements such as traffic, parking, neighborhood impacts, density, realistic financial viability, city revenue, and architectural character, as well as desirable business uses. A critical element will be to insure full, and speedy, Design Review Board consideration for all development, just as we do for private residences.
Finally, we think the plan should use a systems approach, articulating how the business district relates to the rest of the community, the beach, the parks, open space, the lagoon, the rail line, and the fairgrounds.
This is a huge undertaking and the future character of our town is at stake. Now is the time to jump in and participate. The history of our town shows that vigorous citizen participation yields quality results.