Ann Gardner | Via Latina
In 1969 when Jim Watkins bought the Kockritz (now Stratford Sq.) building, there were residential units on the second floor! He tore them out and made artist lofts. Photo Sandpiper archives.
n and tough choices to make” from the community conversations, Planning Director Kathy Garcia mused as she answered questions about what is ahead for decisions on Downtown Revitalization.
Q: Did a former Councilmember’s comment that we needed to identify the problems with downtown before we could settle on solutions make sense? A: Yes it is a very good point, along with identifying which solutions really benefit the community. Clearly residents identified the lack of walkability as a problem, and I would say the lack of resident serving services is a problem for many. The often-identified lack of parking is more complex. There is plenty of parking at the southern end of town but not in the center. There are various solutions to this issue.
Q: When I attended the Community Conversation at the City Hall Annex on a Sunday afternoon I noticed very few cars in the City Hall parking lot. Yet some are touting the idea of a new City Hall with underground public parking. If visitors are not using this lot now why are we considering this as one solution to our perceived parking problem? A: The distance between City Hall and 15th Street in the center of town is the same length as the Fashion Valley shopping mall. Yet would anyone even think of getting in their car to drive between shops in the mall? No! Whether shopping at a mall or in Del Mar, visitors love to stroll looking at various shops and sights along the way. The key is to make Camino del Mar more walkable, attractive and fun to walk along…where parking at one end of town and walking would seem perfectly natural.
Q: There seems to be less agreement on how to attract resident services to Del Mar. Some say we need to increase the allowed building envelopes while others worry about view blockage and the inability to dictate what businesses will occupy the new space. A: It’s true we do not have many pro-active tools now. We have several choices: 1) Sit around and wait to see what happens; 2) entice desired uses by offering, for instance, an increased density bonus or other benefit, and/or 3) actively seek out desired businesses and what they want to locate here. If we implement a Specific Plan for the commercial area we can build in public benefits in exchange for zoning flexibility that, hopefully, does not impact residential views for instance.
Q: What about the option of simply increasing the floor area ratio or height limitations without going through the lengthy Specific Plan process? A: Then we would give up the option of getting a public benefit in exchange for the increased building envelope.
Q: How do you explain that some businesses manage to come to Del Mar and do very well within our existing “old and some say unattractive” spaces? For example, Dexter’s Deli, Rusty’s Surf Shop or The Bustle that just expanded its space. A: I can’t speak to their economics or their business model, but we need to build off of those successful businesses and find more like them.
Q: What’s next? A: Staff is researching the ideas presented by residents and businesses. We have our engineering and planning staff analyzing the various options for improving Camino del Mar. For instance, we are testing traffic movement to see if roundabouts can be used instead of stop signs. We have been calculating the difference in carbon emissions to help us meet our GHG goals. Moving landscaping from the median to each side of Camino would also help us meet our clean water goals because carbon-absorbing trees can also serve to cleanse stormwater. It also seemed that a number of people who attended the Conversations liked the idea of reducing the auto space between the east and west side of the commercial district.
Q: Are you looking at the idea of reducing lanes on Camino del Mar? A: Yes, it is among the options, along with keeping it at two lanes in both directions.
Q: When will we see the “draft Village Plan” and will there be more than one plan to look at? A: We will bring alternative plans to the community this fall, 2011 for a continuation of our Community conversations. There will be plenty of opportunity for more input and refinement of our solutions taking everyone’s concerns into consideration. In the meantime residents can continue sending input to the Planning Department, either by letter or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. And check out information about revitalization on the City’s website: www.delmar.ca.us.