Terry Sinnott | Deputy Mayor
1.Good Plan: The Village Specific Plan (VSP) is a well thought out plan that addresses how the Village will be developed over the next 30 years. It describes specific ways that buildings can be improved, parking spaces increased, pedestrian walkways enhanced, and traffic congestion reduced.
2. Real Change is Needed: After 36 years of talking and over 10 major studies, the City has not implemented any zoning changes that would encourage a pedestrian friendly village environment as laid out in the Community Plan we approved in 1976.
3. Competition: Encinitas, Solana Beach, Flower Hill, Del Mar Highlands and Del Mar Heights are all investing and improving their shopping areas to stay vibrant and financially sound. If we don’t encourage improvements in our Village, we will lose financially and will be unable to attract the type of businesses that residents want in the Village.
4. Community Input: The Plan incorporates the basic goals of the 1976 Community Plan: “to minimize the impact of the automobile on the character of Del Mar,” and “preserve the residential character and small town atmosphere.” It provides better traffic flow, improved safety, and reduced pollution. Plus the Plan incorporates community input. Ninety meetings and workshops have been held and over 50 substantial changes were made to the Plan based on public comments. These changes included reducing the amount of square footage allowed and lowering the allowed height of buildings along Camino Del Mar, increasing credits for building residential units downtown, shortening the schedule for a parking structure, reducing the number of roundabouts and ensuring that the Design Review Board, Planning Commission and City Council play an expanded role in reviewing projects.
5. Clear Goals: The VSP has specific measurements to track how the implementation is proceeding. Measurable goals for Village improvement at 10, 20, and 30 year intervals are established. These measures include pedestrian and bicycle safety, vehicular circulation, improved parking, land usage, satisfaction of residents, economic vitality, and sustainable environments. These will keep the city focused on achieving the correct results and adjusting the Plan if negative impacts occur.
6. Safeguards: One of the key changes made to the Plan, based on community input, was the addition of “thresholds” or “safety milestones” to trigger reviews of the Plan making sure it is meeting the community’s goals and there are no unintended consequences. For example, every 10 years, or whenever 50% of a block reaches 26 feet, whichever comes first, the VSP will be reviewed by City Council to make sure the community is still positive about the new development. If not, the height restrictions can be changed.
7. Residential Housing: The 1976 Community Plan calls for a mixed use of commercial and residential downtown. We have never been able to provide mixed-use housing in our City. This is the one opportunity we have to encourage developers to include housing in their plans for the future and allow the City to meet its affordable housing goals.
8. Roundabouts: After much study and traveling to other cities and using roundabouts, I am convinced they would be far better than what we have today. They will allow traffic to flow smoothly while reducing noise and accidents. Otherwise, with our current stop signs and stop lights, Camino Del Mar will continue to be jammed and at a standstill.
The only other solution is traffic signals from one end of town to the other. That is not the ‘village atmosphere’ called for in our Community Plan.
9. Future Generations: We anticipate that the Village Specific Plan will take 20 to 30 years to be fully implemented. We owe it to future generations to plan a better future for the Village of Del Mar; to take what we enjoy today, and make sure it is even better tomorrow. If we stop making Del Mar a better place, I believe we will stagnate and decline as a community.
10. Paralysis: My overlying fear is that we may throw the baby out with the bathwater. The VSP is a complex plan balancing pedestrian access, business vitality, parking, traffic and the environment. But at the core, it is a very good roadmap for the future. I hope voters will recognize the basic value of the Plan, even though they might have a concern about one feature.
After all this effort, all of this community involvement and outreach, if the Plan is rejected, it will be much harder for our City to move forward: to improve public areas such as the City Hall, the Shores Property, the southern end of CDM and the impact of traffic, and property owners will not be motivated to invest in their properties. Our paralysis as a City will continue another 20 years. Paralysis is not a good legacy.