Art Olson | Avenida Primavera
With the defeat of Proposition J at the ballot box, one might think that any changes concerning Del Mar’s Downtown Commercial zone would be on hold – at least for now. This is not the case. In the process of preparing the Village Specific Plan, the City Planners, City Council, Planning Commission and Design Review Board took a hard look at the existing Design Review Ordinances (DROs), and found that they were geared more toward residential projects than to new commercial development.
On October 22nd the City Council affirmed that the current ordinances did not provide the Design Review Board with the appropriate tools to review any major changes in the Commercial and Public Facility zones, which stretch north on Camino Del Mar from 9th St. to 15th St. They discussed suggestions for new and modified Design Review Ordinances for the downtown area. In particular the Council felt that the current standards did not sufficiently address the issues of aesthetics and design particular to commercial properties, including the relationship of new developments to one another and their impact on an appropriate pedestrian experience along the City’s main commercial corridors. In addition, they found that the current DROs did not address the appropriate levels of protection of view and privacy rights of any new residential units located within the downtown.
Thus, one of the first issues that the newly constituted City Council will face are the specifics of the new DROs for Del Mar’s commercial district. Among the currently proposed draft ordinances are those that regulate a project’s site design and its impact on visual appearance, pedestrian circulation, and on adjacent residential areas; they include elements such as on-site parking, refuse/recycling areas, bicycle racks, storage areas and outdoor uses. Other proposed ordinances are specific to the structural designs themselves, in terms of architectural articulation and building materials. Another set of suggested regulations pertain to the nature of street-level facades; their scale and their relationship to pedestrian flow and interest. Yet others would regulate building facade projections, signage and exterior lighting. The proposed ordinances would also limit protection against view or privacy impacts for properties in the downtown area but would retain such for adjacent residential areas. Not mentioned explicitly in the proposed ordinances are any new DROs for sidewalk cafes, which instead would continue to be reviewed directly by the City Council under an existing set of separate city ordinances.
Clearly, one of the positive outcomes of the proposed Village Specific Plan was an extensive evaluation of the type of impacts that new development in Del Mar’s Commercial District might have, and a re-examination of the Design Review Ordinances to protect the character of our City in anticipation such development. According to City Senior Planner Adam Birnbaum, the new ordinances should come before the newly constituted City Council for approval in December or January.