Ann Gardner | Via Latina
City Council is expected to determine the overall direction for all our public facilities, including a new City Hall, at their Priority Workshop beginning at 6 p.m. Monday September 9. A City Hall discussion of one sort or another has been going on ever since 1959 when Del Mar incorporated and three employees hastily set up office in the former Del Mar Hotel - only to have the Hotel go out of business. The three then moved to 1224 Maiden Lane and later into the old Del Mar jail (County Sherriff’s office and a holding cell at the corner of 15th and Stratford Court, current location of Rusty’s). The majority of city services were provided by contract, including Public Works.
Today six city departments including City Clerk/IT, Finance, Planning, Public Works, Community Services and Fire with a total of 53 employees work from four different locations. (The City Attorney, City Engineer and Sheriff are contracted positions and do not have office space in Del Mar.) The current City Hall building, a 1973 renovation of the old St. James Academy at 1050 Camino del Mar, has been a major focus of discussion ever since: south building seismically unsuitable for occupancy, dilapidated, no indoor plumbing, limited counter space, etc.
Ever since, City Councils and several citizens committees have provided recommendations and ideas for a new City Hall. Staff summarized this information at recent Council meetings and their reports as well as Council discussions (video archives) are available on the City’s website: www.delmar.ca.us. Now Council hopes to narrow down site opportunities for a new City Hall at their regularly scheduled meeting September 3 before the September 9 workshop. Staff reports will be available the week before each meeting and public input is welcome at both sessions. Planning Director Kathy Garcia has emphasized that these sessions are not in any sense a design process for a new City Hall, but a means of narrowing down the questions and options, which may or may not include a new building. So what has been put on the table so far?
1. City Council has prioritized the City Hall building as the most in need of upgrading or replacement. Three options have been considered so far: substantial remodeling of the existing facility, purchase or lease of an existing building or build a new facility.
2. The Council has requested and received from staff an analysis of departments that could be co-located in order to increase efficiencies and sharing of information, e.g. the Fire Department and City Hall could be co-located as suggested in earlier studies.
3. Staff has presented space needs assessments, possible criteria to assess planning alternatives and citing opportunities as well as a complete summary of earlier studies.
4. Council discussions in June and July have generated an informal consensus that a new City Hall plan would be a simple public space in keeping with the size and character of the community. There was a general agreement that earlier plans for large, comprehensive projects that involved mixed uses would not be supported.