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City Haul
Terry Sinnott | Mayor of Del Mar

 

You may have seen some large storage containers outside City Hall recently. Staff is moving all of the archived records and files out of the South Storage Building to be digitized and eventually discarded. But that brings up the whole question of City Hall. What is happening?

 

Temporary Storage Units for Archives

 

History
The office building at 1050 Camino Del Mar, where we house 25 of our employees, is old, substandard, and needs to be replaced. It was the original St. James Academy, and has been used as City offices since 1976. The buildings were built in the 1920s and expanded in 1956. They lack space for good customer service, adequate restrooms, and meeting rooms. Plus, employee workspace is very marginal. It does not promote a professional atmosphere.

 

City Hall from the back. Photos Shirley King.
Click to enlarge.

 

The community has recognized the need to replace City Hall for many years. In 1986 the City explored developing a mixed public-private project on the existing property. A Master Plan was developed that included city offices, a town hall meeting space, a television studio, and a County Library. The hope was to finance the project using a $4.5 million bond issuance. But in an advisory vote, the community voted the project down in 1992.

In 2007, the City Council hired Keyser Marston to develop four development alternatives for a new City Hall. These included mixed-use proposals for city offices, commercial space, council chambers, and a public plaza. To help finance the project, townhomes were to be built and sold to the public. Due to financial issues before the City, and the reluctance of the community to sell any City property, the proposals were not pursued.

Looking Forward
We currently use 9,256 square feet of space in our existing offices. To bring city functions together as much as possible, staff has estimated a future need of 11,000 square feet for city offices only. The current city property at 1050 Camino Del Mar is 1.5 acres, or 68,000 square feet. The site could hold a project of 30,000 square feet or more, and would have to meet all height, setback and Design Review requirements.

With that space need in mind, the City is looking at all possible locations and evaluating the most feasible alternatives to present to the community. The City is looking at city-owned land, including 1050 Camino Del Mar, the Public Works site, and the Shores Property. We are also looking at properties that could be leased or purchased within the City.

Each location has its positive and negative issues. The current city hall property is owned by the City; has great potential for development, but has existing city functions that must be maintained during any construction. The Shores Property was purchased as open space and parkland, and the City Council has gone on record not wanting to move city offices to that location. Public Works property is in a flood zone that limits the area that can be used as a building site and increases the cost of any building.

So we must do a thorough job in the evaluation of possible sites. The City is using a set of evaluation criteria to measure each location. These criteria include:

• Community Values – What does the community want in a new city hall?
• Operational – What makes most sense from an economic and efficiency standpoint?
• Regulatory – Which alternatives can conform to current zoning and permit requirements?

We must also look at the financial aspects of a new city hall. Working with the Finance Committee, Staff has put together a first-ever 30-year projection of Del Mar’s financial structure. It helps us answer the question of “what can we afford to spend for City improvements”? Our preliminary projections are that we can finance a city hall project of $7-8 Million. We have asked independent bond consultants to verify our projections. They concur with our forecast.

Now we are in the process of narrowing the possible locations of a new City Hall to the most feasible, realistic alternatives. We are doing our “due diligence” to make sure we can present the best alternatives to the community. We should complete that work in the next few weeks. Then we can involve residents in a community dialogue on the specifics for a new City Hall.

In my opinion, it will take some time for the community to discuss and agree on the best alternative. It will also take time if we build a new City Hall. Regardless of the ultimate plan, I am recommending that we first vacate our existing offices and find some alternative space that will provide a decent working environment for our employees. That will open up the property at 1050 Camino Del Mar for additional parking and ultimately a new city center at the south end of town. Then, our community can take the needed time to decide on the details of their future city hall. But something needs to be done soon.

As we move forward in this process, please contact the City Council and let us know your thoughts.

 

Women’s Bathroom
 
Finance Department
 
Outdoor eating space
 
Modular Trailer for IT Department
 
Dumpsters for Clean-up


 

 

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