On April 7, 2014 the City Council decided not to form an Ad-hoc committee for the purposes of gathering and distilling public input on the Civic Center development. The building of a Civic Center is one of the major development decisions that the city will make following in the steps of the Del Mar Plaza, the L’Auberge and the Garden Project. The Civic Center decision requires as much legitimacy and transparency as possible. To achieve this, all points of view should be considered and a consensus formed.
Some residents say that it took a long time for the Garden Project to be approved, even though the community-driven process actually resulted in a consensus plan and a favorable vote in less than two years, including a full environmental report, DRB and Planning Commission process, two finance reports, City Council approval, and a public vote -- with the highest percentage of ‘yes’ votes of any project in Del Mar history. That is faster than the time it would take for a comparable project in any of our neighboring coastal cities.
We do not know what the Council’s preferences are for the City Hall site, only that they advocate for a new Civic Center. But there has been talk about adding other uses to the property. Some that have been discussed are commercial and residential as well as public uses such as inclusion of the Farmers’ Market. One of many unknowns is parking - just for the property or to serve the village? By having the City Council hold all of the hearings necessary to amass the input and to make this decision, the process risks a possible diminished transparency and trust - even if most people are largely supportive of the project in general.
For all of the tough decisions that the city has made, the City Council has turned to the citizens of Del Mar to assist with building a consensus. The City Council is always ultimately going to be in the driver’s seat, and having a good community process doesn’t take away from that -- but it does allow all views to be aired and considered, and builds the essential consensus. We strongly urge the Council to reconsider and form a citizen committee to guide outreach and gain consensus. If we do this right our new civic center can be a source of pride and unity in the community.