Anthony Corso | Stratford Court
Del Mar residents often leave for an extended period of time on vacations, sabbaticals or to take advantage of professional work opportunities. They return with the expectation that the “village” will have become a “densified city” given their memories of the developmental pressures being exerted upon coastal communities.
To their amazement the character and scale of the community is still intact, the canyons, lagoons and other natural features still in place. The overall environment withstands and continues to inspire. The reason for such enduring phenomena is not the result of some mysterious force, but rather due to the determination and dedication of elected officials, and the struggles of planning commissioners and local residents who support and endorse planning and design review controls.
Del Mar has a history of appointing local residents to the “Planning Commission”- a group of five volunteers willing to offer recommendations regarding developmental issues. The idea of appointing a group of laymen to make such determinations is said to have originated at the turn of the century when governmental reformers sought to reduce political influence on decisions by creating a planning commission composed of appointed citizens.
As noted, the Planning Commission’s major responsibility is to consider land use matters and offer recommendations to the City Council. Of particular concern is whether or not a development is in consort with the Del Mar Community Plan-- the statement of goals, objectives and policies that embody the Community’s vision of the future. The plan has continued to serve as the official guide in decision-making since its adoption in 1968.
As stated on the Planning Commission’s web-site: The Planning Commission is charged with the administration of the Community Plan, the Zoning Ordinance and review of related plan applications. The Commission conducts public hearings and considers land use applications such as variances, conditional use permits, coastal development permits, zoning ordinance interpretations and determinations of allowable uses.
More specifically, the areas of Commission concern include: The accommodation of appropriate land uses needed to serve current and future population; the application of zoning regulations and modification of same when required; the development of housing of varying types and densities to accommodate alternative families; the provision of an adequate transportation system including public transit arrangements, road design and location; protection of environmentally sensitive open space, provision of public parks and access to open spaces; the development of quality resident–oriented businesses which serve the local community; the review and approval of 16 specific plans covering areas or districts and a set of unique requirements beyond those found in conventional zoning.
As evident from the listing of duties and responsibilities, planning commissioner service often means long hours, extensive public meetings, all-encompassing research conducted with staff members and others, as well as the scrutiny and analysis of proposals to derive reasoned conclusions.