Art Olson | Avenida Primavera
The Del Mar Ad Hoc Development Review Board Citizen’s Advisory Committee is moving ahead with careful and deliberate speed. The Committee has been operating since July of last year for the following purposes: 1) to identify the concerns related to community impacts of new and remodeled homes; 2) to identify the goal to be achieved in potentially modifying regulations and procedures; and 3) to recommend solutions to remedy the situation, including possible amendments to the regulations in the Municipal Code and/or the City’s development review procedures.
In the first 6 months of the committee’s work the focus has been on gathering input on perceived issues or problems with the current residential development review process and its impact on the community. Comments have been solicited from the general community, as well as from those who have gone through the design review process, including project applicants and developers, neighbors, architects, and members of the Design Review Board. Input has been received though oral communications at the Committee’s public meetings and a workshop, as well as through written communications to the Committee. All communications have been archived on the City of Del Mar’s website as part of the minutes of the meetings or as separate written communications.
At this point in time, comments on 93 distinct perceived issues with Del Mar’s Development process have been received by the committee. These comments have been sorted into five categories which describe the process or ordinance which they address:
1) DRB procedures and practices;
2) Citizen Participation Program (CPP);
3) Design Review Ordinance (DRO);
4) Related Ordinances: Trees, views & Grading; and
5) the Zoning Code. To examine this input and to distill these comments into clearly articulated issues that the Committee can address, four subcommittees have been formed, each taking one of the categories listed above, except for DRB procedures and practices, which is being tackled by the Committee as a whole.
While the Committee’s first charge is to identify and clarify the important issues for the community, it has already identified several uncontentious problem areas that could be addressed by the City Council in the near term. These include
1) facilitating the public’s understanding and ability to work through the Design Review process by developing a lay language guidebook and better documentation on the City web-site, and instituting an ombudsman who can provide guidance in contentious situations;
2) facilitate the public notice timeframe to enable a longer period for access to project plans reducing the number of “red dot” items that appear at the DRB hearings at the last minute;
3) promote less subjectivity in the design review process by developing a set of clear interpretive guidelines to illustrate community design priorities and standards;
4) have applicants utilize current technologies such as standardized 3D computer models and renderings to help clarify what the “finished product” will look like and what impacts it will have on neighboring properties; and
5) ensure DRB objectivity by restricting comments by members of the public, applicants and Board members to focus on the DRO’s and by expanding Board member training and providing mentorship, using the expertise of former DRB members.
The Ad Hoc Committee has met twice monthly (the first and third Tuesday of the month at 6pm) since its inception. On February 9 it will meet with the Planning Commission at its regular monthly meeting to get its input into the issues that should be addressed. With the subcommittees now working to define the critical problems and goals to be achieved in addressing them, the Ad Hoc Committee is planning to reduce its own meeting schedule to one meeting per month in the near future. The Sandpiper will keep its readers informed about the timing of upcoming meetings.