Claire McGreal | Stratford Court
|Penny Lane. Photo Karolen Linderman.
Clicik on image to enlarge.
Almost two years ago, The City asked its Finance Committee the best way to fund several unfunded goals. The goals included undergrounding wires, developing Shores Park and improving streets. The Finance Committee concluded the best method to fund these goals is to raise the sales tax from 8 to 9%, which effectively doubles the amount of sales tax retained by the City (The County and State take 7 of the first 8% raised.)
Del Mar’s revered Community Plan of 1976 sets forth undergrounding as a major goal. “F. PROTECT AND ENHANCE HUMAN SCALE, WARMTH, CHARM, INTEREST, TEXTURE, PEDESTRIAN INVOLVEMENT AND LANDSCAPING. ….4. Initiate a continuous program of replacing overhead utility distribution equipment with an underground system.” (Community Plan of 1976, P. 57, capitals original).
In the last forty years since undergrounding became a stated goal, only 72 poles have come down, leaving 538 poles standing. Many of our iconic landmarks, including St Peter’s Church, are bordered by unsightly poles and wires. Undergrounding not only would enhance the aesthetics, but would also open up views from both public and private spaces.
More importantly, undergrounding would dramatically enhance our safety. Utility poles are subject to being downed by cars in accidents, or being toppled by a falling tree, as happened at Penny Lane and Stratford this year, when a giant eucalyptus fell across wires, leaving the immediate neighbors, including our City Hall without power an entire day. Also, utility poles become extremely dangerous in fire conditions, and spread fires. Also, underground wires require far less maintenance than those strung on utility poles.
The development of Shores Park is a more recent, but nonetheless important goal in need of funding. The design team hired by the City has created three designs, but the City has no funds earmarked for development. With the increase in the sales tax, we can begin workshopping those designs, and breaking ground for that Park’s development.
Similarly, Streetscape and improved streets has been another long-time goal. Streetscape is a goal that would make our downtown more pedestrian-friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and merchant-friendly.
In short, the proposed sales tax increase, Measure Q, would provide funding for these 3 important goals: undergounding, Shores Park development, and street improvements. Best of all, approximately 80% of the new tax would be paid by visitors. Isn’t it time that visitors pay their fair share?