Ann Gardner | Via Latina
On March 4 City Council and community members rallied behind the Del Mar Plaza’s proposed Amendment to their Specific Plan vowing to help local owners, Patty and Mark Brutton, bring the community back into the once “magical development” at the corner of 15th and Camino del Mar. In order to attract more customers as well as bring the community back into the Plaza’s vacant spaces, the Bruttons are proposing the following:
Reinvigorating quasi-public spaces. According to the owners the quasi-public spaces have been “terribly underutilized” with the exception of the deck adjacent to Pacifica Breeze. The amendment would allow outdoor cafe areas in “portions” of the public space still open to the public without obligation to purchase from the restaurant and still available to non-profits.
Enhanced signage for businesses on the upper levels. Currently the Plaza is not allowed to install signage along Camino del Mar for establishments located above street level even though that restriction does not apply to other businesses in our downtown area. The proposed Amendment would allow signage consistent with Del Mar’s Central Commercial Zone subject to review and approval by the Design Review Board.
Eliminating restrictions for restaurant opportunities would allow the Plaza to operate under the City’s Parking Management Plan which requires fewer parking spaces in specific situations. As with signage regulations, the current 1989 Specific Plan reflects more stringent requirements than now required for business in the downtown area.
Adding additional uses not currently identified in the Specific Plan. Pharmacies and Drug stores are allowed in the current Plan. The Amendment “would include a broader category…to allow retail sales of “non-psychoactive, Industrial Hemp-based Cannabidiol (CBD) personal care products such as skin creams, lip balms, medicaments, and analgesics.”
At the recent City Council meeting the Plaza provided an update of their current dilemma in bringing the Plaza back to its original potential in a market that has shifted drastically since 1989. “The Plaza is in trouble,” Patty Brutton said outlining the losses they are absorbing after paying 45.5 million to purchase a property that had suffered under negligent absentee ownership since 2009. In 2018 alone the net operating revenue dropped almost $2 million. Leasing is difficult; businesses have left and Banana Republic and Urban Girl have said they might leave.
Local speakers agreed saying “we need to help the Plaza,” and praising the Bruttons who live just blocks from the Plaza for “coming to the rescue…even if they didn’t realize what they were getting in for.” Some emphasized the possibility of bringing in programs sponsored by San Diego cultural institutions such as the Opera, Repertory Theatre, and museums for local audiences.
The Council followed suit saying they were committed to help. No concerns with the proposed changes were voiced given that all the changes would comply with current zoning standards; “pretty modest” Councilmember Worden commented. From here the owners will submit a draft Specific Plan Amendment for formal review that will include a Planning Commission recommendation at a public hearing and a City Council hearing.