DEL MAR — Having completed nearly half of the top-priority projects on its two-year work plan, City Council discussed nine new proposals during the annual planning retreat Jan. 22 at Pacifica Del Mar.
But with limited funds and staff time, council members directed City Manager Karen Brust to add only three to the list that will receive immediate attention.
Projects such as the seismic retrofit of the North Torrey Pines Bridge, construction of the 21st Street pump station and review of the Del Mar Fairgrounds master plan and environmental impact report are under way and no longer need major City Council input. But they must remain on the priority list because staff time is still required, Burst said.
A handful of other projects are still in progress because they are important to the city’s financial solvency, crucial to public safety or public service delivery or mandated by local, state or federal laws. They include construction of a new beach safety center, downtown revitalization, updating the housing element, creating a pedestrian and bicycle circulation element plan and fire safety.
Revenue recovery from fairgrounds impacts was on the earlier list, but because the city is attempting to buy the site, council renamed the goal Del Mar Fairgrounds proposal.
New top priorities for the next two fiscal years beginning July 1 are to improve government transparency by holding more in-home community conversations and completing
utility undergrounding along Camino del Mar.
Council divides its list of goals into three categories: top priorities, citizen and community-led projects that require City Council efforts but no staff time or funding and others that can be completed without city resources if the opportunity arises.
Following a recommendation from Councilman Mark Filanc to begin work on revitalizing the City Hall site, that project, although still considered long term, was moved up to the top-priority list.
The ongoing wayside horn proposal to quiet train horns was moved up to the community-led category.
New citizen and community-led projects that were discussed include improving parking downtown and in the beach area and creating goals and public outreach for sustainable development.
“We need to be greener to meet (state mandates),” Mayor Don Mosier said. “We are lagging behind all other coastal cities. We want to be at least as good as our neighboring cities, not trailing them.”
Councilman Terry Sinnott recommended assessing the long-term implications of pension costs for fire and safety personnel. Brust and some council members said that would be difficult because the city cannot change existing contracts.
Councilman Carl Hilliard said the Finance Committee has been addressing the issue. Council may recommend that group form a subcommittee to search for other options.
They also talked about appointing a new committee to prioritize uses for the Shores property.
Brust will present the new recommendations to staff “to see what’s doable.”
“Trying to complete the shores project, the fairgrounds proposal, City Hall and revitalization in the next two years would be the perfect storm,” she said.
Brust will present a final list at a retreat scheduled for March 12.
Completed projects include retiring the Shores debt, finalizing a lease with The Winston School, which is housed on that property, developing a model landscape ordinance and creating a Tourism Business Improvement District to raise money to attract more visitors to the city.
Also taken off the list were two projects that failed to garner resident support — utility undergrounding in the North Hills and Sunset neighborhoods and an ordinance that would have broadened the transient occupancy tax to include short-term vacation rentals.
“We got a lot done in the last two years, which proves this process works,” Mosier said.