EIR, specific plan released for review

DEL MAR — The draft specific plan and environmental impact report for downtown revitalization were released March 20 and are available for a 45-day public review period on the city website, at the library and at City Hall.The 371-page, 12-chapter specific plan outlines revitalization goals and concepts and how those strategies will be implemented. It addresses the physical changes in the public realm, especially along Camino del Mar, development regulations for building sites and financing.

It also includes new conceptual illustrations that show Camino del Mar with changes to the streetscape, new parking and what some of the buildings could potentially look like over time with the new development standards.

The document outlines the community benefits and provides a framework for reviewing accomplishments.

The 1,000-plus-page EIR provides information about any significant environmental effects and ways to minimize them and describes reasonable alternatives.

It is a program EIR, which is prepared for a series of actions characterized as one large project — in this case, the specific plan — so to people who have reviewed other EIRs it may appear slightly different.

Fifteen topics were analyzed, including aesthetics, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, land use, noise and recreation.

It assesses no-project and reduced-project alternatives and Camino del Mar as a four-lane road with signals. Traffic is addressed in the specific plan.

“We’ve had no significant, immitigable impacts with the project,” Planning Director Kathy Garcia said.

The no-project alternative has unmitigated traffic impacts, she said, “so the do nothing … is definitely something that would have more traffic impacts.”

The reduced alternative, with 500,000 square feet of development as opposed to 600,000 in the preferred option, is environmentally superior but does not fulfill the goals of maximum economic viability, Garcia said.

She said residents should be asking themselves three major questions while reviewing the specific plan.

Do the implementation strategies fulfill the vision? Do the development standards provide the appropriate outcomes? Are the public improvements delivering the desired quality elements?

While looking at the EIR they should be asking three different questions.

Are the potential impacts adequately addressed and disclosed? Do the mitigations provide relief from the impacts? Are the alternatives adequately described?

“The important thing to realize is they’re both drafts,” Garcia said. To refine the plans city staff is asking for public input.

The city is required to respond to all comments, which must be submitted in writing by May 4.

Input received after May 4 can still be addressed for the specific plan but the deadline is firm for the EIR. The goal is to present everything to City Council on Aug. 6 for adoption and certification so the specific plan can be placed on the November ballot.

Plans to revitalize the village have been in the works for what seems like an eternity. Using goals established in the 1976 community plan and input from previous efforts, Garcia kicked off the latest campaign in April 2011, shortly after being hired.

Councilman Mark Filanc said her efforts to complete all the project requirements on time were “herculean.”

The documents are also available on DVD for $15 or on paper for the cost of printing.

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