Del Mar collects input from community for new City Hall

Del Mar collects input from community for new City Hall
Residents discuss options for a new City Hall at a Dec. 2 workshop. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — A new City Hall should be in the downtown village area, preferably where the current facility is located, and it should include high-tech administrative offices for staff and a council meeting area. 

That was the general consensus of the approximately 45 residents who attended a Dec. 2 workshop, the first of what will be many public outreach meetings to replace the deteriorating City Hall at 1050 Camino del Mar.

Mayor Terry Sinnott said everyone should attempt to wear two hats. “First of all, naturally, your individual resident hat,” he said. “But above all we need you to be thinking about Del Mar as a whole.

“It’s trying to put yourself in the place of the decision makers and the whole community as to what we really should be doing,” Sinnott said. “So wearing your Del Mar hat is very important.”

During the two-and-a-half-hour roundtable event, city staff briefed attendees on four categories. With help from city staff and council members, groups then discussed their options and reported the results.

The first task was to list the uses the community wanted in a civic space. Options included administrative offices, council chambers or a town hall meeting space, public parking, community meeting rooms, a plaza or open space, an area for a farmers market or a community center.

All six tables listed offices for city staff as the No. 1 priority, with meeting space for City Council.

Most also saw parking and multiuse meeting spaces as important amenities.

Residents were then asked where the new facility should be located. Options included the current location, the Public Works Yard, the Shores site or privately owned existing offices either downtown or in the north commercial zone.

All groups favored the current site, or at least the village area.

And nearly all were adamant the Shores property should not be considered an option.

The Public Works Yard was also undesirable because of its location in the floodway. One group suggested using the old gas station site, property not owned by the city.

Options to pay for the new facility, estimated to cost $8 million, included selling city-owned land and/or other assets, long-term financing or entering into a private/public partnership in which a developer invests upfront capital for long-term return on investment.

Another alternative, which all groups rejected, was the pay-as-you-go method traditionally used by the city for big projects because it would take 10 to 11 years to create the reserves needed for construction.

“I think we’re eager to get on with it,” resident Joe Sullivan said.

Tom McGreal agreed. “We can’t use pay-as-you-go,” he said. “It’s too much money. We could lift a burden off our shoulders with a private/public partnership.”

Other than agreeing with what shouldn’t be done, there wasn’t much consensus among the groups as to how to fund the project, although most said they support a private/public partnership and financing. There was also general support for selling minor city assets only.

Implementation choices were to move into an existing space, build a new facility and then move into it in a one-step process or move to an interim location, decide the direction and then move.

Again, there was little consensus other than opposing any moves until a plan has been approved.

A full report is scheduled to be presented during the Dec. 9 council meeting.

“I think we can afford a new City Hall,” Councilman Don Mosier said. “I think we want to keep this plan simple. … We can debate when to move forward but I think the time is now. So let’s do it.”

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