The Coast News Group
Three designs for a new city hall in Del Mar will go to registered voters to weigh in on the options available. The city had hosted a series of workshops to receive public input on the new project. File poto by Bianca Kaplanek
Three designs for a new city hall in Del Mar will go to registered voters to weigh in on the options available. The city had hosted a series of workshops to receive public input on the new project. File poto by Bianca Kaplanek

City Hall options to be sent to voters

DEL MAR — Council members are eager and almost ready to start the design phase for a project to replace City Hall, but not without asking residents first.

At the Nov. 17 meeting they agreed 4-1, with Al Corti dissenting, to send descriptions only of three scenarios to registered voters, who will then have an opportunity to weigh in on which option should get the green light.

The alternatives all include a 9,250-square-foot City Hall and a 3,200-square-foot Town Hall.

One option has just the civic center uses built on the entire 1.5-acre lot with a 15,000-square-foot plaza, 60 surface parking spaces and 100 stalls in a tuck-under garage. Other uses such as commercial buildings could be phased in over time where space allows.

A second option is essentially the same except it would be built on about half of the site and include 75 to 80 tuck-under parking spaces. The other half of the parcel would be reserved for future expansion.

The final scenario is a mixed-use project built on the entire parcel with a 25,000-square-foot plaza, about 9,250 square feet of commercial space and 160 stalls in a tuck-under garage.

In this option the civic buildings could go in first and the commercial space would be phased in later.

Previous proposals included four to six residential units. Although those have been eliminated from all plans they could be added later if there is interest by residents to do so.

The city hosted three workshops in the past 11 months to garner public input. There was consensus on several items, such as where to build the new facility (on the current site at 1050 Camino del Mar) and some uses that should be included (a Town Hall and enough space to accommodate the farmers market).

Opinions varied on the inclusion of commercial uses and parking. At the first two workshops residents indicated they wanted a café, a restaurant and additional parking.

“Anything to increase the public parking component is critical,” Bob Sonnhalter said at the second workshop.

“We’ve got to get more public parking to induce people to come to this end of town,” Marty Peters added.

At the third workshop, about 24 percent of the 70 or so attendees said they wanted little or no surplus parking.

Many of the dozen or so speakers at the Nov. 17 meeting said they support the mixed-use project but would be willing to have it constructed in phases so the civic center buildings could be completed as soon as possible.

“I would hate to lose the opportunity to have some ability to build commercial capability in the future on the south end of town,” former Mayor Richard Earnest said. “But I understand the need to put this in right away. … (W)hatever you come up with is going to be better than what we have now.”

The existing City Hall is a former school — resident Marty Peters said his mother attended classes there — built in the early 1920s that is now deteriorating. There is not enough space to conduct city business, nearly half of the building is unusable due to safety concerns and it is not energy efficient.

“We need space for staff,” Glenn Sherman said. “We need a better space than we have.”

Council members said they would like to at least build the civic center sooner rather than later to take advantage of a 3 percent interest loan. Also, building any more than that would trigger Measure B, a voter approved initiative that governs large developments downtown that could add several more years to the construction time.

Other residents such as former Mayor Dave Druker support only a City Hall, council chambers, space for the television studio and a plaza large enough to accommodate the farmers market.

“The residents of Del Mar should not foot the bill for unneeded parking,” Druker wrote in an email to the city. “(A) mixed use project … is based upon visions that have little basis in the current reality of Del Mar.”

Druker said the city is not a retail center or a small European or New England village because of the millions of people who visit annually for the beaches and activities at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

“Therefore I believe that we should develop … the City Hall site based upon what is needed not what can be done,” he added.

In December the document summarizing the three options that will be sent to all registered voters will be presented to council members. If approved, council will then decide how best to poll residents on the preferred option.