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Council OKs city hall poll, appoints five to design committee

DEL MAR — Most Del Mar residents will soon have a chance to weigh in on what should be included in the new city hall complex.

After a 90-minute discussion at the Jan. 20 meeting to finalize the survey language, council members unanimously approved the release of an online poll that will allow registered voters to rank three options for the facility that will be built where the current city hall is located.

A public awareness campaign will begin Jan. 26. Simultaneously, informational materials that include a unique password will be mailed to voters, who will have from 8 a.m. Feb. 2 through 5 p.m. Feb. 13 to complete the questionnaire.

A private kiosk with a tablet will be set up at the current city hall, and paper surveys will also be available.

The week of Feb. 13 responses will be tabulated by Everyone Counts, an election consulting company hired by the city to conduct the poll. Results will be presented to council at the March 2 meeting.

The Voice Your Choice poll will describe the three options and include links for more detailed information, such as costs and features. Respondents will be asked to rank each alternative as a first, second or third choice.

A final screen will allow them to verify their selections before submitting their survey.

City officials also made it clear Voice Your Choice is a poll, not an election, as online voting is not allowed in California. The city received a letter from the secretary of state expressing concerns about the way the process was presented last month.

All references to the survey as an election were removed and the modified documents were submitted to state officials, who provided a verbal response that they had no issues with the new language.

An organization called Verified Voting also had objections, saying the survey could still be misconstrued as an election since it will only be open to registered voters.

“It’s not prohibited,” assistant City Attorney Barry Schultz said. “I could not find any legal authority … that limiting it to registered voters somehow creates an election and is therefore illegal.”

City Manager Scott Huth said the city frequently polls registered voters only.

In other city hall news, council members also unanimously appointed five residents to an ad hoc design team selection committee.

David Arnold, William Cecil, Dennis Cruzan, Lewis Dominy and Pat JaCoby will serve with council liaisons Don Mosier and Mayor Al Corti to review statements of qualifications to pick a design team for the civic center complex.

The group will recommend a short list of design teams for council consideration.

The volunteer opportunity was advertised from Dec. 18 through Jan. 6 on the city website and via email messages. Seven responses were received.

The initial plan was to select two community members, as well as a member of the Design Review Board. But Corti and Mosier recommended expanding the number based on the qualifications of the applicants, which included architects, designers and developers.

Not chosen were Jim Watkins, who has submitted plans for the project, and Judd Halenza, who currently serves on two other citizen committees.

Councilman Dwight Worden suggested including them in the process, but not giving them a vote.

“I just find myself feeling a little bit uncomfortable that we’re leaving off two very talented, skilled people,” Worden said. “I don’t have a problem with the five that are recommended.

“(They’re) are great,” he added. “It’s just that we’re leaving two others that are also great behind.”

“We agree that Judd and Jim are very capable,” Corti said, noting that he called both men to explain how he and Mosier came to their decision.

He said they didn’t want the committee to get too big, and there will be other opportunities to provide input as the process continues.