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Del Mar City OKs business committee

DEL MAR — In an effort to better support downtown businesses, council members adopted a resolution at the May 6 meeting establishing an 11-member advisory committee that will offer them advice on the challenges of doing business in Del Mar. 

The Business Support Advisory Committee was originally slated to include two restaurant owners, two property owners, two hotel owners or operators and two retail stores owners or operators, as well as one representative each from Del Mar Plaza, the Del Mar Village Association and an office or medical establishment.

But the numbers were shifted following a recommendation by Councilwoman Lee Haydu.

“This is a great concept,” she said. “My concern is about the mix. Our hotels are very well-represented with the (Tourism Business Improvement District).

“I think there are other businesses that need to be more in this mix,” she added. “We see retail stores come and go more than anything else in this city.”

With that, council decreased hotel representation by one member and added it to retail.

Once formed the group will identify opportunities to improve city functions, review initiatives that affect the business community and suggest and prioritize ways the city could be more business-friendly.

Members will also identify methods for implementing recommendations, monitor the changes to determine their success and regularly report to City Council.

With Don Mosier and Sherryl Parks absent at the May 6 meeting, council members opted to wait to appoint council liaisons and determine the reporting schedule.

Speaking as chairman of the Del Mar Village Association’s Economic Improvement Committee, former Councilman Richard Earnest described the resolution and advisory committee makeup as “first rate.”

But he said in order for it to be effective, the group needs accurate data.

“We need to be armed with that information to be able to create conclusions out of real information, not folklore,” he said. “And we’re going to hear some folklore (that) everything’s fine.

“Everything isn’t fine,” he added, noting that many businesses are struggling. “While the good ones continue to make it, they’re not making it by any great, substantial margin. They’re doing it by the skin of their teeth in many cases.

“We’re coming up, thankfully, on the summer season so we’ll be able to do some better things, but then we’re again faced with the fall and the winter and the cycle continues,” Earnest said. Somehow we need to break the cycle.”

He said the city working together with businesses and property owners “is the only way that we’re going to be able to move forward.”

He said his DMVA committee is creating block captains to work with businesses to determine what’s going right, what’s not and what they need from DMVA and City Hall.

Three business owners also addressed council to support the resolution.

Del Mar Rendezvous co-owner Daniel Schreiber, who offered to serve on the advisory committee, said many of his fellow restaurateurs are struggling and need help.

“The margins are very small,” he said. “Some of them aren’t making any margin at all so I think that there needs to be a sense of urgency. … We’re at the brink.”

Schreiber said some business owners told him they are planning to close once their leases expire. “That makes me very sad,” he said. “That’s very depressing.

“I think we need to change the impression of Del Mar as a place that’s not friendly to do business because right now that’s horrible,” he added.

Greg Glassman, who owns Zel’s Del Mar, said his grandfather was an early merchant in the city. Glassman said he recently read letters written by his grandmother in the 1970s. In them, he said, she was “lamenting about the exact same issues we’re talking about today.”

Businesses owners have expressed concerns that some regulations, such as parking requirements, make it difficult to survive in the city.

Formation of the committee is one component of a plan council members approved at the April 15 meeting.

Other plans include designating a staff person to act as a business coordinator, resolving parking issues and identifying ways to reduce the cost of opening restaurants in the city.

Mayor Terry Sinnott said the proposal is meant to complement the DMVA, not replace it. He said the focus will be on how the city can contribute to the overall success of the downtown and prioritize how it can make improvements over time.