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Improvements to the roadway, sidewalks, parking and more along Camino del Mar in the village area that have been discussed for more than 20 years were supposed to begin in the spring. File photo
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Downtown improvements in Del Mar get green light

DEL MAR — A decades-long effort to improve the downtown corridor could actually get underway after council members at the Feb. 20 meeting unanimously approved the necessary permits to begin work on phase one.

They also authorized the first allocation of Measure Q money to help fund the project.

In 1996, a long-term streetscape plan for the entire length of Camino del Mar was adopted, with portions implemented over the years. Although the village area has long been a focus of several City Councils, little has been done along that stretch.

About a year ago a community outreach plan resulted in concepts most stakeholders supported. In September council approved a recommended scope of work and authorized the required environmental reviews and the preparation of construction documents.

The overall project will include improvements to sidewalks, parking areas, bike lanes, medians, landscaping and the roadway between Ninth Street and the intersection at the northern entrance to Del Mar Plaza.

Elements include new benches, trashcans, bicycle racks, newspaper displays, bus shelters, disabled accessible ramps and transitions, retaining walls, site walls and lighting.

Of the 94 trees in the total project area, 59 will be left in place and 35 will be removed. Eighty-five new trees will be planted, resulting in 144 trees for a net gain of 50.

The overall project includes six blocks that will be tackled in multiple phases.

The first will include improvements from Ninth Street to the northern bulb-outs at 11th Street. It is slated to begin in early spring, with significant construction work expected to be complete by mid-June, before the start of the busy summer season.

The estimated cost for that portion is $1.4 million. With $400,000 from Measure Q — it’s the first time council is using money from the 1 percent sales tax hike voters approved in 2016 — phase one is fully funded.

The overall project price tag is a little more than $5.6 million.

The 10 emails received were all from people who support moving forward.

“I’ve lived in Del Mar for over 20 years and believe the downtown area will benefit from a much-needed ‘facelift,’” Kerri Brouilette wrote. “As times change and neighboring communities execute their redevelopment plans, Del Mar needs to do the same and do it better!

“We can still maintain the charm and uniqueness of Del Mar but just make it more current and fresh,” she added.

Two residents who wrote in support of the project had concerns about the trees.

“The proposed trees are too tall and numerous and will block views,” Mark Stuckelman wrote. “Covering Camino del Mar with a canopy of trees is inconsistent with a coastal city where ocean vistas are important to both visitors and residents.”

Several of the eight speakers urged council members to “keep the ball rolling” beyond phase one.

“I hope that you’ll commit to the bigger picture — the second phase, the third phase,” Greg Glassman said. “There’s nobody here saying that they don’t want this.”

“It’s going to be great for the community and for the businesses to get this ball rolling and to get some change,” Zach Groban said. “I think there needs to be not only approval of the project but, looking down the road, committing to the … other phases.

“We need to do full blocks from start to finish,” he added. “The last thing any of us want to be doing is coming back and tearing up blocks or having to redo street closures.”

Council members agreed.

“We need to commit that we are going to do something in the fall of 2018 and spring of 2019 to get the second phase moving,” Dave Druker said. “It’s been 20 years since the City Council approved this.

“We’ve never had the money,” he added. “So now we have the money and it’s just really important that we get something in the ground and then keep working on it.”

“I wouldn’t take step one unless I was fully committed to take the rest of the steps to take it to completion,” Mayor Dwight Worden said. “We are committed to this … and fully prepared to follow through with the rest.”

City Manager Scott Huth said he expects to start planning the next phase in October. It could span two to four blocks, depending on available funding, with construction starting just after the first of the year and lasting about four or five months.

Council members were also asked to weigh in on relocating the bus stop near the library and whether all bike lanes should be painted green.

They opted to leave the bus stop where it is just south of the library and to start small and paint just the “conflict” areas green for now.