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Revitalization effort moving forward again

DEL MAR — With five meetings planned to allow for public input, the city is once again moving forward with plans to revitalize the downtown commercial zone.
In an attempt to accommodate varying schedules, community conversations are planned on weekends and weekdays at different times at homes throughout the city and at the City Hall Annex.
At each discussion, members of the Planning Department will use display boards to introduce goals, objectives and policies to revitalize the village area.
Planning Director Kathleen Garcia said she is starting with the goals of the community plan that was developed in 1976 and amended in 1985 to create retail and office uses that serve residents and visitors in an attractive, economically viable village.
Plans include a pedestrian-oriented downtown with facilities for civic and community activities and a pedestrian network that links downtown and reduces traffic.
Issues include creating a cooperative parking program, adding mixed-use residential development, maintaining the village characteristics and regulating building heights.
Council liaisons Don Mosier and Lee Haydu will facilitate each presentation, which will be followed by a series of questions for attendees.
“This is to prompt the participants to provide their opinion of what needs to be changed within the village area to achieve the goals and objectives,” Garcia said. “We’re hoping to actually do very little talking and almost all listening.”
The community conversations are one part of a three-phase outreach program. Input will also be sought from business and property owners, the Planning Commission and the Design Review Board.
During the second phase, community members will have an opportunity to review and react to revitalization proposals and incentives. This is slated to take place during the preparation of the draft revitalization plan and environmental impact report in fall 2011.
Community education is intended to provide information about the plan prior to a public vote. This final phase of the outreach program is expected to occur in late summer or early fall 2012, in time for the general election that year.
Throughout the process, council will receive updates and have opportunities for input.
Revitalization planning will run parallel with plans to modify parking rations in the central commercial zone to be consistent with the San Diego Association of Governments smart-growth parking standards.
The plans, presented by Garcia at the March 25 City Council meeting, received a lukewarm reception from at least one council member.
“Would it hurt your feelings if I said I don’t like it?” asked Carl Hilliard, the longest serving member of the current council.
“You weren’t here six years ago and I’m sorry you weren’t because I think you’d be a lot further along,” he said. “In fact, I think we’d be done.”
Hilliard was referring to what he described as “a very eloquent and comprehensive series of presentations” to create view corridors, open spaces “and the kind of ambiance we wanted,” he said.
The project, which Hilliard said got the community excited about downtown revitalization, was expected to be complete by 2009.
“It didn’t happen and I’m not quite sure why,” Hilliard said. “It just seemed to have gotten hijacked.” He said disputes over the role of the Design Review Board contributed to the failure.
“It seemed to have died a slow and painful death, and I’m not sure we’ve got much to show for that,” he said. “I hope we do.”
Hilliard suggested taking what was learned previously and using that as a starting point. He said it would be a “waste of time to go back and start with blank piece of paper.”
“You wind up with confusion,” he said.
“I have no intention of starting over,” Garcia said. “There’s been a tremendous amount of work done and that is extremely valuable.”
The plan does, however, need to be updated with a stronger commitment to sustainability, she said.
Other council members said they thought there should be more than five community conversations and most, if not all, council members should be present.
The first community conversation was scheduled for April 28. Additional meetings are set for:
— May 3 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the south hills and bluff area
— May 15 from 3 to 5 p.m. in the hills south of 15th Street
— May 26 from 7 to 9 p.m. for the 15th Street and Crest areas
— June 5 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the City Hall Annex
RSVP at [email protected] or by calling (858) 755-9313, ext. 160. Include a name, address, e-mail, number of people attending and a preferred location. The exact location will be e-mailed upon receipt of the RSVP.