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Revitalization meetings net positive input

DEL MAR — After two of five scheduled community conversations to gather community input
about downtown revitalization, the feedback has been mostly positive. More than 40 people attended gatherings in private homes April 28 and May 3.
“Both were very good discussions,” Planning Director Kathy Garcia said. There was a lot of back and forth discussion reinforcing previous efforts that can be incorporated into alternatives, she said.
“There were really very few negatives,” Mayor Don Mosier said. There was general support for mixed-use housing downtown and people favored improving sidewalks for increased connectivity to make Del Mar “a real walking community,” he said.
For more than three decades, the city has been trying to renovate the village area to slow traffic and encourage redevelopment. Many existing building codes provide disincentives for current business owners to improve their properties. They also discourage new businesses from opening in the village.
When changes had been proposed in the past, residents had issues with increased building heights, view corridors and floor area ratio, or FAR, which controls the size of a building on a lot.
When those changes were proposed at the recent meetings, Garcia and Councilwoman Lee Haydu said there was little resistance.
“They want a vibrate downtown with a lot of pedestrian mingling,” said Haydu, who serves with Mosier as a liaison for village revitalization. “Nobody has said anything when we described envelopes and building heights.”
“We’ve set out the criteria that would be used to determine the buildable area of the site,” Garcia said. “We’ve talked most extensively on height, especially on the west side of Camino del Mar.
“There were people who raised the concern that we need to take into account views and make sure that is clearly determined, but they were not against a second story on the west side if we could demonstrate that the views were considered,” Garcia said.
Councilman Carl Hilliard was less optimistic than his colleagues. “We’ve heard this before,” he said. “We’ve got stacks of studies that say this.”
Hilliard said previous council members and staff know the problems — the FAR is too small, view corridors must be preserved and traffic is an issue. Community opposition to the solutions seems to halt the process.
“The sooner we grasp the nettle and move forward with these ideas the better off we’re going to be,” Hilliard said, using traffic as an example.
“We tried to discourage through traffic with stop signs and other impediments,” he said. “They don’t work.”
Hilliard said decreasing Camino del Mar to one lane in each direction and adding back-in parking will slow traffic.
“We know that there is no way under the sun that we can turn Camino del Mar into a Del Mar residents only street,” he said. “In trying to do so we’ve missed out on grants we could have used to improve our main street with roundabouts and other traffic calming devices.
“It’s very clear that revitalization can’t take place in increments,” he said. “It takes a bold vision. We need to lay out that vision.
“Without this vision the community will never see the big picture and we will have contributed another failed study to the pile,” Hilliard said.
Haydu said she discovered a lot of the citizens aren’t familiar with past efforts and the community conversations are getting them up to speed.
“I find that people like what we’re doing,” she said. “They want to see something changed downtown.” She said the process needed to be completed in “baby steps.”
“I think we have to take people along” and not rush the required vote, she said.
The third community conversation was held May 15. Another one in a private residence is set for May 26, with the final meeting taking place June 5 at City Hall Annex. Details are on the city website at