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Del Mar may actually finally replace its aging City Hall. Council members at the March 3 meeting authorized a planning schedule outlining the next steps that will be taken. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
Del Mar may actually finally replace its aging City Hall. Council members at the March 3 meeting authorized a planning schedule outlining the next steps that will be taken. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

Schedule set for City Hall planning

DEL MAR — A draft schedule outlining the next steps that will be taken to replace City Hall was accepted unanimously by council members at the March 3 meeting.

Plans will move forward with the location of the existing facility at 1050 Camino del Mar as the preferred site for the new building.

The efforts will include determining the exact amount of space that will be needed and cost estimates for a facility that features administrative offices, a town hall meeting area, parking, community rooms, a plaza and open space.

There will also be an update to 2007 plans for a mixed-use facility with a public-private partnership and a financial estimate to find the highest and best use for the Camino del Mar site.

The Finance Committee is currently reviewing what the city can afford, assessing the revenue potential of nonessential assets and researching new revenue-generating ideas.

Presentations and discussions will take place at every council meeting through June 16, when some final decisions could be made.

Community Development and Planning Director Kathy Garcia said her office is evaluating 23 bids received from consultants to prepare an analysis and cost estimates. She said she plans to make a recommendation at the March 17 meeting on which company should be awarded the contract.

On April 7, the Finance Committee will report findings to City Council. At the April 21 meeting council members are expected to discuss programming.

The May 5 meeting will include a discussion on how best to finance the project, a valuation assessment for the 1050 Camino del Mar property and an explanation of public-private partnership opportunities.

Estimates of probable construction costs will be presented May 19.

A public workshop is scheduled for June 9. Council members will discuss questions for that event on June 2.

The June 16 meeting will include a summary of the workshop as well as a possible decision on what direction the city should take.

Garcia said that could include how big the facility should be, how much can and should be spent and how to move forward.

That will all depend on community input and recommendations from consultants, Garcia said. She said council members should have enough information to start making decisions. They could narrow it down to a set of priorities or be ready to move forward with the design process.

“I cannot predict where that will go at this point in time,” she said.

“When we get to June, our goal as staff is to take as many unknowns off the table and clarify them with better figures,” City Manager Scott Huth said.

Although council members unanimously support the schedule, Terry Sinnott had some concerns.

“I think this is a great schedule, one that is very aggressive, one that moves things along quickly,” Sinnott said. “My heartburn is educating the public so that they are confident in the choices that we are making.

“I’m happy to move forward with the CdM site and to develop the costs and the programs for that,” he added. “That’s exactly what I think is useable. But what I think is missing on the schedule is a point at which we take that information, apply it to other sites and eliminate other sites in the public arena.”

Stressing “it’s important to bring our community along,” Sinnott said he would “add some lines” to the schedule that indicate the city will take “the information we learn from our consultants and apply it to other possibilities in the community so the community can see we’ve done our due diligence.”

Huth said that is already part of the plan.

“This focus is looking at this site and the different morphs for this site,” Huth said.

But the costs will be applicable if a City Hall is built on a similar lot elsewhere.

“It’s going to be a puzzle,” he said. “It’s going to be many building blocks. Some will be driven by what we can afford. I’m trying to bring to you as many building blocks that will be defined enough that you can feel comfortable about making some of those choices.”

Councilman Don Mosier said he liked that the schedule was winding up before summer. He also said staff should look at what other cities have done.

“There are some lessons to be learned and some fairly large-sized mistakes to avoid,” he said. “On the other hand, we have a history here in Del Mar of dancing up to the new city Hall plate, and then swinging and missing repeatedly, and those are lessons to be learned.

“I think there is a sort of narrow pathway to success in this project … we’re going to have to navigate,” Mosier added. “Hopefully this is the right way to do it. … We want to watch the timing so that there’s plenty of opportunity for the public to pay attention and follow the process.

“So I really think it’s good to get this done in June and then not take any major steps until September when people are back paying attention,” he added.