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As the city moves forward to create a master plan for the 5.3-acre Shores property, council members are reluctant to include stakeholders on an advisory committee. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
As the city moves forward to create a master plan for the 5.3-acre Shores property, council members are reluctant to include stakeholders on an advisory committee. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

Shores planning process moves forward

DEL MAR — Council members authorized staff at the Jan. 21 meeting to begin the search for a consultant to prepare a master plan for the Shores property.

They also unanimously agreed to form a committee that will provide advice throughout the process, but were less sure about the makeup of that group.

Due to the many different community voices associated with the property, the master plan process could benefit from a committee, the staff report states.

The staff recommendation was a group of no more than seven members, with two City Council liaisons and representatives from the various stakeholders that include Little League, dog owners, children’s groups, the Winston School, the Parks and Recreation Committee, Del Mar Community Connections, the Del Mar Foundation, the Community Services Department and Friends of Del Mar Parks.

“When I was reading the staff report the one thing I struggled over was the stakeholder involvement in this committee,” Councilman Don Mosier said. “We know that the use of the park has engaged more citizens than any other issue, including (utility pole) undergrounding, in the time I’ve been on the council.

“We’ve had overflow audiences on at least two occasions when we were discussing use of the park,” he added. “There’s no reason to expect that this won’t be a set of difficult decisions moving forward.”

He said stakeholders will have multiple opportunities in public sessions to voice their opinions to the committee, Parks and Recreation and City Council.

“Council is going to have to step up and make the final hard decisions,” he said. “We will get recommendations from this committee, from Parks and Rec, but at some point the buck stops here. Hopefully the community involvement will be able to reach consensus on what’s best and what we can afford.”

Mayor Lee Haydu agreed. “We’re going to hear from (stakeholders) no matter what,” she said. “They’ll be coming to all those meetings … so I don’t think it’s major to have a stakeholder from each of these groups.”

Councilman Al Corti disagreed. “To have the stakeholders on the outside and not like the outcome means that we just wasted six months,” he said, adding that they should be allowed to “put their views on the table with the objective that they come up with a solution, a compromise.”

A few residents also weighed in on the committee makeup.

“Each of these stakeholders, including myself, in a way are advocates for a certain point of view on the use of this property,” said Joe Sullivan, president Friends of Del Mar Parks, which raised more than $3 million to purchase the 5.3-acre lot from the Del Mar Union School District.

“The park is really being planned for residents to enjoy 15, 25 years from now,” he added. “While I hope to be here I don’t think it’s really my park

“So if it’s at all possible I would be thrilled … if we could organize a steering committee of younger people who will be here, people who have families, people who are going to use that park in a way that parks might be used 25 or 30 years from now,” Sullivan said. “To be blunt, I wish to see a steering committee where the median age is closer to 30 or even 40 than it is to 60 or 70.”

He agreed stakeholders can provide input during public meetings.

“There is a lot of opinions about how this wonderful piece of land should be used,” said Chris Underwood, former member of the Little League board of directors. “I do think the children especially of this community need to be heard.

“The selection of this steering committee is a great concern,” he added. “I recognize the challenges that you will face. Compromise is a part of any process. I hope we can find one together.”

“I have great hopes that consensus can be reached on what this park should look like, but my guess is that it isn’t going to be an easy process,” resident and dog advocate Lynn Gaylord said.

“We’re an incredibly creative and talented community, and I’m sure we can work through some of these differences,” Gaylord said, adding that the park will “forever be a place to … hold picnics, play sports, run dogs and just be a community.

“You see young people and seniors alike coming down there,” she said. “It’s already a place where people come together. … It’s really quite fun.”

Mosier said he also has concerns about a recommendation that two members of the committee be part of a selection committee to choose the consultant.

“You’re asking people who are going to be representing the community interest to the consultant to choose the consultant,” he said. “I think that creates a potential conflict of interest. … I would feel much more comfortable with the staff making the recommendation … based on the criteria we develop and the council reviewing that recommendation and then forming the committee.”

Planning Director Kathy Garcia said she will come back to council with a mission statement and roles for the committee. Once that is approved, staff will advertise for prospective members, who will ultimately be chosen by council members.

Mosier said the primary role should be to list and prioritize all possible uses.

“I don’t think the role of this committee should be to represent stakeholders … but to make sure that the contractor, the consultant and we as a city are doing a thorough job of involving the community and coming … to a consensus,” Councilman Terry Sinnott said.

Garcia said she will work out those details and issue an RFP for a consultant in the next few weeks.

The city purchased the site in 2008 for $8.5 million for open space and recreational uses. Its use became controversial when park users — primarily Little League — sought to ban off-leash dogs. A compromise use schedule was eventually adopted until the master plan is complete.