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Web exclusive:  The article below is more detailed than the article which appeared in the print edition.

Fiscal Discipline, Vision Needed
May 2008 | by Bettina Experton


On April 14, Del Mar lived one of its big political rally days when many marched to the City Council Chambers asking our elected officials “to show leadership” by having the City fill a $3.5 million gap left by private fundraising efforts to acquire the Shores Property.

Taking this bold step, the Council committed the City to cover the shortfall by issuing a promissory note payable, with interest, before May 15, 2009. This multimillion dollar contribution of public funds also comes with major additional costs, many of which are not yet accounted for. These costs range from the repair or (better yet) the demolition and replacement of rundown buildings which do not meet minimum health and safety standards and the fixing of unsafe grounds, to property maintenance and significant potential liability-related financial risks. Further, none of these additional costs will be offset by an ongoing and meaningful revenue stream such as lease revenues based on fair market rates.

Faced with this new and major financial risk occurring at a time of an economic downturn, our small and financially stressed community needs more than ever bold leadership and fiscal discipline from its Council, and with it, wide support from the community.

At a time when we are assuming more debt and financial risk, immediate action is required to generate the needed additional revenue, while preserving our existing assets and providing for the minimum level of services to the community. These include the provision of fire protection, beach and other safety related services, to asset protection with the replacement of our aged City Hall and 17 th street Lifeguard tower and the construction of downtown sidewalks with the long awaited implementation of the much-needed streetscape plan, etc,...

Better than selling its valuable assets in our current less than favorable times, and while carefully examining high costs items (such as major capital improvement and running consultant related expenses), there are realistic large sources of revenue we should now capture:

1) Implementing the Beach and Downtown Pay and Display Parking Plan advocated by the Finance Committee and which has been favorably received by the Council. The fully implemented plan is projected to provide up to $3 million in net annual revenue*. In addition to this major new revenue stream, the Parking Plan will also offer residents' and visitors' permits for parking convenience (no more coins or fines) while safeguarding residential area parking, and increasing parking space turnover to allow consumers ample time to shop and dine downtown.

2) Leasing the grounds of the City Hall site to provide for up to $1 million in yearly revenue. This will also allow for the construction of a new City Hall relocated to the Shores Property along 9 th street , in place of the rundown Del Mar Union School District administrative offices and daycare center (not worth repairing). This will not only leave ample space for a new Winston School building along Stratford Street and a true community park, but also secure an ongoing funding source for the property redevelopment (sooner rather than later..) and the maintenance of its grounds.

3) Developing the existing City Hall site as a mixed-use retail and residential complex. The development of the entire site would provide for the long advocated Southern gateway to Del Mar with the minimum square footage required to offer some currently missing resident serving retail (pharmacy, and other community oriented shops…) and with it, the basis for a strong and steady source of sales tax revenue.

4) Expanding our sales tax generating core retail base by investing in the necessary revitalization of our downtown. The time is indeed now to support the Council directed code amendments for increase of the Central Commercial zone FAR and change in the current 14 feet height restriction on the West side of Camino Del Mar.

5) Expanding our sources of revenue by working constructively with the Del Mar Fairgrounds with its planned new hotel and other property improvement plans for additional TOT and sales tax revenue.

6) Implementing, as San Diego just did, a Del Mar Tourism Marketing District (TMD) to collect an additional 2% on hotel room charges. This would annually generate $300,000 to $500,000** to promote Del Mar hotels, merchants and the City as a whole.

7) Dedicating to the City the projected $200,000 annual revenue to be generated by paid public underground parking at the Del Mar Garden project (on the old gas station site). This should be done by including it now on the list of “Extraordinary Public Benefits” the planned development is required to bring, as part of its Specific Plan, to the community.

More than ever we all need to encourage our leaders to carry forward Vision and Fiscal Discipline . On the strength of both, Del Mar became a City; a lack of either will threaten our community's independence and survival.


Dr. Bettina Experton

Chair, City of Del Mar Finance Committee

* Some of these revenues could also be earmarked to contribute to downtown infrastructure investments, such as streetscape.

**The Finance Committee arrived at the higher revenue figure by including the planned new Fairgrounds hotel in its proposal for a Del Mar TMD.



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