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Gas Station, Mission Accomplished
May 2008 | by Art Olson

 

With the stated goal of sending a final report to a joint meeting of the City Council and Planning Commission on May 15, the Gas Station Site Steering Committee (GSSSC) has been completing its role in evolving a Specific Plan for the Garden Del Mar project proposed for the 10th St. site. Committee members hope to conclude their part of the extensive process dictated by Proposition B, so that evaluation of the Specific Plan by the Council, Planning Commission and Design Review Board can take place in sufficient time to place it on the November ballot for a vote by the citizens of Del Mar. With well over 50 public meetings since the process began, Steering Committee members appear to be looking forward to the end of their task, which has been to bring public input and a community perspective into the process.

Over the past year and a half, this input has had a significant impact on the developers' plans. During that time the project has morphed from all-office to a mixed-use office-retail-restaurant development with dedicated public space. Public comment has influenced both this change of uses as well as specifics of the building layout and design, and pedestrian and traffic flow. At the April 9 meeting a large number of project-site neighbors came to discuss potential impacts relating to traffic and noise concerns, some having to do with amplified sound from the restaurant and outside spaces. In response several conditions in the draft Specific Plan were modified to provide added protections.

At two subsequent meetings (April 14 and 21) the committee endorsed their analysis of Exceptional Public Benefit (EPB) recommendations as gathered and evaluated over the past several months. Out of over 60 that had been suggested, a short list of six EPBs was agreed upon. In addition to the dedicated public space on the project site itself, these included monetary contributions to: Streetscape; affordable housing; maintenance of the Shores Property; construction of the 17th St. Beach Safety Center; and ongoing maintenance of the Del Mar Library. The issue of the size and timing of any monetary contributions was also discussed, and consensus recommendations to the City Council were made. Also at these meetings the Committee was able to evaluate the latest version of the Garden Del Mar Specific Plan. While there were criticisms of the style and form of the draft, it appeared that the substantive issues were contained in the plan, and that some word-smithing and a thorough copy editing would put the plan in shape by the May deadline.

Once the Specific Plan is handed over to the Planning Commission and City Council, the Gas Station Committee can consider its mission accomplished and its work completed. However, instead of disbanding at that point, Councilman Ernest suggested that the Committee remain on the books in “active reserve” in case they are needed again before the public vote. A policy statement previously approved by its members, emphasized that their role as a Committee was neither to advocate for or against the Specific Plan, but rather to facilitate the process of its creation; as private citizens, however, they retain their individual rights to express their opinions of the project.

 

Art Olson is a member of the Gas Station Site Steering Committee.

 

   
 

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