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Carl Hilliard's supplemental responses below did not appear in the print edition.

 

You Win - But We Still Want to Know
November 8 | By Wayne Dernetz

Last month we presented the first of this two-part series in which the three Del Mar City Council Candidates, running unopposed for the three available seats, respond to our questions about current issues facing our community.  In this issue we present the candidates’ responses to more selected issues facing the community.  Even though each of the three candidates is a sure winner, California’s election laws still require the vote to be conducted because there are other city measures on the ballot.

The Sandpiper believes this year’s election offers the candidates – and the voters – a rare opportunity to focus attention on the issues facing the City without the distracting, sometimes misleading, competitive campaigning.  It seems an unfortunate trend in our society that modern political campaigning at all levels of our government is becoming less focused on candidates’ views on issues and more focused on their personalities and their personal attacks on each other. 

At least for this election, we can sit back, take a deep breath, and consider what the candidates really have to say about some of the important issues facing our community, and how they view their own responsibilities as future council members.

We offer our thanks to the candidates both for their willingness to respond to our questions and for their generous contribution of time and energy to run for city council and the sacrifices that entails.  As citizens, we owe all council members our gratitude and respect, along with our support in their efforts to maintain and improve our community.  Sometimes that support includes offering different ideas and opinions on issues, but it always requires that we be willing to listen and consider the opposing views of others.

The Sandpiper: What methods do you favor for addressing the twin problems of inadequate parking in the City's downtown area and the spill-over parking along adjacent residential streets?

Don Mosier:
I feel strongly that we should do our best to keep parking in the downtown corridor so that it doesn’t spill over into neighborhoods. We need to be open to other options that may present themselves, such as using valet parking services as an interim solution, but we will need centrally located parking structures as part of the downtown revitalization.

Carl Hillard

Carl Hilliard:
In addition to existing paid and timed parking spaces available in our city, we can look at neighborhood parking permits and pay-and-display parking in non-residential areas. Down the road, we could add more parking lots at the city’s south end, at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and other locations.  

Supplemental Response from Mr. Hilliard:
Del Mar has a fair amount of parking – it’s mostly paid and timed. Paid parking, for example, is available under the plaza and the hotel. Timed parking is usually available within two to three blocks of any Del Mar destination. There is also free all-day parking at city hall and in some areas of Del Mar alleys.

The issue is not so much unavailable parking as it is who occupies the parking. And the answer to that is employees of Del Mar businesses. Most business establishments in our city do not provide employee parking. That drives employees to residential areas where parking is free, without time limits and close to work.

New options we can consider include:
Neighborhood parking permits
Pay-and-display parking in non-residential areas
More parking lots at the south end of town, at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and other locations
Electric bus service similar to what Santa Barbara has

But we have to realize one thing: Any solution we come up with will have a price tag and quite possibly a certain amount of inconvenience. The key is to balance it all.

Mark Filanc

Mark Filanc:

I think we have to look at this problem from both a short term and long term angle as we don’t have the infrastructure in place for a quality permanent solution. In the short term we need to address the spill over onto residential streets and solve that problem. The options to do that may include: parking permits, shared parking, shuttles from an offsite location, valet parking, and/or a combination of any of the above. For the long term solution, we need to look at the overall downtown revitalization and the specific planning process and build in some incentives for redevelopment to add parking infrastructure.

The Sandpiper:  What, if anything, can or should be done to reduce the impacts of periodic traffic congestion along Camino del Mar and the "cut-through" commuter traffic in our residential neighborhoods? 

Don Mosier:
We need a comprehensive plan for vehicle circulation that includes traffic calming measures, improvements in the mix of stop signs and traffic signals on Camino del Mar, and turn restrictions that prevent use of streets parallel to CDM for cut-through traffic. I will continue to be supportive of neighborhood groups trying to limit and slow down cut-through traffic and make Del Mar streets safer.

Carl Hilliard:
Based on a model used successfully in other cities, I propose using the center lane on Camino Del Mar for commuter traffic, adding stops or traffic circles where necessary for cross traffic, and installing stoplights for pedestrian crossings. The outer lanes on Camino Del Mar would serve local traffic.

Supplemental Response from Mr. Hilliard:
Studies have proven that narrowing the lane traffic is more effective in regulating traffic flow than any stop-and-go alternative. That’s why I propose turning one lane of Camino del Mar – the center lane – into a commuter lane sized to keep traffic at 25 mph. The lanes on either side of the center commuter lane, separated by a narrow median strip from the commuter lane, would serve local traffic. By forcing local traffic to stop at the end of each block, we’d be able to control traffic speed. In addition to a single, controlled lane for commuter traffic on Camino del Mar, I propose adding stops or traffic circles wherever cross traffic is involved, as well as stoplights for pedestrian crossings. This is a model that has worked successfully in a number of other cities.

Mark Filanc:
Well, the stop signs don’t discourage the pass through traffic and I am not sure what else we can do to reduce the through traffic. We can, however, create a more pedestrian friendly downtown with precise planning that would perhaps move some of the store fronts away from the property lines and create a wider sidewalk/café zone. With additional parking infrastructure we could also eliminate some of the street parking making the pedestrian zone friendlier.

The Sandpiper:  Many people see Public Safety (law enforcement and fire protection) as the most important and critical function of local government.  How satisfied are you with:  (1) our current contract for law enforcement with the County Sheriff; and (2) our shared arrangement with Solana Beach for fire protection?  What changes, if any, would you like to see? 

Don Mosier

Don Mosier:
The safety of our Citizens is the most important responsibility I have as a council member. Our contract with the County Sheriff is a large budget item. Alternatives that provide better service for fewer dollars should be explored. Our shared arrangement with Solana Beach for fire protection is working well, and regional improvements in fire fighting should benefit Del Mar.

Carl Hilliard:
Law enforcement is currently apportioned a major part of our budget. We can’t afford more. With other law-enforcement options, either we can’t afford them or state law prohibits us. Del Mar is below average in fire facilities and equipment. I think a community discussion about creating our own fire district is in order.

Supplemental Response from Mr. Hilliard:
All the cities that use county law enforcement negotiate contract terms with the sheriff as a group, not individually. Del Mar is not able to negotiate directly; we can only select the type of coverage and the kinds of service based on a master contract fee. As such, we currently contribute a large part of our city budget to law enforcement.

The fire-coverage issue in Del Mar is another matter. We had been sharing a fire chief with Solana Beach, but our contract has expired. Our options include:
Securing fire-chief service from Rancho Santa Fe
Consolidating fire services among Solana Beach, Del Mar and Rancho Santa Fe, as Solana Beach suggests. There is, however, a major disparity among city resources. Del Mar is actually well below average in terms of facilities and equipment. Some degree of capital cost on our part would be involved in consolidation efforts.
Creating our own fire district. This would give us independence. On the flip side, however, we would have to fund the fire department. Given that Del Mar has such a small population it would take a hefty fee to support our own fire department. This last option should be, I believe, a communitywide decision.

Mark Filanc:
I have personally not had any problems with our emergency response and have not heard of any major complaints about the service. I do think that we need to look at the financial side of the equation and make sure we are getting the best service at the lowest possible cost. I believe we should always look at various proposals when considering contracting out these services.

The Sandpiper:  Do you support or oppose the City's spending money to prepare a Downtown Specific Plan?  Why?

Don Mosier:
I support preparing a Downtown Specific Plan because revitalization of our business district is essential to the long term financial stability of the city. It is important that citizens participate in the development of the plan and that it benefits our residents as well as visitors.

Carl Hilliard:
The downtown specific plan that the council has decided to move forward with includes 10 design criteria – everything from color and materials to environmental studies. Because we need outside services for the environmental studies, I think the city and the business property owners in Del Mar should split the costs of the plan 50/50.

Mark Filanc:
I don’t have a good handle on the cost so I can not really commit the city to any costs without further study. That being said, I think the city and its residents will have a better opportunity to steer the process if it is leading the process. If we plan out the entire downtown revitalization and provide incentives for property owners to redevelop, then I think we will get what we want and get it earlier than if we just let the process to work out on its own.

The Sandpiper:  Do you support or oppose Proposition H, the City's November 4 ballot measure to increase hotel and motel occupancy taxes (TOT)?  Why?

Don Mosier:
I believe that matching the TOT level of surrounding cities is a sound and appropriate way to increase our revenue stream, so I support Proposition H as currently amended to remove the section regarding the TMD.

Carl Hilliard:
I support Proposition H for two reasons. First, Del Mar needs the revenue. And second,  our city currently has a lower Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) than other cities, like Solana Beach and San Diego. By the way, Prop H would give the council the option to raise the TOT – when and if necessary.

Supplemental Response from Mr. Hilliard:
Del Mar’s Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) is 10.5%, just like San Diego’s. But unlike San Diego, where 4% of that TOT goes toward tourism, all TOT funds in Del Mar go into the general fund. Only a very small amount is used to support tourism. Solana Beach, by the way, will be increasing its TOT to 13% at the first of the year.

Prop H isn’t asking for an immediate increase in Del Mar’s TOT. Rather, the proposition would give city council the flexibility to decide when, if and how much to increase Del Mar’s TOT – no more than 13% total.

What happens if voters decide to take a sit-and-wait attitude instead of voting Prop H in? Our next general election is two years off. We either continue to suffer from a lack of revenue during that time or call a special election to the tune of approximately $90,000.00.

Vote in Proposition H this November…or don’t complain that the city isn’t doing all the things property owners want. Those things take money and Del Mar just doesn’t have it.

Mark Filanc:
I believe that the TOT increase is justified. Other cities in the area are charging up to a 13% TOT to cover the additional expenses brought about by the additional impact on City services and infrastructure by hotel guests.

The Sandpiper:  Once elected, you may have to decide whether or not to create a Tourist Marketing District (TMD) allowing hotel owners to impose a "room assessment," similar to the hotel occupancy tax, to pay for a marketing program aimed at bringing more visitors to Del Mar.  What factors and issues will affect your decision on this question? 

Don Mosier:
As I’ve stated earlier, I support downtown revitalization and efforts to support tourism. Creation of a TMD should only be allowed if all of the marketing costs will be fully recouped by increased tourism revenues. The most important factor is that it needs to benefit the City of Del Mar and its citizens.

Carl Hilliard:
First, the hotels must bring a plan to council on the regular agenda for consideration. If that happens, I’ll want to know whether the TMD will reduce the city’s current funding, what the city will have to do to administer the plan, how we’ll gauge the plan’s effectiveness and more. 

Supplemental Response from Mr. Hilliard:
It’s really moot right now. The hotels are developing a Tourism Marketing District (TMD) plan to present to council for approval. If and when that plan is presented, there will be an open public hearing so that Del Mar property owners can express their approval or disapproval of the plan.

Personally, I think there are a number of important questions to be answered before we decide on the plan:

  • Does Del Mar stand to gain greater Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) or increased sales receipts?
  • Will the TMD reduce Del Mar’s funding responsibility by taking over funding for certain groups that currently receive city support?
  • What exactly will the city have to do to support and administer the TMD?
  • How are we going to determine whether the TMD does what it’s supposed to do?
  • Will the TMD affect the city’s ability to raise the TOT?

Mark Filanc:
I would need to see the dollar amounts that are being requested and I would need to see a detailed plan of how the monies would be spent and what the likely outcomes from those expenditures are. I would also need to look at the overall burden we are placing on the cost to spend a night in Del Mar and ensure that we don’t kill the goose that is laying the eggs. I would also want a clarification of where the monies will come from that are currently being funded by the City from the current TOT if a TMD were approved.

 

   
 

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