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You Can Always Go Downtown 
February 2009 | by Tony Corso, Stratford

On January 12th the Del Mar City Council initiated a planning process for Downtown revitalization. The central feature of the process includes a relatively new approach to developmental control called, “Form Based Code.”

Form Based Codes are regulatory devices which place primary emphasis upon the physical form and character of existing and proposed development and to a lesser degree, on land use. Briefly, they focus upon the physical form, scale and character of development. Form-Based Codes are design oriented--concerned with architectural features, facades and the overall design of an area, bulk and lot coverage, open spaces, landscaping, pedestrian walkways and the compatibility of individual structures to adjacent structures.

The revitalization and planning effort is to be guided by an advisory committee comprised of eight members: a property owner, business operator, citizen planner, design professional, financial expert, two council members and one resident-at-large.

The planning process will begin this month with a three month collection and analysis of data describing the existing character and features of the District. This will be followed by a five day period of intensive design leading up to a six month “community conversation” and public participation program. A specific plan and draft of an environmental Impact Report is expected to result from this dialogue.
The specific plan would address the historical character and design of the downtown area, green policy and sustainability, retail and office space, housing, private and public transportation and parking, streetscape and pedestrian walkways, view corridors, landscaping, art and other amenities as well as connections between downtown and outlying residential communities.

The specific plan would be subjected to public review and submitted to the Planning Commission and City Council in early 2010.

The estimated cost of the Specific Plan and Form Based Code is $400,000. In order to defray part of the cost, an application is being submitted to SANDAG, the San Diego Regional Planning Agency, under the Smart Growth Incentive Program for $200,000. The Program makes funds available to cities to demonstrate planning which supports compact, mixed use development focused around public transit.



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