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March 2009 home page

Newton Lands On Mooney
Brian Mooney Brings “Form Based Code” to Town
March 2009 | Chuck Newton, Forest Way

Hotel Casa Del Mar on 10th Street.  1886.   Courtesy Del Mar Historical Society.

Brian F. Mooney, as Interim Director of Planning and Community Development, has brought to Del Mar a new concept, Form Based Code, for downtown Revitalization.

Mooney, 58, has had extensive planning experience after majoring in Anthropology at SDSU and earning an MA in Urban History from USD. He was in the county’s planning department for several years. In 1979 he formed Mooney Associates for regional and city planning. He sold it in 2002 in favor of individual consulting engagements, such as his present work here on a contract ending in December 2010. (Thus his job title as “interim”.)

Code Expected to Reduce Zoning Hassles

Mooney says a Form Based Code’s advantage is that the town decides on an over-all “look” by prescribing, for each property, specific criteria such as height, bulk, lot coverage, and use. This enables property owners to design proposals that avoid past struggles to conform to “one size fits all” type of zoning.
The Form Based Code will structure a Specific Plan to submit to voters in November, 2010. The process includes outreach programs to obtain opinions of property owners and businesses.

If history is any precedent, homeowners’ views are likely to be many and vociferous. Likewise, some downtown property owners may have contrary views. Mooney has already had favorable comment from some of them. Another, however, has refused to even talk to him.

When asked what esthetic qualities the new plan should evoke, Mooney is less sure-footed. Should its atmosphere attract people of certain income, age, occupation, education? Why does Santa Barbara’s downtown attract me, while Santa Cruz’s does not?

No Present Estimate of Income/Outgo

Mooney says there is, as yet, no estimate of total costs vs. revenues for Revitalization, which is expected to be completed in about five years. In his January 12 report to the Council, he estimated city costs for just this fiscal year and next at $400,000. He hopes to get $200,000 from SANDAG’s Smart Growth program, which requires matching funds and is focused around transit. Mooney suggests the city’s Bikeway/Pedestrian/Trails concept responds to that.

Payback on the city’s investment is expected mainly from TOT from hotels and motels, and 1% from the sales tax. There can also be levies on developments that don’t provide parking, and increased property tax on any properties that change hands.
Mooney points out that there is already new income by encouraging dining on city sidewalks, which yields rent and sales tax.


Historical Photos: Many of the historical pictures on these pages are included in a slim volume that can be bought online from the Del Mar Historical Society: "Discovering Del Mar's Past." Click here.


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