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Del Mar Goes French: The "Charrette" is Coming 
April 2009 | Tony Corso, Stratford

Citizens of Del Mar are about to be introduced and invited to participate in a “charrette” as a part of downtown (village center) revitalization. The term “charrette” is French for “cart” or “chariot” and originated from the Beaux-Arts in Paris. It was used to describe student architects working furiously, up to the last minute, on their design presentations, even while riding in the school cart (charrette) through the streets of Paris, en route to submit the projects to their professors.

The Del Mar charrette won’t entail carts racing about the Community, filled with stressed out, frazzled students, but will, in a more contemporary sense, entail an intense period of consultation and design activity involving elected officials, property owners, local residents and urban planners. Students will be involved as assistants, with fresh eyes, gathering information, facilitating some sessions and preparing “opportunity maps.”

Wikipedia defines “charrette” as a technique or process for consulting with all those stakeholders who have a concern or interest in a particular project or plan. It involves intense and possibly multi-day meetings, a high level of community involvement, encouraging and recording a multiplicity of ideas. Through widespread participation and democratic decision-making, it seeks to promote joint ownership of solutions and diffuse confrontational attitudes.

Specifically, the how, when, where and other charrette particulars will be formulated by an ad hoc committee. However, Brian Mooney, the Acting Planning Director, offers the following:

“Students from the New School of Architecture and those studying urban design at the University of California are being recruited to take part in a course on “Form Based Codes” which will involve them in the design and development of a Del Mar charrette, including collecting and analyzing previous studies, particularly those with suggestions for a revitalized village center. Their work, under the supervision of their instructors, will result in the design of “opportunity maps - graphic portrayals of Del Mar’s characteristics and strengths.”
Opportunity Maps graphically prepared for other communities and cities have included such features as:

• Public gathering places
• Important architectural and/or historical structures
• Development residential patterns and varying densities
• Open space opportunities, man-made and natural
• Pedestrian walkways and corridors
• Public transit hubs and corridors
• Automobile and bicycle circulation routes and patterns
• Parking (public and private)
• Areas of special vegetation e.g. shoreline vegetation
• Green and sustainable building techniques
• Wetlands and other natural habitats
• Ocean or other scenic views
• Vacant or underutilized parcels of land
• Vacant or underutilized commercial development
• Transects (where different land uses or building types fit well or are inappropriate) addressing residential neighborhood concerns










Faculty, students and members of the planning department staff will present Opportunity Maps during a five day “open house” held to encourage citizen participation and involvement.

The opportunity maps will stimulate a discussion and identification of special places, patterns and aspects of the community which ought to be enhanced, protected, expanded upon or developed to their full potential, especially those that serve to create a livable place, a quality environment and a sense of local identity.

Ultimately, the opportunity maps will be analyzed against community “constraint concerns” leading to the development of a plan and a “Form Based Code” that achieves consensus and support in the Community.




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