November 2009 home page


Reviewing the DRB, Part II
Anthony Corso | Stratford Court


The last issue of the Sandpiper noted that it seems appropriate to occasionally “Review Design Review” since the process has been and will continue to be vital in guiding future development and critical in terms of implementing the Del Mar Community Plan. We began with a Description of the Design Review Process, Criteria Used, Steps in the Review Process, and Leadership. This second in a series consists of interviews with other persons with intimate experience with design review. Additional views will be presented in forthcoming issues.

Art Olson, Former Member of the Design Review Board

Art Olson.  Photo Tony Corso.

The Design Review Process looks at the development of the City on a case by case, neighborhood by neighborhood basis. The zoning ordinance applies broad dictates particularly in terms of land use and the dimensions or size of development. However, proposed developments often need the scrutiny of seven pairs of eyes and input of the neighborhood to assess the overall impact of a project upon the community.
As to what is achieved- I think that anyone who goes outside Del Mar, and looks at its neighbors, readily concludes that the City looks and is different. Del Mar has been able to retain an environmental quality, a unique character and a kind of human scale that it could not have obtained without Design Review.

This is a quasi-judicial process. The Board’s deliberations are firmly based upon criteria spelled out in the Design Review Ordinance. Like all laws some requirements are subject to interpretation—harmony of architectural design, protection of adjacent property’s privacy, protection of scenic views, appropriate landscape treatment, noise issues, etc..These are the kinds of factors and criteria that serve in project evaluation. It takes judgment and a lot of work to understand what the plans are really proposing and how they fit in terms of the criteria spelled out in the Design Review Ordinance.

Brooke Eisenberg-Pike, Current Member, DRB

Brooke Eisenberg-Pike.  Photo Tony Corso

Design Review has been of tremendous benefit to the City of Del Mar. In many places the City of San Diego and Del Mar are adjacent. You can certainly tell the difference when you walk across the street from one city to another. Del Mar’s houses, although diverse and eclectic, complement one another in terms of scale and design; also, we have landscaped set-backs and side yards which are beautiful and graceful, instead of houses that are built five feet from the street and virtually up against one another.

We have been able with the Design Review Ordinance to keep neighborhoods intact. We look at bulk and mass, we look at the neighborhood character and we invite neighbors into our deliberations. Quite frankly, most of the things that go to the DRB are approved that evening, perhaps with a bit of minor modification. The only time we have had difficulty is when an applicant attempts to override the Ordinance and engage in continual plan modification. Sometimes applicants feel that they are entitled to automatic approval and don’t bother to inform or work with the neighbors or take neighborhood characteristics into consideration.


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