May 2010 home page


Nays on Eyes
Bud Emerson | Klish Way

Aerial map of Del Mar 1947. from www.delmar.ca.us



Downtown Del Mar’s future is in store for some dramatic changes, at least in the eyes of the Form Based Advisory Committee (FBC). The picture that is emerging calls for a substantial increase in allowed square footage from 45% lot coverage to 100% or more, many two story buildings, and a fast track review process by staff only. Their goal is to offer developers a plate of incentives, along with removal of perceived obstacles to stimulate downtown revitalization.

After many months of hard work and discussion of general concepts, the committee is beginning to produce some very specific recommendations. A strong majority clearly favors these significant changes in volume and height. Their stated intent is to provide “predictability” to developers by creating an administrative review process that will involve little or no public participation. Their belief is that FBC zoning is being created to avoid “going backward” where “too many pairs of eyes” looking at a project will be a “red flag for developers."

The “eyes” they are referring to are Design Review Board (DRB) members. Most of the FBC committee members see the DRB as the main obstacle to revitalization. Rick Ehrenfeld and Dwight Worden are the only committee members who object to allowing commercial property owners to avoid the DRB process that is required for residential property owners. Other committee members believe that they will create a set of very specific “standards and conditions” in the zoning that will make review unnecessary and redundant.

Yet to be decided is how to protect residential views that may be impacted by the increase in commercial building heights. They are leaning toward a “height threshold for view determination”. Some members say they “honestly do not believe any view will be blocked with 14-18 foot building heights” so those projects should not be subject to DRB review. They are also considering an appeal process for view determination that would give residents an opportunity to object if their views are unreasonably impacted.

According to Planning Director Brian Mooney, the FBC committee will soon be reviewing form “models” and alternatives for each block in the 9th-15th street corridor. Although all of the meetings to date have been open, there has been very little participation from the public. Interestingly, neither have commercial property owners been in evidence during the many months of deliberation. The long promised public “charrette” workshops will likely be scheduled during the summer months. Mooney says residents will have multiple opportunities to participate in neighborhood meetings, public workshops, and in online graphic processes.

And of course, the public will have the final say when the City Council puts the new FBC zoning code on the ballot. Originally scheduled for November, that election is now planned for sometime in 2011.



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