July 2010 home page


Del Mar Way Better

more about the FBC


All of Del Mar’s great accomplishments resulted from widespread community involvement and support. Powerhouse Park, Seagrove Park, Lagoon preservation, and a public sandy beach unencumbered by encroachments, were all community-driven. Will downtown revitalization and consideration of Form Based Code (FBC) follow that tradition? FBC would dramatically change how buildings are built in the village core.

FBC has been studied by a committee of seven residents expert in planning, city government, business, and commercial real estate. It seeks to revitalize our commercial core by allowing bigger, taller buildings that would be architecturally desirable and, presumably, economically beneficial.

FBC, as envisioned for Del Mar, was presented to the city council on June 14 to a packed audience. While favoring revitalization, most raised concerns about whether the residential community at large would support the proposed zoning changes, and whether there might be better, more feasible ways to facilitate improvements in the village core. This community reaction, we hope, marks the beginning of extensive citizen involvement that will shape the final decisions.

Key questions must be addressed in any attempt at village revitilization. We list a few. 1) If FBC is so wonderful, why were no business owners and no commercial property owners present at the June 14 council meeting pledging their support and eagerness to make improvements? 2) Will the incentives FBC offers developers offset the costs of redevelopment considering the fact that most buildings have long been owned at a low cost and low tax basis? 3) As an alternative to FBC, why not leave our planning process unchanged, including design review, but consider simply increasing the FAR and allowing “mixed uses” in the commercial core? 4) What type of retail/commercial stores will be built that will provide a financial benefit to them and resident-serving businesses for the community.

The city is now discussing FBC with the community. We encourage robust citizen engagement and a frank dialogue about FBC and its alternatives. Involvement must be more than “telling and selling” what the committee has already proposed. A variety of alternative forms must be presented in addition to alternative ways of accomplishing the task, not just FBC. A special effort must be made to hone in on the community’s vision of what kind of a downtown we want. The Sandpiper has presented several visions over the last several months.These and other models should be available for consideration in community conversations. Computer models can enhance this process. Meetings should be held in neighborhoods as well as City Hall.

The integrity of the process requires that we take the time and make the effort to achieve a broad community consensus. When we use the “Del Mar Way” we usually get things right without a lot of rancor. If this is worth doing, it is worth doing right.


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