July 2011 home page

  Mix It Up!
Brian Church AIA, Camino Del Mar


The Lofts in Encinitas. Photo Ann Gardner

What, you may ask, exactly is “mixed use”, and how can it help Del Mar? Traditionally (read: in the old days), downtowns were populated by a lot of mom and pop businesses - the shop was downstairs and the shopkeeper lived upstairs. Indeed, one of Del Mar’s landmark buildings (Stratford Square) used to have apartments upstairs. These residents add built-in financial diversity (not everyone can afford to live on Ocean Front), a loyal local customer base (who don’t have to drive), and even a neighborhood watch (more concerned eyes on the street.) However, current zoning in Del Mar doesn’t allow residential uses in the downtown area. Bringing back this small but important segment of our local population could help revitalize Del Mar’s downtown.

The taxes from our downtown businesses represent one of the largest income streams on which our city depends. And in simple terms, restaurant and retail businesses rely on visibility, parking and, perhaps most importantly, pedestrian traffic to thrive. The recent addition of sidewalk dining (added visibility) has been a boon for Del Mar restaurants, and there is also a spillover affect for retail. More foot traffic equals more customers. However, because of Del Mar’s high concentration of “second homes”, our population has actually been dwindling in recent years. We’re losing residents and we’re losing economic diversity. Adding residential mixed-use is one way of sustaining our local population and therefore financial and social vitality.

We seem to be rediscovering the wisdom of this simple “live-work” configuration of mixed-use zoning in developments all over the country – even in our own back yard. There are several new mixed-use projects in downtown Encinitas including the Lofts and Pacific Station, with more on the way. While the long-term success of these projects remains to be seen, they are already providing a boost to the local economy by simply adding more customers to the local businesses.

The financial margins of our town’s businesses are razor–thin, especially in this economy. Having just a few more loyal customers can mean the difference between success and failure. Adding some residential mixed use could be one way of ensuring that your favorite store or restaurant is still there when you want it.


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