April 2012 home page

Garden Project Gets Life
Art Olson | Avenida Primavera


Rendering of 10th Street Garden Project on Camino Del Mar.
Courtesy Primavera Plans, Arthur J. Olson, AIA


Good news is coming for the approved, but un-built Garden Project at the old gas station site on CDM at 10th Street. Soon the City will announce a new public-private partnership to revive the moribund project and provide relief for a number of Del Mar’s current woes. A finance committee member, who declined to be identified because he is not authorized to speak on the matter, said that the project would be profitable from day one, bringing a new source of revenue to the city. One council member, speaking off the record because of ongoing negotiations, added that the new partnership will help satisfy unfunded state mandates and bring new life to the south end of the city’s commercial district.

The project, a partnership with the newly created Del Mar Correctional Corporation (DMCC), will house an institution with room for 80 prisoners in a mixed-use facility with commercial and public spaces blended in. It will become known as the “Guard-Inn” and will be a key anchor for the south end of Camino Del Mar. A DMCC representative claims that with the average cost per inmate in California at about $50,000/year, the facility will bring $4 million into the City on an annual basis. “More important than that,” exclaimed a member of the Del Mar housing committee, “this will finally satisfy our burdensome affordable housing element in one fell swoop --- since we will have 80 new residents whose housing will be fully subsidized by the criminal justice system.  A former Del Mar Mayor, who requested anonymity to remain on good relations with the County Sheriff’s office, suggested that this could also reduce the cost of law enforcement for Del Mar, with off duty prison guards patrolling our City streets at a fraction of the cost of the current part-time Sheriff’s deputy.

The architecture of the site will remain pretty much as that approved in the Specific Plan vote back in 2009. The only exceptions would be the bars on the windows of the living units, and the razor wire surrounding the LEED certified prison roof garden. In addition, height variance will be sought for the one guard tower that was not in the original plans. Word has it that a new Willy Sutton Specialty Bakery franchise will be opening in one of the commercial spaces on the project site. They are well known for their inventive cake ingredients, and are expected to be heavily patronized by friends and family visiting the inmates. Of course a donut shop is also anticipated, to meet the demands of an increased law enforcement presence.

A senior city planner, who would speak only on background because of a lack of authority to say anything officially, enthused “I’m thrilled with the opportunities that this project brings to town. It aligns exceedingly well with our proposed Downtown Specific Plan that will go to the voters in November. In addition to all of the other benefits, it is a shining example of our new ‘park once’ policy.”

Rubber stamp approval for moving ahead with the project is expected at the next Council meeting on April 1.


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