May 2012 home page

Village Specific Plan

Lots to Not Like | Lots to Like

Ann Gardner | Via Latina


Crosswalks and roundabouts. Courtesy City of Del Mar


There is a lot to like about the proposed Village Specific Plan (VSP): safer traffic flow; wider sidewalks; more on-street parking; a more walkable downtown and mixed uses, including residences, from 9th to 15th streets. And, depending on your perspective, there will also be more opportunity for redevelopment and as a result a more attractive and viable downtown for both residents and visitors.

The strongest argument for developing a village specific plan is that we citizens get to be proactive, deciding the shape and character of our whole downtown, rather than reacting to each separate development that comes along, a piecemeal process that does not consider the overwhelming problems of traffic and a desired pedestrian lifestyle.

Camino Del Mar angled striping exhibit. 9th to 15th Streets. March 2012. Courtesy City of Del Mar


Many of us are looking closely at the details of this Specific Plan realizing that the City is open to our suggestions and concerns. Do we want to allow larger and higher buildings and how much larger and higher do we need in order to encourage growth consistent with keeping our small village environment and ocean views intact? The 1976 Community Plan clearly advocates a new traffic pattern (one lane each direction with roundabouts) but also stipulates a 14 ft. height limit on the west side of Camino del Mar.

At the heart of the matter is the wording of Del Mar’s Design Review Ordinance (DRO) and appointments to its Board. Maximizing development has become a mantra in our residential areas with zoning failing to adjust to new realities. For instance in the R2 zone west of Camino del Mar, meant to allow two dwelling units within walking distance of the downtown area, buyers are taking advantage of the increased FAR to build very large single family homes, abrogating the intent of encouraging housing diversity in a community that is losing diversity to mansionization and customers for local retailers.

What does this have to do with the Specific Plan? In the Plan’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR), assurances (in the EIR the word is mitigation) that bigger, higher buildings will not ruin scenic views or the small Village environment lean heavily on the DRO for implementation. However, residents are increasingly finding they are unable to rely on the DRO to help them maintain our community vision.

We find there is a lot to like in the VSP and, listening to comments made at numerous community meetings, suggest that the mitigation for allowing bigger and higher building downtown should be strengthened. Mitigation must include: 1) a DRO that is geared specifically to the commercial area with strong wording for appropriate scale and bulk and preservation of community views; 2) eliminating the extra 4 feet allowed for roof articulation and including the articulation as a requirement in a new DRO and 3) draw view corridors into the Specific Plan, clearly cautioning potential development that second stories may not be allowed in certain locations. Some voters want the language to specifically allow ONLY residences on the second story.

Whatever changes you would like to see in the VSP, get them in writing now to City Planning. There is still time to customize the VSP to meet our community goals and at the same time realize a safer, more pedestrian-friendly and economically viable downtown that actualizes our 1976 Community Plan, finally. Copies of the VSP and EIR are available at City Hall and the Library, on line at www.delmar.ca.us or order your own copy from City Hall, at cost. City Council votes August 6 and a community vote is scheduled for November.


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