September 2012 home page

VSP: Facts & Opinions
Voters will decide on November 6 if the Village Specific Plan(VSP)
is adopted. On these pages we have invited a variety of points of view
to help clarify voter choices.

Survey Split | VSP Evolution | It Will Work | It Won’t Work

Need To Know | Parking Perplexes


It Won’t Work
Dave Druker | 10th Street

Many of us recognize that downtown Del Mar needs some refurbishment, and that there are many reasons why some property owners have not done so. Yet there have been some nice developments in the downtown area over the last few years with out any change to the Community Plan. These include sidewalk cafes, a continuous sidewalk on the west side of Camino Del Mar (CDM) from 4th to Plaza, refurbishment of the Stratford Inn, opening of the Secret Garden Inn, modifications to L’Artiste Hotel and approval of the Garden Project.

Now we are being asked to approve major changes to our Community Plan that, allegedly, would:

1) Make Camino del Mar safer and more attractive for pedestrians.
2) Encourage more development in the central commercial zone so that downtown Del Mar will produce more revenue for the city

In essence the Village Specific Plan ( VSP) that will be on the November 6th ballot is built around the narrowing of CDM to two lanes, adding roundabouts, providing wider sidewalks and allowing, without the extra public benefits we now require, the addition of 200,000 more square feet of commercial and residential space between 15th and 9th Streets.

The question ultimately is whether or not the addition of 200,000 square feet will change the essence of Del Mar. Currently the charm of Del Mar is its human scale.
200,000 square feet of additional building space would equal two L’Auberge scale hotels, or three Del Mar Plazas or ten more Garden Del Mar projects. Even the threshold of adding 70,000 square feet that triggers a review of the Plan’s impact on the town is equivalent to one Del Mar Plaza or three and one-half Garden Del Mar projects.

In terms of economic impact, most of our revenue comes from property tax, hotel tax, and sales tax from the fairgrounds and sales tax from the restaurateurs. Starting in September, the State of California will begin collecting sales tax from Amazon. Most likely Amazon and other on-line venues will become either the third or fourth largest source of revenue. There is no guarantee that this VSP will change these dynamics. Furthermore, the historic reduction in sales tax as a percent of revenue is mostly due to the elimination of used car sales at the fairgrounds and should not be seen as an indicator of deterioration in our downtown area. Finally, 92% of property tax comes from residential property.
The question then is whether a major change in the scale of our downtown Del Mar would affect the property values of the residents. Does our human scale downtown create more value for our residential properties?

We need an economic plan for downtown Del Mar to first determine the size and kinds of buildings required to drive that economic plan before approving a new Specific Plan that makes major changes in the size and uses, including residential units, in our downtown area. For example, condominium space at 4th and Stratford Ct. is valued at about $500/square feet (according to Zillow.com.) A property owner on the eastside of Camino del Mar with a property of 50,000 square feet and under the current Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of 45% could build half as residential and sell condominium space for about $5.6 million.

The current Village Specific Plan is missing a number of pieces including a transition plan for the narrowing of Camino del Mar from two lanes to one lane. It also lacks a financial plan that justifies the large increase in the FAR and building sizes, and building heights on the west side. It ultimately provides for too much development for the city without an adequate return for the city in terms of increased revenues.



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