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
Art Olson | Avenida Primavera
The latest version of the Village Specific Plan (VSP) was released just prior to the August 6 City Council meeting, at which time the decision was made to put the plan on the November election ballot. The plan itself is a document of 439 pages (including appendices), and it is unlikely that many Del Mar voters have read and digested it in its entirety. Thus there are numerous questions regarding the VSP that are still unanswered for many residents. Some are quite specific and answers may be found by digging through the document or querying city staff. Others are more anticipatory about what will happen if the plan passes or if it doesn’t.
The latter type of questions, such as “how will implementation of the plan actually change the nature of the City, or “what kinds of commercial development will we see and when?” are largely matters of opinion and speculation, depending on who you ask. Yet, these are the questions that the voters will be wrestling with when they go to the polls. One broad answer is: if you vote “yes” you are voting for more changes to our downtown (over the next 20-30 years) than if you vote “no.” This may be enough for many people to make up their minds. However, wanting change or not, depends upon the nature of the change and the impact that the VSP will have on that change. The two major changes that concern most people are: “how much development is too much?” and “will the new traffic, parking, and pedestrian circulation plan make things better or worse.”
The allowed scope of additional new commercial and mixed-use development in the plan area is about 220,000 sq. ft., or to put it in more tangible terms, the equivalent of two additional Del Mar Plazas -- although spread-out along the length of CDM from 9th to 15th streets and west on 15th. This is a significant amount of new development (bringing the total development of the area to 500,000 sq. ft.- exclusive of the Del Mar Plaza and L’Auberge). It could, however, when built-out greatly increase the commercial and residential vitality of the downtown corridor. There have been some questions of how firm these numbers are – considering that there are exceptions to the proposed FAR cap of 100% of lot area. Exceptional public benefits (EPBs) can increase a project’s FAR up to 150%. Projects that include residential, additional public parking, energy efficient LEED construction, on-site public plazas or deed restricted public view corridors are all considered EPB’s. According to Planning Director, Kathy Garcia, the 220,000 sq. ft. of new development is a fixed maximum and includes any EPB bonuses. The restriction is not tied to the allowed FAR, but is limited and allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Once the threshold is reached, no additional new development will be allowed without significant changes to the Specific Plan, which would require a Council supermajority or public vote.
Traffic circulation, and spillover onto side streets is also a major concern. The final version of the plan removes or delays the construction of the roundabout at 15th Street as well as the road narrowing from 14th to 15th on CDM. How will these changes and the remaining roundabouts actually affect the flow of traffic through town? Preliminary simulations of the impacts of the proposed modifications have been done, and should the Plan pass, more are proposed as a preliminary step prior to the modifications. This would enable adjustments of some of the circulation parameters, such as signal timings at 15th and pedestrian metering at crosswalks. If the VSP passes, construction on the proposed street modifications could begin as early as 2015.
Walkability and pedestrian circulation is also a key issue to many Del Mar residents. The proposed roundabouts and other street modifications will enable shorter crossing distances as well as wider sidewalks. The VSP calls for uniform sidewalk widths of 10 feet. However, given the current and unchanged city ordinance enabling sidewalk cafes, encroachments into the public right-of-way can limit the useable width of the adjacent sidewalk to as little as 5 feet. Permits for sidewalk cafes require review by the Planning Commission and City Council, but not the Design Review Board.
These are just some of the questions that have been raised about the Village Specific Plan. As the November vote nears, there are sure to be statements, both pro and con regarding its impact on Del Mar’s future character and vitality. In addition to more community outreach prior to the election from City Staff, Kathy Garcia plans an active FAQ page linked to the Del Mar website homepage. Another mechanism to consider to get well considered pros and cons out to more residents would be a televised public debate, where those for and those against can make their cases in the absence of city staff participation. The VSP is a long and extensive document that will affect the future of our City if voted in. The more we know about it, the more informed our vote will be.