John Kerridge | El Amigo Road
This article aims to provide an objective summary of some of the key elements of the VSP. Much of the material currently circulating in town on this issue constitutes misrepresentation of the Plan itself. Space limitations preclude detailed rebuttal of such misrepresentations. The facts here speak for themselves.
The Community Plan visualizes a viable, resident-serving, pedestrian-oriented village center. To date, this vision has been only partially realized. The VSP is designed to be a major step towards full realization of that vision. The following elements are key to such a realization, with the understanding that their implementation will conform to the letter and spirit of the Community Plan. We emphatically will not destroy the village in order to save it.
Within the context of a competitive commercial environment, the present Floor/Area Ratio of 45% for a retail district is simply not viable. Many of the present success stories in downtown Del Mar are “grandfathered” into pre-existing, nonconforming larger spaces. Other, less-fortunate, businesses deserve the more-competitive edge that the VSP will provide.
Wider, better-designed sidewalks will contribute enormously to creating a downtown scaled towards human beings, rather than to cars. Minimising the impact of the automobile on the downtown experience is vital. Reducing the traffic lanes from four to two will halve the mass of the “wall of steel” that currently dominates our downtown. But by intelligently controlling movement in those two lanes, more, not less, traffic can be shepherded along CDM. Enter the roundabouts! No matter how slowly a car drives around a roundabout, it’s traveling faster, and polluting less, than if it were standing at a stop-sign or a red traffic signal. Societies with greater traffic-density problems than ours have found roundabouts to be the answer. So will we.
Finally, retention of the tough Design Review Ordinance, and Design Review Board, will ensure that our prized village ambience will not be sacrificed for private profit. For example, concerns have been raised about the possible negative impact of raising the height limit on the west side of CDM to 26’. If this were to be done indiscriminately on all commercial properties, it would be an environmental and aesthetic disaster. But a careful, block-by-block study of CDM reveals that there are numerous commercial properties that could be increased to 26’ with no negative impact on either public or private views. With the DRB to guard against possible excesses, it is pointless to prevent development on sites that could, for example, provide much-needed affordable housing in Del Mar.
Like anything produced by human beings, the VSP is not perfect. But as a direct result of constructive debate among the stakeholders, what the VSP does provide is a reliable blueprint to creating the kind of village center that our Community Plan had in mind.
The VSP is not some “giveaway” to developers. We shall all benefit from intelligent planning of our downtown. The VSP will provide that.