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Planning Practitioners
Anthony Corso | Stratford Court


Del Mar’s Planning Department.
from left to right, back row: Matt Bator, Adam Birnbaum,
Joseph Smith; front row: Kathy Garcia, Katie Benson, Patty Malik. Photo Tony Corso. 
Click on photo to enlarge.


Recall the famous African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” -- frequently interpreted as raising a child is a communal effort. Community planning is a similar communal enterprise - one that demands a community of practitioners led by a person who can integrate different contributions to achieve a set of coherent plans and objectives.

Kathy Garcia, Del Mar’s Director of Planning and Community Development, is highly experienced in public sector projects, worked for 25 years with the nationally recognized firm of Wallace Roberts and Todd, and served for eight years as vice-chairperson of the San Diego Planning Commission. She was prepared for such professional engagements as a graduate of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and academic studies in Landscape Architecture at UC Berkeley. Kathy recently discussed some of the Department’s major responsibilities; others are enumerated in her job description and document a rather exhausting list. They include:

• Plans, organizes and directs the work of the Department particularly in terms of implementing the City Council’s directives on long-range plans, enforcing city ordinances and recommending strategies for preserving the City’s natural resources and preserving its unique character.

• Directs, educates and evaluates the performance of the Planning Staff of six members including the Planning Manager, and Senior Planners as well as the staff of code enforcement, the Building Department and those assigned to the clean water program.

The Del Mar Community Plan, adopted in 1976, is often referred to as the city’s “governing bible” in establishing policies and standards for judging or evaluating developmental purposes. Kathy notes, “In many respects the Community Plan is still a viable document overseeing the City’s development or redevelopment. The housing component was recently revised by Adam Birnbaum, Planning Manager. The Transportation component might be revised in the near future given the introduction of many alternative forms of mobility.” Otherwise, the Plan continues to serve a significant function.

Interestingly 40-45 percent of staff time is spent answering questions posed by members of the general public. The majority of the Director’s time is devoted to current City Council priorities such as the development of a city parking management plan, the proposal to build a new Civic Center and the management of the proposed Shores Park Master Plan. A considerable amount of her time is also expended addressing regional issues such as the current proposal to double track the railroad and provide a seasonal platform serving the Fairgrounds.



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