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Design Do-Over
Bud Emerson | Klish Way

The City Council met on April 21st to set the priorities of the city. At that meeting a number of members of a grass roots group asked

  • The council to place revision of the Design Review Ordinance (DRO) as one of the city’s top priorities.
  • The council agreed and also agreed that a citizen advisory committee should be formed to participate in this process.
  • The council will formally vote on this issue at the May 4th meeting. The group believes that it is crucial to attend this meeting to show support for placing the DRO revision as a top priority and to ensure that citizens are leading this process.

Below is an excerpt from a letter to the Design Review Board regarding a recent proposed development. The authors are Deborah Groban and Judith Schuckit.
Dear Members of The Design Review Board:

We are writing in regard to the proposed development at ….
Although our homes are not directly impacted by the proposed development, as members of this community, it is our opinion that many components of this project would result in further erosion of the Del Mar Community Plan and adversely affect our city.

Over the last several years, there seems to be a perception, which is turning into a reality, that underlying zoning on a specific piece of property is what the owner is entitled to build. If this were true there would be no reason for the existence of The Planning Commission or Design Review Board. The vital role of these discretionary boards is to determine if the underlying zoning protects the rights and quality of life of the neighbors. The zoning provisions set maximum parameters; however, building the maximum is a privilege to be determined by the Boards, not a right.

If, for example, the height allowance is 26 feet and lot coverage is 25
%, many architect/builders present plans maximizing these allowances with little regard to their impact. No matter that there are decks, pools, noisy equipment, entertainment areas, athletic courts, barbeques, and bright lights literally feet from a neighbor’s bedroom, or that the height completely strips many neighbors of privacy, air and light. We feel that this is the point at which the work of the Design Review Board becomes critical.

As Del Mar homes become more and more expensive, people assume that because they spend a lot for their properties that they then have a right to maximize their investment by “building out.” However, both buyers and architects have choices and the DRB must both encourage and impel them to design and site these projects with the least impact on neighbors. These homes are not being built in a vacuum. Each new structure has critical impact on not just the visual environment, but the everyday lives of those living around it. We understand that change will come, but it must be controlled so as not to affect what is a unique and irreplaceable village.

We hope that you will consider carefully the objections raised by those directly affected by this proposed plan and interpret the DRO ordinances in a manner that protects the surrounding neighborhood as well as this community.



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