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Design Redo Board
Art Olson | Avenida Primavera

Ocean Front between 27th and 29th. Photo Sandpiper Archives.  Note the two construction workers in the pit.
Click on image to enlarge.

On Monday evening May 18 the City Council considered the establishment of a citizen’s committee, termed the Residential Development Process Citizen’s Advisory Committee, to review Del Mar’s Design Review process and ordinances and recommend changes if necessary. The TV studio and adjacent waiting room were jammed with citizens – most of whom were there for that agenda item. Only a handful of those present chose to speak and it was clear from those who did that on the surface everyone agreed that the committee would be a good idea. However, a clear line delineated a sharp difference of opinion about what, in fact, needed to be fixed with regard to the DRB process.

On the one hand there were a number of speakers who voiced the opinion of many present that the Design Review Process was not effective enough in preserving the nature and character of Del Mar as described in the Community Plan. On the other hand there were several speakers who expressed frustration at the burden of the Design Review process and the uncertainty of getting a project approved. While the impetus for DRB reform had originated with a group of citizens concerned with the impact of new residences that are being built in town, there was a clear reaction from others present to the prospect of a more restrictive development process. One speaker invoked the specter of the bygone days of the Greens and Greys, a previous battle within Del Mar between widely disparate points of view on city land development policy.

The discussion of the three Councilmembers present (Worden, Sinnott, and Deputy Mayor Parks) reflected the general consensus that a citizen’s committee should indeed be established, but with a few suggested procedural caveats and modifications to the staff-recommended composition of the committee. Councilmember Sinnott outlined his vision of the process that the new committee should follow – which would start with citizen input to enumerate, define, and analyze the problems that the community perceives with the current Design Review Process. This would take place prior to any discussions or recommendations for explicit fixes.

Councilmember Worden expressed concern about the recommended inclusion of a current DRB and Planning Commission member on the Citizens Committee, suggesting rather that the committee should try to include at least one former DRB and Planning Commission member among its ranks. The council voted to establish the new 9-member committee that will be composed of: five members of the public who are familiar with the design review process and the city’s land use regulations (termed “Citizens at large”); one former member of the DRB; one former member of the Planning Commission; one Del Mar property owner who has processed a design Review application within the last 18 months; and one professional architect or land use planner who has represented an applicant through the DRB process within the last 18 months. The appointment of Council Liaisons to the committee was deferred until the full council of five members is present.

The discussion ended with encouragement by the councilmembers for volunteers to apply to serve on the new Committee.


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