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DRB: Start Over
Linda Rock | 23rd Street

Why the uproar over the selection process for applicants for the Ad-Hoc Development Review Advisory Committee?

An Ad-Hoc committee was recently established by the City Council to identify concerns and problems with the current Design Review Ordinance (DRO) and recommend solutions that will improve the process. Every applicant for this Ad Hoc committee deserved an interview because the best way to assure a successful committee is to have a balance of differing viewpoints from all neighborhoods come together in discussion.

The DRO has been important in preserving Del Mar’s beachside charm and character. Though imperfect, these tools have been in place for almost forty years and have served the community well in helping maintain our quality of life and preserve views.

The Ad-Hoc committee has an opportunity to take the best of what has worked, and make thoughtful revisions that protect community goals, while also reflecting changing demographics and needs of the next generation.
Our zoning and DRO shape the character of our village, mostly with great outcomes, but also with some unintended consequences. Because of Del Mar’s reputation for being “impossible to build in,” homeowners oftentimes opt to rent their homes instead of updating. We lose families who would like to live here but find the process too burdensome. Neighbors often don’t speak to each other as a consequence of the DRO.

There are potentially major financial and quality of life implications to DRO/DRB changes if not approached in a balanced and logical manner. Simply becoming more restrictive, such as disallowing basements or tightening up our already very restrictive FAR when we have the least allowed of any similar beach city, will not help improve our DRO process.

On July 27th the City Council appeared stunned by the 27 Del Mar residents who participated in the City Council meeting to protest the way the Ad-Hoc committee was appointed. Over 120 additional letters requested a “re-do” of the selection process. The City Council acted in good faith in appointing the 9-member committee rather than interviewing the 28 applicants, but the resentment voiced at the meeting reflected frustration and bitterness. People were upset because most appointees were from the same neighborhood. They were also concerned that a majority of the appointed committee members appear to have a prejudice against basements and outdoor features, and advocate for further restriction to redevelopment.

To have a successful outcome, the Ad-Hoc committee must solicit balanced and unbiased input from the whole community. They need to talk to past and present applicants, neighbors, architects, realtors, and developers, in order to identify and evaluate true problems. There are no enemies. Everybody should be heard, and nobody is right simply because they have lived in Del Mar the longest. New voices offer balance. The committee should also understand best practices in similar communities and and analyze issues thoroughly before making recommendations.
Del Mar deserves a “re-do” of the committee member selection process to be consistent with the City Council’s resolution, reinforce trust and avoid the perception of bias.


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