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Adopting Design Guidelines
- Dolores Davies | Crest Road

On November 6–following a lengthy public hearing that included presentations by City staff, consultant RRM Design Group, a citizen’s advisory committee, and public testimony—the City Council voted 4-1 to approve a set of Design Guidelines for residential and commercial development, developed to enhance the design review process.

While the Council appeared to be unanimous in its support for the Guidelines, Mayor Terry Sinnott voted against approval because he felt that more time was needed to discuss some of the concerns that had surfaced, and he thought the Guidelines would be interpreted as regulatory in nature.

Other Council members stated that RRM Design Group and the City’s Ad Hoc Development Review Process Citizen’s Advisory Committee had already spent about 10 months and held 10 meetings to solicit public feedback on the draft Guidelines. Also stated was the fact that the Ad Hoc Committee had spent more than a year prior to RRM’s hiring to take public testimony and identify and study the perceived problems in the design review process, especially concerns about subjectivity and a lack of transparency.

According to City planner Matt Bator, who directed efforts with RRM, the Ad Hoc Committee, and members of the community, the Guidelines were designed to reduce subjectivity and establish a clear set of expectations in terms of development that reflects the goals and standards set forth in the Community Plan.

While some members of the public expressed concern that the Guidelines might be too restrictive or would prevent the development today of some landmark Del Mar residences, others clarified that those initial recommendations such as the discouraging of white walls and circular driveways had been removed or notably modified in the final document.

Several members of the Design Review Board were present at the Nov. 6 hearing, and testified that they were looking forward to using the Guidelines, and anticipated that the document would provide helpful guidance to them in their fact finding on proposed development projects.

Council members also stressed the importance of initiating training for the DRB as soon as possible, so that the new Guidelines could be implemented.
In approving the Design Guidelines, members of the Council also agreed that the document was not etched in stone, and should come back to the Council for review in two years. Both Council members Dwight Worden and Ellie Haviland, who serve as liaisons to the Ad Hoc Committee, expressed that any portions of the Guidelines that proved problematic “in the field,” so to speak, could be addressed in the future. Only by implementing the Guidelines could the City begin to move forward to improve the design review process and continue to make it even better, with essential feedback from DRB members.

Members of the Ad Hoc Committee have also been working on a draft FAQ that addresses the Design Guidelines and how they will be integrated into the existing design review process. The FAQ will be made available in January, after approval by the Ad Hoc Committee.



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