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Best Practices
Dolores Davies | Crest Road

Since its formation in 2015, the Ad Hoc Development Review Process Citizens’ Advisory Committee (Ad Hoc Committee) has focused on identifying problems with Del Mar’s design review process and proposing possible remedies for those problems. After many months of listening to public testimony, working with the City’s consultant, and conducting research on how other jurisdictions similar to Del Mar review development projects to ensure the best outcome, new Design Guidelines have been completed and adopted by the City Council.

The Ad Hoc Committee continues to be involved in monitoring the new Guidelines, to ensure that they work as effectively as possible. In addition, the Committee is researching best practices in terms of recruiting, training, and informing the Design Review Board (DRB) members. City planning staff has also begun training sessions for the DRB to facilitate the integration of the Design Guidelines into DRB decision making.

At its February meeting, the Ad Hoc Committee discussed additional areas it has identified for further study and analysis, using its spreadsheet of California peer cities as a point of reference. An Ad Hoc subcommittee has begun studying how peer cities regulate residential basements. The goal here, according to the Committee’s report to the Council discussing its work plan for the next 5-6 months, is to ensure that Del Mar has the most effective and up-to-date tools for addressing basement-related issues. Another area to be studied to identify best practices and effective tools used by peer cities includes how to more clearly define residential bulk and mass, with the goal of reducing subjectivity in project review.

Another set of issues the Committee is grappling with relates to the City’s existing policy for addressing residential nonconformities and whether this policy might in fact undermine Del Mar’s Community Plan goal of preserving community character. This concern stems from the fact that Del Mar has a number of distinctive homes that were legally built before the City incorporated and its zoning code was established, and are now nonconforming. In the event of a disaster in which these residences sustained serious damage or complete destruction, many of these homes could not be rebuilt with nonconforming elements under the current policy. The Ad Hoc Committee is examining what other methodologies are used by peer cities to determine when a nonconforming structure must be brought into compliance with the zoning code.

In addition to the documents produced by the Ad Hoc Committee to clarify the design review process for residents and applicants (Resident Handbook: Understanding The Design Review Process in the City of Del Mar and the Good Neighbor Guide to the Design Review Process in Del Mar), a comprehensive FAQ for the Design Guidelines was also completed and is now available for review and reference at: http://bit.ly/DesignFAQs



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