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EDITORIAL: Civic Consensus

The City Council appears to want all registered voters to weigh in on alternative uses for the city hall site, most likely an advisory vote to assure the Council they are on the right track.
One alternative being considered is a city hall, town hall, plaza that can be used for a farmers market space, and parking in a surface parking lot ( about 70 stalls).. Another alternative is a city hall, town hall, plaza that can be used for a farmers market space, and a 160-car parking structure tucked under the buildings. This will also create a deck for flexibility in making future decisions if we want additional uses later.

We support the Council’s decision to eliminate the mixed-use alternative as the Del Mar way to get a new city hall built as soon as possible. The mixed-use proposal would cause a significant delay. It would require a Measure B vote approving a new specific plan for the property, delaying the decision for at least another 12-18 months with a more than 50% chance that it would fail, and working against its ultimate approval.

At the last city workshop on October 20 participants favored civic-only use by 57% to 40%, plus a petition from about 20 non-participants that favored civic-only. There was unanimous agreement that the current city hall building is beyond repair, almost uninhabitable and an embarrassment to the community. The plan calling for the sale of portions of the property was rejected outright. Space for the Farmer’s Market gets everyone’s support and is in all plans. At several tables the civic center-only votes included some who would like the city to consider adding more social space in the future for a performance/art center or a small coffee/bakery shop. But they were willing to forgo that option to get a new city hall in first. The mixed-use supporters who did so knowing that extra time would be required still felt “we should get it right from the start.” The problem is the disagreement about what is “right.”

Do we want to risk losing a new city hall by entwining it in a more complex vote about commercial uses? We think not. We sense there is a growing consensus for civic uses, including space for a Farmers Market. We could have shovels in the ground by the end of 2015. By reserving space on a portion of the lot we could have a future debate on adding other uses. For the sake of community unity let’s move with dispatch to get something done that we all agree on.


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