DEL MAR — Hoping to ensure passage of Proposition J, a ballot measure to approve a specific plan for downtown revitalization, a group of residents called FOR Del Mar’s Future, kicked off a grassroots campaign Wednesday at L’Auberge Del Mar to help provide information to the community.
Calling the effort a “labor of love,” former City Councilman Tom Shepard said a group of residents opposed the 1976 community plan, which was meant to guide development in the city. “They fought tooth and nail to defeat it,” he said. But it was approved and the residential component has been a “tremendous success.”
The goal for the village was to provide a “pedestrian-oriented, vibrant, economically productive downtown that serves the needs of both residents and visitors.”
“We’ve fallen short of that objective,” Shepard said. “The goal of this village specific plan is to fulfill the original promise of the community plan.”
Under the proposal, Camino del Mar, the main thoroughfare through downtown, will be reduced from four lanes to two and stop signs at three intersections will be replaced with roundabouts.
It also calls for continuous sidewalks, increased building heights on the west side of the roadway, greater floor area ratio and the addition of a parking structure.
Most properties are currently not compliant with existing zoning ordinances. The specific plan would change those laws, which many property owners have said are a disincentive because making any improvements would cost too much.
Opponents of the plan, including many former council members, say it will create more traffic problems, force cars onto residential side streets, possibly require residents to foot the bill, destroy the village charm and diminish the quality of life.
Based on studies done by the city, FOR Del Mar’s Future claims just the opposite.
“There are some residents who fear change, so they use misinformation and scare tactics,” Shepard said. “It’s the same situation we had 37 years ago.”
The newly formed committee currently includes about 20 residents, only one of which is also a downtown business owner, and a few hundred volunteers, according to Howard Gad, who co-founded the group.
About $20,000 has been donated to the campaign, he said.
The effort includes creating a website and reaching out to friends and neighbors to provide fact-based information using email, walking the neighborhoods, displaying yard signs and disseminating “if-you-do-nothing” literature.
“The goal is not to lobby but to help City Council and give them backing,” Gad said. “The naysayers always show up at the meetings and it looks like that’s what all the residents want. We’re at a disadvantage because it’s the same 10 people who moan and groan about everything.”
“It’s much easier to say no to something,” committee member Kelly Kaplan said.
“But if you say no, there are consequences,” said Councilman Don Mosier, who joined the group as a resident and was not representing City Council.