Financing and the ability of emergency vehicles to maneuver roundabouts were the main concerns of the dozen or so residents who attended an Oct. 1 question-and-answer session to sort fact from fiction regarding the village specific plan, a proposal to revitalize downtown that will be voted on during the Nov. 6 election.
Residents who attended the city-sponsored event, the first of three such sessions, also had questions about parking and traffic, construction schedules, the types of residential units being proposed and what will happen if the initiative fails at the ballot.
Planning Director Kathy Garcia said it has been demonstrated that fire trucks will be able to maneuver along Camino del Mar and around the roundabouts, traffic or stalled cars on the city’s main thoroughfare.
“It has all been thought through,” she said, adding that the Fire Department reviewed and approved the proposal.
The plan, if adopted, will reduce Camino del Mar from two lanes to one in each direction and replace stop signs with roundabouts at Ninth Street, 11th Street and 13th Streets.
Each lane will be 11 feet wide with a 6-foot bike lane and a 3-foot backup area, giving emergency vehicles the 20-foot clearance they would like, Garcia explained.
Each roundabout will also have a mountable apron over which large trucks can drive. A video on the city website demonstrates how the corridor will provide access and maneuverability.
According to the plan’s executive summary, there is no dependence on resident assessments, taxes or fees to fund the project. Improvements will be financed with grants, loans and developer and parking fees. Costs are estimated at $4 million to $5 million for improvements and $5 million to $7 million for a parking structure.
City Manager Scott Huth said if the plan passes in November it will still require California Coastal Commission approval, which could take up to 18 months.
“That will be fine because it will give us time to raise the necessary funds,” he said. It will likely be 18 months to two years before any construction starts, he said. The project will be phased, with sidewalk work completed first, followed by street improvements.
Some residents were happy to learn Camino del Mar will still be a four-lane lane roadway in the areas leading up to 15th Street, which will remain a signaled intersection.
Although final plans aren’t yet developed, it could revert back to four lanes beginning at 13th Street and will likely remain as is in front of L’Auberge Del Mar and Del Mar Plaza.
Opponents of the plan, called Proposition J, claim it will increase traffic congestion, pollution and emergency response times, decrease property values and diminish the quality of life. They also say building could result in development of the equivalent of three more Del Mar Plazas.
Five former council members are among the plan opponents.
Current City Council members and staff that helped create the plan dispute those claims, saying the opposite is true in most cases.
“Everybody talks about the Del Mar way,” Councilman Mark Filanc said. “I think the Del Mar way is honest and open and factual.
“Stating mistruths or half truths or untruths, I think, is a disservice to our community and I am very irritated with what I’m seeing around the community right now,” he said.
As an example, said former City Manager Wayne Dernetz, the plan calls for 500,000 total square feet of development at build-out. There are currently 280,000 square feet in the project area — from Ninth Street to 15th Street and including businesses facing 15th Street.
The plan limits retail, restaurant and personal service space to an additional 139,000 square feet. Del Mar Plaza is about 75,000 square feet.
Up to 110 residential units have been proposed. Some residents were concerned that if they are designated low income there could be an increase in crime. Mark Delin, assistant city manager, said prices could be as high as $700,000 for the units.
The plan includes benchmarks for review as development progresses so if the city or residents don’t like the way the project is going adjustments can be made.
Additional question-and-answer sessions are scheduled from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15 and Oct. 29 in the City Hall annex. City staff members are available to answer questions at five stations that address parking, traffic and circulation, finance, community interface and implementation, the environmental impact report and development regulations.
Questions and answers are listed on the city website at delmar.ca.us.
City Council had considered mailing out the executive summary, but because it featured artist renderings of the completed project, members thought it could be misconstrued as advocating for the plan and voted against sending it at the Sept. 24 meeting.
“I worry that the debate becomes whether or not we’re acting properly or improperly as opposed to the issues themselves,” Mayor Carl Hilliard said.
Council members say their efforts are to educate residents because they are obligated to present the facts. Postcards will be mailed to residents explaining where, when and how to get answers and project descriptions.
Should Proposition J fail, Huth said the city doesn’t currently have an alternate plan.
“That will be determined by the City Council,” he said. “We’ll take what we learned from the process, regroup and develop a new plan.”
“We’re not trying to destroy the character of Del Mar,” Dernetz said. “We’re trying to enhance it.”