DEL MAR — Council members recently stepped out of their comfort zone, agreeing to finance a project that will improve connectivity and pedestrian safety in the seaside community.
Historically, city leaders have shied away from taking on debt, opting instead to use pay-as-you-go financing even if it meant projects took a little longer to complete.
The city currently has an estimated $4.2 million in sidewalk, street and drainage projects that were initially slated to be funded by allocating about $300,000 annually.
But the work cannot be easily divided into $300,000 increments because of construction issues.
Council members agreed at the Sept. 16 meeting to complete segments one, two and three, which total about $2.9 million, using $2 million from a financing plan offered by the San Diego Association of Governments that issues bonds to advance construction projects.
The balance would be funded by using $650,000 cash from the capital improvement fund that “is money that we’ve set aside … to do just what we’re talking about,” City Manager Scott Huth said.
The balance would be paid with $350,000 cash from the general fund contingency.
The city would use about two-thirds of the approximately $200,000 it receives annually in TransNet funds to pay the debt.
TransNet is a voter-approved half-cent sales tax given to cities for use on transportation projects. It is the same financing mechanism Solana Beach used to fund its recently completed improvement project along Coast Highway 101.
“The city would continue to have general fund and gas tax funds available for regular as-needed roadway maintenance efforts,” Public Works Director Eric Minicilli said.
Segments one and three are considered high priority because they are heavily traveled pedestrian thoroughfares. Segment three also includes drainage problems that need to be fixed, according to the staff report.
Segment two is a high priority because there is currently no infrastructure for pedestrian passage between Del Mar Plaza and the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
“I think this is a great project,” Councilman Don Mosier said. “I’ve been looking forward to doing this in pieces, but getting it all together is even more attractive. SANDAG bond financing is an attractive option that we should pursue.”
“This is somewhat monumental,” Councilman Al Corti said. “This gives us the ability to have a sidewalk from … Ninth Street to the fairgrounds and to the other end of town and to the beach colony, something we haven’t had for 30 years, something that’s been a priority for 30 years.
“It seems to me that we can afford it. The financing is available,” Corti added. “I think we would be remiss if didn’t move forward posthaste.”
Corti said the city should also seek transportation grants to help with the financing.
“I’m disappointed that we can’t do (segments) four and five,” Mayor Terry Sinnott said. “But it’s understandable that this is where our heavy pedestrian usage is. This makes a heck of a lot of sense.”
Construction for segments four and five will be considered at a later date, but those areas may be designed with portions one, two and three.
“It makes a ton of sense to design project one, two, three, four and five all at the same time,” Minicilli said. “If we get hot construction bids maybe we can get another segment in.”
Minicilli said it’s too soon to give a construction timeline. The next step is to issue a request for proposals for design and coordinate with SANDAG’s next bond issuance, he said.
“This is a significant project for the city,” he said. “This is a major undertaking.”
Another $2.5 million in improvements are needed along Via de la Valle, on the northern section of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and on Camino del Mar at North Beach. Staff recommends using future new parking revenue for those areas.