Council expands input opportunities on city hall project

Council expands input opportunities on city hall project
As plans move forward to replace the deteriorating city hall complex, council members agree to expand the processes used to garner public input. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — In an effort to ensure maximum community involvement in the design phase of the city hall replacement project, council members unanimously agreed at the Jan. 5 meeting to use expanded Design Review Board and Citizens Participation Program processes.

The goal of the CPP is to increase awareness of developments early in the design phase and give interested parties a chance to discuss concerns before the Design Review Board holds a formal hearing on the application.

Because many residents are interested in building a new city hall, staff recommended taking the process above and beyond what is required.

Standard noticing procedure is to alert property owners and residents within 300 feet of the proposed development. For the city hall project, in addition to mailing specific notices to nearby owners and residents, the city will use email, website postings and newspapers to inform all residents.

At least three workshops are planned at various times on different days to fit the schedules of as many residents as possible. At least two will be held before the DRB meeting.

Following the initial DRB assessment but before the permit hearing, the design team will hold a CPP meeting to provide information on the project description and draft plans.

The standard CPP requires project applicants to provide within 14 days a written response to concerns raised during the meeting explaining how plans will be modified or why they won’t be changed.

With the city hall project, concerns will also be presented and discussed at a council meeting.

Council members also authorized a minimum of two DRB meetings for the project. The first will be held after the community workshops that are part of the CPP process to discuss early design concepts.

Following DRB input, additional workshops will take place to further develop the conceptual design and prepare it for the DRB permit hearing. Another CPP meeting will be held before the second DRB meeting.

Additional outreach efforts include a section on the city website dedicated to the city hall project, lobby displays as various design concepts are prepared and an open house that will allow community members to tour the existing facilities and see concepts for the proposed city and town halls.

The city is also maintaining a list of people who want to receive information about the ongoing process. Sign up at delmar.ca.us/list.aspx?:ListID=247.

There was discussion about also creating a citizens ad hoc committee, but council members opted to hold off on that idea.

“It sounds like there’d be extensive outreach … in the very early design phase to vet designs,” Councilman Don Mosier said. “I personally don’t feel a need to have an ad hoc advisory committee which says we’re going to filter community input.

“I want to have a process that gives a lot of community input but also gives the design team the freedom to be innovative and come up with solutions that we can afford and serve our needs,” he added. “And I think the more layers you put on top of that the less innovation you’re going to get. I think the process that staff has proposed gives ample opportunity for community input and a range of community input.

“I don’t like the idea of an ad hoc committee filtering that input,” Mosier said. “If it’s going to be a simple project let’s keep the process simple.”

Council asked staff to include a tentative schedule of the proposed meetings during the next project update.

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