Residents meet City Hall architects, offer ideas

Residents meet City Hall architects, offer ideas
At a May 4 event to meet the project architects, residents discuss their thoughts on what should be included in the new civic center complex. They were asked to write their thoughts on tags and then attach them to wiring in front of the existing facility. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — Residents had their first opportunity to share their thoughts on what a new civic center should look like with the recently hired architects during a May 4 meet and greet.

The more than 75 people who attended the two-hour event, which included a taco truck and beverages provided by Hull Miller Partnership, chatted with the design team and wrote comments on large yellow tags, which they then tied to wiring in front of the existing City Hall.

Residents can continue to add their opinions on tags, which will remain in place until the facility is demolished in January 2016.

Hull Miller prompted responses by asking what features and activities people want in the new complex and what should be avoided.

“We want to hear what people want but we also want to know if there are any concerns we should be aware of,” principal architect Mike Jobes said.”We want them to tell us what we can get wrong.”

Jobes said he was encouraged by the turnout.

“We do these events all the time but this is off the charts,” he said. “Usually it’s coffee and cookies inside before a council meeting.”

Halfway through the meet and greet there was no shortage of yellow tags. Mayor Al Corti said Del Marians are never shy about sharing their thoughts.

“If we asked them to write their opinions on $20 bills we could probably pay for the new City Hall,” he joked.

The most common requests were to maintain the farmers market and include meeting rooms, space for public art and performing arts and the Alvarado house, a Del Mar home built in the late 1880s that was once home to former Del Mar Mayor Bill Arballo. It is currently located at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

General comments were to use materials that blended with the coastal atmosphere, orient the front of the complex toward Camino del Mar and include a nap room.

“One common theme I heard was that people want an active space that is used throughout the week, not just a few nights a week,” Jobes said.

He also said people would like space for large fundraising events and a facility for youngsters, seniors and teenagers.

Council members agreed a decision needed to be made about the Alvarado house. Terry Sinnott noted a similar exercise took place two days earlier to plan development of the Shores property.

He said that while it may seem like the city is trying to do too much at once the benefit is that staff and consultants can collaborate.

He said, for example, a community garden requested at one site may be more appropriate at the other.

Longtime resident and developer Jim Watkins, who submitted blueprint plans for the complex early on, said he is happy with the way things are going.

“Finally, after 25 years we will get a project that is supported by the community,” he said. “It will become a reality and something the city and residents can take pride in.”

Contrary to what some people have said, Watkins and his architect daughter, Kit Leeger, never intended to be hired as the project architects.

“Our concern was that we had a civic center for the community,” he said, noting that he spoke with about 100 residents to learn what type of complex they wanted.

Watkins said he and Leeger did not submit a bid for the job.

“I’m 84 years old,” he said. “I’m just having fun.”

Former Mayor Richard Earnest said he is just glad the project is moving forward.

“I’m looking forward to having a safe place for our employees to work, without mold,” he said. “Everything else is just gravy.”

Jobes said he and his team will use the input from residents and council members to create “three big ideas,” which he will present to council at the June 1 meeting.

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