Committee forming to address design review process

Committee forming to  address design review process
A committee is being formed to improve the design review process because homes built or remodeled to the maximum allowable development standards have residents concerned about the changing community character. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — In an effort to improve the design review process council members approved at the May 18 meeting the creation of an ad hoc advisory committee.

Members will be tasked with identifying concerns related to the community impacts of new and remodeled homes. Once the problems are determined they must recommend solutions that could include changing current regulations and procedures.

Councilman Terry Sinnott said he hopes this will be a problem-solving effort and not simply a review of the issues.

“I would really hope that this has some analytical process to it where a group of folks define the objectives, define the goals, look at the community plan and what the goals of that are and then, based on all their experience … identify the problems we are currently having and then systematically go through those problems and identify what’s causing the problems,” Sinnott said.

“My concern is … that we immediately race to solutions before we have fully understood the problem,” he added.

The idea for the committee was generated by discussions of council priorities during previous meetings.

Many residents said they are concerned because homes being built or remodeled to the maximum allowable development standards are changing the neighborhood character.

At the May 4 meeting Sinnott and Councilwoman Sherryl Parks presented a proposal to create a task force to evaluate the design review ordinance and planning procedures to ensure residential buildings comply with the community plan.

In a rare showing of unanimous resident agreement, all 15 people who addressed council at the May 18 meeting said they support such a committee, as did more than a dozen others who did not want to speak, because the current rules seem outdated.

Residents also stressed the need for balance, objectivity and fairness.

“Even if something’s a great product it never hurts to evaluate it from time to time and learn what you would like to change to improve it more,” Linda Rock said. “Times change. Lifestyles change. Our population shifts.

“My one very strong request would be that you make an effort to have this committee reflect the broad community,” she added. “And by that I’m referring to demographics and geographic areas because … your point of view varies pretty dramatically based on where you live.”

Anne Farrell, a former Design Review Board member, said DRB service is a hard job but it is a necessary group.

“We have some amazing planning tools at our disposal,” she said, adding that they deserve a fair and balanced review to ensure “the best way to preserve Del Mar for the future.”

“There’s a reason the property values in Del Mar are sky high,” she said. “I do ascribe much of that to the fact that we have air. We have light. We have trees. We are not crowding houses one against another. But a lot of the projects that are being built now are enormous.”

Bud Emerson agreed.

“We love Del Mar and our property values support the fact that some of the processes that we have used work really well,” he said. “But every now and then you feel like things are getting off the rails and you need to take a fresh look.”

He said the proposed process “enables us to have a rational conversation.”

“There are no easy answers,” Emerson said. “Some of this is subjective. We’re not a cookie-cutter community so you have to have a process that enables people to have good conversations.”

The committee will include five residents familiar with the design review process and the city’s land use regulations, one prior member of the DRB, one prior Planning Commissioner, a property owner who has been through the design review process and Citizens Participation Program in the past 18 months and an architect or land use planner who has represented an applicant through the design review process and CPP in the past 18 months.

The group’s first task will be to present a work plan and timeline to council members.

Parks recommended appointing Don Mosier and Dwight Worden as council liaisons but since Mosier was not at the May 18 meeting, council members opted to wait on that decision.

Applications are available on the city website and due by June 5.

“I’d love to be inundated with quality applications,” Worden said.

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