Del Mar’s city hall design concept approved

Del Mar’s city hall design concept approved
Council members unanimously approved this conceptual design for the new civic center complex. Courtesy rendering

DEL MAR — A conceptual design for the civic center complex that will replace the existing, deteriorating City Hall has been selected.

The preferred layout, unanimously approved at the June 15 meeting, is a hybrid of three “big ideas” presented by the architectural team two weeks earlier.

The 9,250-square-foot City Hall building will be located in the middle of the site slightly to the south. A proposed 3,200-square-foot Town Hall is situated in the southeast corner, with the approximately 15,000-square-foot plaza north of that building fronting Camino del Mar.

The plan also includes a 4,500-square-foot public overlook in the northwest corner of the lot to take advantage of views of the Pacific Ocean. It is part of 11,700 square feet of open space available for future expansion.

Mike Jobes, principal architect with Hull Miller Partnership, said the plan “quite easily” meets all the criteria, including providing weather-protected outdoor spaces, visibility and privacy for the adjacent residential area.

Phyllis Cardon, who lives directly west of the site about 5 feet from the property line, agreed.

The architects “nailed it with this design,” she said. “It works perfectly for us. … I vote this is perfect.”

Another half dozen residents who shared comments said they support the approved design but some asked for a larger Town Hall.

“The space should be large enough to house all concerned members of the public to attend within the meeting space, so that no member of the public is forced to sit out in a different location where they cannot see or hear what’s going on in the meeting room, but must settle for a view of only a part of the full process as dictated by the camera operator, and seen on a small screen,” Claire and Tom McGreal wrote in an email to the city, describing the current situation during well-attended council meetings and workshops.

Betty Wheeler said the space is needed for demonstrated vibrant and diverse community events that are often sold out and full to capacity.

Judd Halenza said the space should be able to seat 250 comfortably for dinner in an enclosed area otherwise it would end up like Powerhouse Community Center, with people outside in inclement weather.

“We can’t keep growing all of the elements,” Bill Michalsky said. But he added that “if the community feels strongly that we need the Town Hall space we need to listen.”

Not everyone agreed.

“I would like to suggest that your design clearly indicate that the new structure is a City Hall — the place where municipal activities are carried out — that it is not a community center like the Powerhouse or the future Shores park buildings, even though occasional community events may take place there,” Jan McMillan wrote in an email.

Councilman Don Mosier said a larger Town Hall could be a budget buster and it will cut into future expansion space. He said the approved design accommodates the community input heard during the many meetings and workshops.

“There needs to be some practical limit,” he said. “You need to compromise on accommodating the maximum of what people want.”

Mosier said he didn’t think making room for every community event is the purpose of City Hall.

“I’m pretty firmly opposed” to providing space to seat more than 250 people auditorium style, he added.

He also noted there is expandable space outside.

“To say you have to accommodate everybody inside on those 10 days it might rain is poor planning,” he said.

Most of his colleagues agreed. However, Dwight Worden said it is “premature to say we’d be busting the budget” with a larger Town Hall.

“Why not build what the community is telling us they want if it’s within the budget?” he asked.

As Jobes moves forward with the schematic plans, council directed him to provide information for increasing the Town Hall to about 4,000 square feet and adding a small kitchen.

The approved plans also include space to accommodate the Alvarado house, a historic home built on 10th Street in 1885 that is currently located at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

A design workshop is scheduled for Sept. 28.

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