Committee selection process angers some Del Mar residents

Committee selection process angers some Del Mar residents
Plans for new homes and many that are being remodeled are subject to approval based on the city’s design review ordinance. About two dozen residents voiced concerns at the July 6 meeting about the process council members used to appoint nine people to a committee that will review the rules, which some say are too restrictive. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — Despite requests from about two dozen people for a do-over, council stood by their June 15 appointments to a new committee that will address the impact some recent residential construction is having on community character.

Approximately 25 people, including some of the 28 who applied to serve on a design review ordinance evaluation committee, signed up to speak during the oral communications segment of the July 6 meeting to criticize the process used to select the committee members.

“We feel the City Council failed to make an informed decision regarding the applicants,” Greg Rothman said. “There were no interviews conducted and the City Council, I would venture to say, hardly knows some of the applicants that did apply (and) failed to follow a well-established procedure for appointments.”

Rothman said the process was rushed and has been described as “politics as usual in Del Mar” and “a travesty” that resulted in “shock and anger.”

“It’s no fun hearing that,” he said. “Such feelings are really bad for our community.”

Rothman also said he believes “the work product of this committee will be severely questioned” and its “recommendations will be challenged.”

“When residents see something and it’s just not right they have the right to throw out the challenge flag,” he said. “That’s why we’re here.

“We don’t like seeing the city reverse its course on anything,” he added. “We all want to move forward. But in this instance we think you should rescind the appointments and go through the process again.”

While that would be “in the best interest of the community,” Rothman said if council members chose not to do that, they should “strongly enforce” openness, inclusiveness and interaction.

“Right now it doesn’t look like it’s going that way,” he said.

“I was here a couple of meetings ago to urge you to appoint this committee in a way that would reflect representation across our whole community,” Linda Rock said. “Based on everything I heard and saw that didn’t happen. … Limiting the selection process to people you knew did the community a disservice.”

“You have to interview people,” T. Pat Stubbs said. “You have to talk to them. This process did not do that.”

Stubbs said the process left him feeling “unsettled” and “ashamed to be part of the Del Mar way.”

“These folks deserve their chance,” he added.

Nancy Doyle, who was appointed to the committee, said she was happy to have been selected but she was “disturbed” by the “lack of geographical diversity.”

She said most of the members live in a two-block area. She lives near the beach, where residents had a “different expectation of privacy” than those who live east of Camino del Mar.

“I’m glad I was chosen but I felt lonely,” she said.

The nine-member committee is made up of five residents familiar with the design review process and the city’s land use regulations; a prior member of the Design Review Board; a prior member of the Planning Commission; a Del Mar property owner who recently processed a design review application, including a Citizen’s Participation Program; and a professional architect or land use planner who recently represented an applicant through the design review and CPP processes.

In addition to Doyle, the members are John Giebink, Dean Meredith, Anne Farrell, Harold Feder, John Graybill, Richard Jamison, Kelly Kaplan and Art Olson.

The committee is tasked with identifying concerns related to the community impacts of new and remodeled homes. Members must also define the goal to be achieved in potentially modifying regulations and recommend solutions, including possible amendments to the municipal code and development review procedures.

Residents said they are concerned the group will make the design review process more difficult.

Council members disagreed, saying they will ensure the committee and the process is fair and objective. All recommendations will be subject to council approval before changes, if any, are made.

“This effort is to improve the (design review) process in many ways based on factual identification of problems,” Councilman Terry Sinnott said, adding that he and his colleagues don’t want to “arbitrarily change something unless there is a factual understanding of a problem that we’re having and a solution as to how we can make it better.”

He said he wouldn’t support any recommendation for change “without good substantial reasoning behind it.”

Don Mosier and Dwight Worden are the council liaisons to the committee. Mosier asked residents to trust them to keep the group on track and the process open and inclusive.

Mosier said he was insulted when many in the audience indicated they could not do that.

“(The design review process) has been an issue … for as long as I’ve lived here,” Mosier said. “We’re trying to take steps to solve it. I appreciate that not everybody can be on this committee and not everybody loves the process but this is going to be an open committee.”

Worden said he felt “a little bit bad … that we didn’t take the time and interview people,” but he said he reviewed the applications and made his decisions based on qualifications and experience, not the perspective of the strictness of the design review ordinance.

He said the council might have been guilty of rushing the process. Mayor Al Corti agreed.

“I don’t think we did it right,” Corti said, adding that applicants should have had the opportunity to speak.

Council members did agree to change the meeting times to later in the evening and hold some in a workshop format.

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