Residents weigh in on civic center project

Residents weigh in on civic center project
Landscape architect Marty Poirier of Spurlock Poirier listens to a recommendation from resident Jeffrey Lehmann during a Sept. 28 design workshop for the civic center complex. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — Roof styles, landscaping, environmental impacts and the location of the farmers market were among the topics discussed at a Sept. 28 workshop held to help the architects hone the design of the civic center complex that will replace city hall.

The approximately 40 residents on hand came to some consensus on a few items, but oftentimes for every one person who liked an idea, another opposed it.

Attendees broke into three groups to focus on plaza uses and landscaping, the environmental impact report and architectural features. After a 20-minute discussion they could rotate to a different topic area or stay where they were to provide additional input.

There was general agreement that at least the food portion of the farmers market should be located on the outdoor surface parking lot on the west side of the site to provide better access to trucks.

Arts, crafts and jewelry vendors could still set up shop on the main plaza, providing the necessary visibility. Parking will be available in the two-story structure.

Most said permanent landscaping, benches and trees should be located on the perimeter of the property, with movable planters and furniture used in the center of the plaza. Some liked the idea of a water feature, perhaps interactive for children, using recycled water and outdoor fireplaces.

Others said the former could be a liability and the latter would create smells and increased noise.

There was general support to include one “iconic” Torrey pine, but not near the seating areas. Most participants liked the idea of using a combination of concrete, pavers and other materials for the plaza surface, but decomposed granite received a nearly unanimous thumbs down.

Whatever surface is used it must be easily cleanable, residents said.

In terms of the environmental impact report, which is available for public review and comment until Oct. 26, the main concerns were protecting views and construction impacts.

Perhaps the liveliest discussion focused on the architectural features and roof lines of the city and town halls.

Residents reiterated their concerns that buildings depicted in early design renderings presented this summer were too boxy, modern and industrial-looking.

“I really wish I’d never shown that,” principal architect Mike Jobes from Miller Hull Partnership said. “Showing some in-progress sketches wasn’t maybe such a great approach. A lot of the design elements that we’re imagining and working on right now weren’t depicted well.

“So I want to have a chance to come back to you and help you understand … this design and make sure each time you get to see all angles,” he added. “We’re just not at that point in the process yet. But soon we’re going to have to be and you’re going to be able to see a lot more of a clear depiction of where we are.”

Residents said they prefer hip or gabled roofs that are ubiquitous on many Del Mar buildings rather than the flat panels shown in the early drawings.

“We’re going to go back and explore how that could work on town hall, maybe on city hall and maybe a combination of both,” Jobes said. “We’re grappling with the roof forms because getting that right is the key to the whole project.”

There are some constraints with high-pitched roofs, including a height limitation on the west side of Camino del Mar, where the site is located, and the fact that they result in unusable space.

Resident Suren Dutia said he noticed on a recent trip to Europe that 14th century government buildings are boxy. It’s the façade articulations that provide character, he said.

Fourth-generation Del Marian Jeffrey Lehmann said a lot of residents will be looking down on the facility and will only see the roof line and the not articulations.

Councilman Don Mosier, noting the project is not as far along as he was hoping it would be at this point, said too much emphasis is being placed on design features that are more appropriately applied to the town hall.

The city hall building will serve as a functional office for city employees, Mosier said. It should be modern, but not necessarily contemporary, to provide natural ventilation and energy efficiency.

He said residents are “spending too much time trying to redesign an office building whose primary function is an office building.”

He reiterated the building height constraints and reminded attendees the city has a budget that does not include “an infinite palatte of opportunities that will please everyone.”

Mosier said some expectations are “unrealistic” in terms of the functions of the building and architectural compatibility with the rest of the city, which includes and “eclectic set of buildings,” some of which are iconic and others that “should be torn down.”

“Community compatibility is in the eye of the beholder,” he said.

Residents can continue to weigh in on the design at all council meetings and by commenting on the EIR. A Citizen Participation Program hearing is scheduled for Oct. 21. The Design Review Board will formally consider the project at its Nov. 18 meeting.

Council members hope to approve the final design Dec. 7.

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