DRB ad hoc committee id’s problems

DEL MAR — After more than a year of work, a committee tasked with examining — and making recommendations to improve — the development review process presented council members with a short list of problems.

And with a 3-2 vote at the July 18 meeting the nine-member ad hoc advisory group was given the green light to find potential solutions to the five concerns and an additional problem tacked on by council members.

In response to concerns expressed in a satisfaction survey, the committee was formed in June 2015 to identify issues related to the community impacts of new and remodeled homes.

The group has since held 20 public hearings and documented input from attendees that was used to create nine problem areas related to the effectiveness of the Design Review Board and design review processes.

That list was presented to council members in February. Last month the committee recommended a revision to the Citizens’ Participation Program and the adoption of a good-neighbor handbook and a guide to understanding the design review process.

All three are being reviewed for council approval this fall.

In its second quarterly update the committee presented its “Phase 2 List of Problems and Concerns.”

The committee “believes that many of the identified problems stem from a lack of understanding and inadequate education for neighbors, applicants, and DRB members, as well as insufficient transparency and objectivity in the process and ordinances,” the report states.

The first problem stems from ensuring that new residential development is similar in mass, bulk and scale to the immediate neighborhood. Examples include a lack of zoning standards that reflect neighborhood diversity and a definition of compatibility.

The second issue is retaining and enhancing the open and natural atmosphere of Del Mar. There is also a need for “good-neighbor” design principles in relationship to adjacent properties.

Examples include minimizing privacy intrusions on adjacent homes with the placement and size of decks, doors and windows, as well as minimizing impacts from outdoor lighting and noise.

Another problem area is preserving access to private views. Finally, the committee agreed the de novo City Council hearings for DRB appeals undermine the authority of the Design Review Board.

Council members also asked the committee to try to find solutions to complaints that the entire design review process is unclear and too subjective.

Councilmen Terry Sinnott and Al Corti said they did not believe the problems were well-defined and did not support the group moving forward to identify solutions.

“These are specified as goals,” Sinnott said, adding that the problems need to be stated in a way that they can be analyzed to determine the causes.

“I can’t support the idea of letting them work on this because I don’t believe these are problems,” Corti said.

Committee chairman Harold Feder disagreed.

“This committee has spent an enormous amount of time identifying problems,” he said. “We’re very sensitive to finding out what the problems were.

“Unfortunately… it’s not simple,” he added. “If it was simple the town would not be in the situation that it’s in. … These are very, very complex issues.”

Their colleagues said the group has come too far to start at the beginning again. They also feared burn-out on the part of the members.

That concern was confirmed by Anne Farrell, who said compared to other advisory groups, the Development Review Process Citizens’ Advisory Committee gets little or no administrative help from the city.

“We are burning out,” she said.

Council members agreed to look into devoting staff time to the committee or hiring a consultant.

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