Resident sues city over City Hall project

Resident sues city over City Hall project
A nearby resident has filed a lawsuit against the city in an effort to get some defined limitations placed on a proposed Town Hall building and outdoor plaza before the project is complete. Courtesy rendering

DEL MAR — A homeowner is suing the city over its civic center project, but he isn’t seeking financial gain nor does he want to stop the development.

“It’s not the buildings themselves,” said Everett DeLano, the attorney representing Steven Mack, who lives on 10th Street just south of the project site. “If this were just City Hall and all the traditional uses — none of that he’s opposed to. The Town Hall is the elephant in the room that’s driving his concerns.”

DeLano said he and Mack have met with city officials “since the get-go” to clearly define the potential future uses of that building and an outdoor plaza, which weren’t specified or addressed in the environmental impact report.

“They’ve talked about concerts with no limitation on hours,” DeLano said. “They said they would only be for community groups or nonprofits. I’m active with nonprofits. I know from experience that those kids of events can go late and they can be loud.”

DeLano said adding to the already approved permits specific commitments of potential uses of the town hall area and plaza that would create limits to guarantee the site would be consistent with the neighborhood could make the lawsuit go away.

Those parameters include limiting attendance at any function to no more than 250 people and allowing activities other than the City Council meetings, such as performances, community gatherings and art exhibits, only between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

DeLano said the goal is not to “bash” city officials.

“To their credit, they’ve been more responsive than most cities,” he said. “We sat and discussed our concerns with (city staff) really early on. But we couldn’t come to a resolution.

“The best they could do was agree to a permit process,” he added. “But you can drive a Mack truck through that process.”

Demolition of the existing building, which was built in the 1920s for Del Mar’s first public school, is complete.

It will be replaced with an 8,700-square-foot City Hall, a 3,200-square-foot Town Hall with a 250-person seating capacity, a 950-square-foot breezeway, a 500-square-foot catering kitchen, about 140 parking spaces and a 15,000-square-foot public plaza.

The latter was a high priority for many residents to accommodate the farmers market.

There is an additional 11,000 square feet of open space for future undefined development. City officials said whatever is built there will require separate environmental and design review that includes a public input process.

While Mack has concerns about those areas as well, his current concerns focus on the use of the Town Hall and plaza.

“It’s the vagueness that’s the problem,” DeLano said. “The square footage could accommodate a number of people, and with that comes cars and noise. That’s a lot to be going on in a residential neighborhood.

“This is not a traditional location for a City Hall by any stretch,” he added. “I’ve never seen one in a residential area.”

Council members were briefed on the lawsuit by the city attorney during a closed meeting Aug. 1, but no action was taken. Mayor Sherryl Parks and the city attorney said they could not comment at this time.

A request for construction bids for the $17.8 million project was just released. Council members expect to award the contract next month. Work should begin in October and is estimated to take 18 months.

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