CARLSBAD — The mention of an outside consultant coming on board to assist with the Village and Barrio Master Plan led to several anxious minutes Tuesday during the Carlsbad City Council meeting at City Hall.
The council and staff, keenly aware of the previous consultant and the outcome and outrage, stood firm and calmed those nerves with a detailed presentation from Senior Planner Scott Donnell.
RRM Design Group of San Juan Capistrano was approved 4-0 for an $112,727 contract to assist with design guidelines, development standards, community vision and master plan layout. Mayor Matt Hall abstained and was not present for the discussion, as he owns property in the area.
Donnell said the firm is needed to give expertise to city staff concerning those areas of the third draft of the master plan. He added the draft would be available for public review in late September or early October followed by public hearings in November and December.
The draft would then be submitted to the California Coastal Commission in 2018 for its review and approval since portions of the Village and Barrio are located in the Coastal Zone.
“We now have our marching orders, so to speak,” Donnell said of the direction from the planning commission last year. “It will be a staff-led effort. It is very focused unlike previous plans of the master plan, which were very broad based.”
The project began in 2014 with a first draft in November 2015 and a second in April 2016 by Dover, Kohl & Partners based in Miami. However, the master plan was widely rejected by residents as many said it did not conform to the neighborhoods’ identity.
As for the new consultant, Donnell said they are needed to provide assistance for some of the technical capabilities and additional resources RRM possesses.
He said the firm has familiarity with coastal planning in Southern California and are currently also working with the city of Huntington Beach to update its downtown.
Several residents who spoke at the meeting were cautious to the new consulting firm, but optimistic the city is heading in the right direction.
Councilwoman Cori Schumacher, who campaigned on the importance of this master plan, received confirmation the contract may not be paid out in full if the terms are not met, as happened with Dover, Kohl & Partners.
Councilman Michael Schumacher (no relation to Cori Schumacher) said it is prudent for the city to take its time and get it right.
One resident, meanwhile, questioned whether the city should pay another consultant.
“We are certainly sensitive to that question,” Donnell explained. “However, there are limitations that staff has. We are not architects, for example. We are not experts in building design. We limited our field of consultants … that we sought help from to the Southern California area.”