DEL MAR — A development plan for Shores Park could move forward as a shared-use project with the private Winston School, which occupies about one-fifth of the 5.3-acre site west of Camino del Mar at Ninth Street.
Council members at the Jan. 17 meeting approved a memorandum of understanding to move forward with the proposal and authorized the use of up to $15,000 for related work.
The city and school have been creating separate master plans with some collaboration during the past few years.
With input garnered from residents via a survey, meetings and workshops, one of which allowed attendees to create and design a park using templates, yarn, scissors, markers and other materials, Schmidt Design Group presented three “bubble diagrams” in January 2016.
Each features amenities residents indicated they wanted included in the design, such as benches, gardens, off-leash grassy areas for dogs, children’s play areas, walking paths, flexible turf space, restrooms, a multipurpose sports court and fitness stations.
The next step was to develop cost estimates for each scenario, but work slowed, partially because city staff was focused on myriad other projects. There were also questions about how much parking would be needed.
In August, Dena Harris was named the new headmaster for the Winston School, which has operated on the site since 1988.
“When I saw what had been planned – your three bubbles — they’re beautiful,” said Harris, who was on a panel that reviewed about two dozen designs for charter schools in the San Diego Unified School District.
“Many of them are shared assets in the community,” she said, adding that when she saw the city’s plans she wondered why the park was being developed around the school.
“I really believe in schools and city agencies working together to create really beautiful spaces that the whole community can use,” Harris said. “Maybe we have enough parking for everybody. … I think we could really build something beautiful.”
According to the agreement, Schmidt will work with the school’s architect to create three new concept designs that will include the public’s preferences featured in the existing bubble diagrams.
But some residents are skeptical.
“What seems to be happening with this latest MOU idea is that someone wasn’t happy with the outcome,” Lynn Gaylord said. “They don’t like the three bubble diagrams, which the citizens of Del Mar and interested parties came up with.
“They want to start all over, only this time with their own architects and without all the other input that we spent two years doing,” she added. “This is a wasteful plan of action and I, for one, object to starting all over.”
“I feel like everything that we worked so hard at has just basically been thrown in the trash can and we’re going to let architects start over,” Robin Crabtree said. “I don’t have a problem with all of us working together and making it one unit with Winston School but … this is the park for the residents of Del Mar and the residents of Del Mar need to be included and involved.
“I also want to make sure that park is available during the daylight hours to all of the Del Mar residents,” she added. “They paid for it. … I don’t want to see it become their facility during the day and then when the kids are gone we can come in. … We need to be part of it like we’ve been.”
The city bought the property from the Del Mar Union School District in 2008 for $8.5 million. Nearly $3 million was raised by the Winston School, and another $2 million was donated by Del Mar residents. City funds made up the difference.
There is currently a shared-use plan for the park area.
Art Olson, chairman of a committee overseeing the park’s master plan, said he supports the proposal, which could result in a smaller footprint for the school and more spaces that can be used by the community, such as an auditorium and classrooms.
“Losing a few more months is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things,” he said. “And if there’s a possibility that shared use will give us a better end product then I think at least this first phase of exploration is worthwhile.”
“People have talked about a sense of urgency,” said Joe Sullivan, who led the fundraising effort to buy the property. “I used to have a sense of urgency. I don’t anymore. I have a sense of patience. I would much rather get this right than get it fast.
“This is not something we’re doing for the people in this room,” he added. “This is something we’re doing for our kids and our grandkids.
I am so happy to see this proposal,” Sullivan said. “All of us were very, very frustrated with the idea that there was that square … in a critical part of that space that was not being planned.
“I’m extremely happy to give up six months, if that’s what it takes, in the process to get it right, get the whole property planned so it’ll work for generations to come,” Sullivan added.
Residents Laura DeMarco and Warren Spieker also praised the Winston School, which serves student with learning difficulties.
“They do good work,” Spieker said. “They are a little bit of a jewel themselves. … A couple of months for this jewel will be time well spent.”
“I see this as an opportunity to get more room in the park and less parking,” Councilwoman Ellie Haviland said.
If all goes as planned, concept diagrams should be completed by the end of March. Cost estimates will be developed by late April, and a community workshop is planned for May.