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City Hall donor program to be revised

DEL MAR — A recommended donor program that would be used to help supplement funding for the new civic center was seen as too pricy, and the council subcommittee at the July 18 meeting was sent back to the drawing board to refine their preliminary plans.

“We’re just kind of beginning to sketch out what we’re thinking but we wanted to get your reactions to it before we start talking to the community a little bit more,” said Terry Sinnott, who serves on the subcommittee with Mayor Sherryl Parks.

“Donor funding is very useful for a number of reasons,” Planning Director Kathy Garcia said.

It allows direct community participation, can further enhance the original budget and save money that could be used for other projects, she added.

Working with staff, Parks and Sinnott developed six donation packages totaling almost $1.7 million.

A holiday tree, furniture, a monument sign, paving and pathways for the northeast corner of the site is estimated to cost $600,000.

A $400,000 donor opportunity was proposed for a trellis, outdoor tables and chairs, a synthetic lawn area and landscaping for the ocean-view terrace above the parking garage along 10th Street.

An estimated $230,000 could be donated to buy furniture and landscaping for Del Mar Commons, the large plaza in front of the City Hall and Town Hall buildings.

A $200,000 donation would furnish the 500-square-foot catering kitchen, a project addition requested by residents, with appliances and fixtures.

The same amount could provide a dais, furniture and audio-visual equipment for the Town

Hall and breezeway.

A $65,000 donor opportunity was proposed to furnish the roof terrace above the TV studio.

“My instincts are that these asks are too large for the spaces involved,” Councilman Don Mosier said. “I see big benefits in focusing on the catering kitchen and the Town Hall because those have community benefits that are pretty easily identified.

“I’m amazed that you can spend $200,000 on a 500-square-foot commercial kitchen, but you can if you really go top of the line,” he added. “I just think a lot of these numbers look high to me because you’re paying for the shell space and I think we should absorb that cost.”

“We can set levels at any … amount that you feel is appropriate,” Garcia said.

Councilman Al Corti suggested offering donor opportunities by category rather than location. For example, some residents may be more interested in funding sustainability features, such as solar panels, rather than catering kitchen items.

“Whatever is going to market it best,” he said.

The subcommittee also developed guidelines for donor recognition. Contributions would be accepted from individuals or nonprofit organizations and not corporations.

A specialized plaque or art piece would be integrated into the design rather than having a nametag “on every bench and rock and paver stone,” Garcia said.

“I think we should do this but it has to be very tightly controlled,” Councilman Dwight Worden said. “I think this is a very good start. … I think it needs to be very clearly specified what the rules of the game are.”

Worden said he has concerns that donors who contribute may feel they are entitled to actually select the furnishings.

“We’re designing things and if you want to pay for some of those you can do that but you’re not going to tell us what the chairs are going to be,” he said. “You’re not going to pick out the tiles.”

He also said the efforts should be “low-key.”

“We’re building City Hall. It’s going to be beautiful,” he said. “If you’d like to have the joy of being a part owner and participating, there’s an opportunity for you but we’re not out there ringing the bushes to squeeze money out of people.”

Sinnott said he and Parks will refine the proposal and talk to members of organizations such as the Del Mar Foundation and Community Connections “who know how to do this” to ensure the effort “is well-designed and well-thought-out.”

“Hopefully it becomes a community thing,” Sinnott said.

The proposal will be presented to council again for input and possible approval. The effort won’t be launched until construction bids are received.

Earlier in the meeting, council unanimously agreed to start the bid process for the $12.4 million construction phase of the $17.8 million project.

Council members are expected to award the contract at the Sept. 6 meeting.

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