DEL MAR — In a rare split vote at the Nov. 18 meeting, council agreed to begin preparing a master plan for the Shores property, a 5.3-acre lot on Camino del Mar and Ninth Street the city purchased from Del Mar Union School District in 2008 for $5.8 million to preserve open space, recreational areas and the private Winston School, which is on the site.
Don Mosier and Lee Haydu, who cast the dissenting votes, said they want to see the improvements made but moving forward now would add another major project to the plate of a staff already stretched to the limit.
The city is currently working on building a new City Hall, reviving a mixed-use project in the south end of downtown, improving law enforcement services and preparing an outreach program to residents in the beach area, to name a few.
“Does staff have enough time to take this on right now?” Haydu asked.
“Currently, with our available staff, we are operating at capacity,” Planning Director Kathy Garcia said. “However, we could look at either adjusting priorities, extending some of the timeframes of some of our existing work — City Hall, parking management, et cetera.”
“I don’t want to shortcut anything,” Haydu said. “Do you think if we’ve got staff working on too many things that it’s going to draw out so much or would it be better for staff to work on a few things at a time?”
“If you want to move forward on this and you can tell us the level you want, we can come back and give you some options of how to accommodate that,” City Manager Scott Huth said. “We have a full plate, but we can move priorities around. It’s really based on what your priorities are, and we can explain our solutions to meet your needs.”
Although her colleagues recognized her concerns, they opted to solicit bids from consultants to help get the project started.
“If we hire a consultant it’s still going to take staff time so …we have to come up with what we want to push out further to tackle this,” Haydu said. “We don’t want to lose staff by overworking them.”
The process outlined by Garcia, who said she has prepared a number of park master plans, would be done in three phases.
The first step will include an initiative to determine a project manager, staff, key stakeholders, the number of meetings and a timeline for community involvement.
There will also be a public outreach program, a community vision process, data collection for budgets and issues impacting the site, former home to Shores Elementary School, and site specific data.
Phase two will include preliminary program development, planning alternatives and community review of those options.
During the final phase, plans will be refined and further developed and a financial analysis will be completed. Community meetings will again be held before a plan is presented to City Council for approval.
Garcia said the process will take about 12 to 18 months if a consultant is hired and up to two years if the work is done by city staff. The estimated cost is between $145,000 and $270,000, which includes consultant fees and, if needed, a full environmental impact report.
The city could save money by forming a citizens ad hoc committee, but most council members didn’t support that option.
“We’ve been discussing this use of this property for the last eight years and a consensus has not emerged,” Mosier said. “I think it’s going to be useful to have a consultant come and then we’ll have open meetings to discuss the community’s priorities. And we’ll hear once again that there are 10 different priorities and we have to pick the top two.
“But I think that’s not a job that the council should offload to an ad hoc committee,” he added. “I think somebody’s got to stand up and look at what the consultant says is the best use, what the community says and pick the uses that are most compatible, not only with the city’s plans but with the Winston School’s development plans. … The city needs to be the major driver on this process.”
The Winston School recently began its master planning process.
Mayor Terry Sinnott agreed. “I think it’s a very difficult problem that needs an objective, impartial, nobody-has-any-ax-to-grind,” he said. “They’re just gathering data and getting people’s opinions.”
Garcia said there will be opportunities along the way for the community to weigh in, “with at least a couple of workshops in each of those phases.”
Mosier said the process should begin, but he doesn’t believe “there’s a great rush.”
“The sooner we do it the better,” Councilman Al Corti said.
Huth said he would return with an estimate of how much the project will impact staff and other council priorities.