DEL MAR — When construction of a new civic center complex begins early next year City Hall functions will take place a block to the south in modular buildings on a now-vacant parking lot on the Shores property.
The temporary facilities and $450,000 to fund the move were approved at the July 20 meeting.
Assistant City Manager Mark Delin said about 8,000 square feet will be needed for approximately 30 months to house administrative offices, planning and finance counters, council chambers, meeting space, restrooms and the TV studio.
A request for proposals was issued in late April but the only responses came from modular office providers.
Follow-up calls were made to landlords of larger buildings in Del Mar to ensure they had seen the RFP.
“We got no responses of anywhere near the space and availability that we would need for the city facilities,” Delin said. “Modular facilities were the only option.
“So then if you have a modular facility you’ve got to figure out where to put it,” he added. “We have very limited land availability within the city. The Shores lower parking lot is the only site large enough to contain the city administrative offices in one location.”
Delin said the 28,000-square-foot parcel has more than a half acre of flat space, is centrally located and has minimal environmental restrictions. There would be 79 parking spaces available but only 59 are required for normal daily activities.
Delin said an additional 40 on-street spaces may be needed during special events or meetings.
He said using the parcel wouldn’t conflict with any prior council actions regarding the property, which the city bought from the Del Mar Union School District in 2008 for $8.5 million to preserve open space.
He said the move is consistent with the city’s policy of making the best possible use of its land and “will not impair the use of the Shores Park for any purpose.”
“We believe that it provides the best opportunity of all the available options to continue the unimpaired administrative functions of the city,” Delin added.
Other possible locations were evaluated. The Public Works Yard was ruled out because it is in the flood zone. The owners of the Garden Del Mar property said the site is unavailable for that length of time.
Rents at Plaza Del Mar are too high and parking would be an issue so that “did not really show up as a viable alternative,” Delin said.
The Del Mar Fairgrounds has too many high-use events and South Fair was unwilling to consider a lease shorter than five years.
Councilman Dwight Worden said holding City Hall functions at different venues is an option “but to me that’s not operationally a very savvy approach.”
City Manager Scott Huth said that possibility was considered but if activities were held at sites such as Powerhouse Community Center or the library it would impact events at those facilities.
“We were trying not to reduce other city services,” Huth said.
The discussion about alternatives was partly in response to one email from six homeowners near the site and another from an attorney threatening a lawsuit.
“All my instincts tell me that the Shores lower parking lot is by far the best place to do this but I think we owe it to the neighbors in the community to kind of go through that we’ve looked at all the options,” Worden said.
“We must object to the proposal to relocate City Hall to the Del Mar Shores parking lot,” the homeowners’ email states. “The impact to our residential neighborhood has not been considered sufficiently.”
They added that the “perceived problem/delay in approvals for other sites in the city is not a reason to place everything on this parking lot.”
They expressed concerns about parking, noise, lights and nighttime uses. They also suggested phasing the City Hall replacement project so the TV studio and council chambers, which are currently in a separate location on the property, could be left in place and used for as long as possible.
That option was originally considered, but it was taken off the table because the project includes a parking structure, so demolition of the building is required.
“If you approve the relocation prior the adoption of the EIR, a lawsuit and preliminary injunction and related fee requests will be instituted,” wrote Robert Hajek, an attorney who lives near the site.
Delin said an environmental analysis in conjunction with the City Hall project will be completed before moving any facilities to the site.
“If he’s saying that you can’t vote on the relocation tonight without an EIR, I strongly disagree,” City Attorney Leslie Devaney said. “You can vote on doing that. You just can’t have it actually move forward and move with the process — you know, shovel in the ground — before you have some sort of environmental review.”
Mike Peterson, headmaster of The Winston School that is located on the Shores property, said he supports the plan. He said he and city officials have had “some pretty good problem-solving sessions.”
“I think that we’ve identified most of the issues that we need to work through,” he said. “I wouldn’t say that we’ve solved them all. I think that we’ve done a good job of identifying them.”
Peterson said his main concerns are student safety and making sure there is adequate traffic flow so coming in and out of the parking area “isn’t a complete nuisance or a traffic hazard.”
Peterson said he will make the auditorium available when possible for council meetings.
“I think it will be cozy but I think if we work together and continue to solve problems that we should be able to come up with a plan that works,” he said.
“I think it’s the best place that we can put it,” Mayor Al Corti said. “It seems to make sense to me.
“I assume that if we do it that it would be planned properly, there’s adequate parking and the impacts on the community would need to be studied and addressed,” he added. “If we’re going to move a facility over there, temporary or not, we should evaluate it. My gut tells me that it seems to be that it would work and fit for a time being.”