DEL MAR — Even though most of the 450 residents who responded to a questionnaire are at least somewhat satisfied, if not more so, with the way the city is being run, council members are not resting on their laurels.
They plan to use input from the online survey, conducted from Nov. 20 through Jan. 12, to improve city services, especially in the three areas where respondents registered the most complaints: roadway maintenance, communication and the development and design review process.
There was little argument streets and sidewalks citywide need work. The three residents who addressed council during a Feb. 3 priorities workshop support better maintenance.
“There are a lot of roads here that are failing,” Bill Michalsky said.
Councilman Dwight Worden said the survey opened his eyes to the problem.
“Road and street maintenance is one that popped right to the top of my personal pile that wasn’t there before,” he said. “And because of the survey and the feedback, it is now, and I think we should put more money on it.”
How much funding is needed to bring the roadways up to an acceptable level seems to be the million dollar question.
City Manager Scott Huth said the city hired a contractor to assess all the roads about a year ago. A survey is currently under way to evaluate the infrastructure needs as well. It should be completed by April.
Huth said the goal is to “overlay the two and start the game plan.”
“We didn’t want to do road repairs and then have to come back in a year and tear it up for sewer repairs,” he said.
Adding to the problem is that when people call to report problems such as potholes, the repairs are temporary.
“We are taking bags of cold mix asphalt and pouring them into the potholes,” Public Works Director Eric Minicilli said. “We know the temporary stuff will not last. My crews do not have the abilities, equipment, training to do hot-mix asphalt. We need to get contractors out in the field to do those types of repairs that are going to last.”
Huth and Minicilli said they will work on creating a project plan that includes costs to make major improvements to roadways citywide.
On the positive side, Minicilli said, “We know exactly which street everybody wants us to start with — my street. We’ve got to find that my street and we’ll be good to go from there.”
Although there was near unanimous agreement on fixing roads, some council members were a bit more skeptical when responding to other survey results.
Worden said the demographic data from the poll differed from 2010 census data. For example, about 44 percent of the respondents were older than 65, but only about 20 percent of the population of Del Mar fits that category.
Worden said residents who are more active in city matters could be predominantly represented in the survey.
“I don’t know this but I would be cautious,” he said. “This tells me important information that’s useful, but we’re in slippery terrain if we try to extrapolate that it’s really telling us what the whole city would say about these same topics.”
Councilman Don Mosier agreed, especially when it comes to dissatisfaction with the development and design review process.
He said most of the people who answered the questions about that topic have only lived in Del Mar for about five years, which means they likely went through a remodel or rebuild.
“Historically the (Design Review Board) process has worked very well for Del Mar,” he said. “That’s not to say we couldn’t adjust some of the (design review ordinances) to make them easier to understand and enforce.”
Mosier added that when he was a DRB member many applicants didn’t like the process but in the end said it made their project better.
“So they were happy with the outcome but unhappy with the process,” he said. “I don’t think that’s a priority that we need to change very much.
“That’s not a process that’s broken,” he added. “It’s a process that works and the people who go through it don’t like it because they don’t get to build the biggest mansion they can possibly afford in Del Mar and that’s what the DRB is here for.”
Sherryl Parks said she didn’t look at the survey results in that much detail.
“I don’t overthink this survey or look at the demographics or the numbers,” she said. “I just would like to fulfill the needs of what people want. How hard is that?”
Mayor Al Corti agreed. “I see the survey as a very valuable tool and it has communicated something to me,” he said, adding that if the city doesn’t take steps to address some of the concerns raised, “then I’m not too sure what we’re really getting out of this survey.”
Kristen Crane, assistant to the city manager, said staff is “still digging into all of this” information and will return periodically to council to present policies and recommendations to implement improvements.