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Smart Growth Award plan-policy nominee

Garden Del Mar plan moves forward with overwhelming support

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The Garden Del Mar Specific Plan (GDMSP) broke through no-growth politics to approve the first new development in downtown Del Mar in 22 years. With an emphasis on smart growth principles, extensive community outreach and involvement and a package of neighborhood protections and public benefits, the Garden Del Mar Specific Plan achieved a hard-won victory -- unanimous approval from the Design Review Board, the Planning Commission and City Council and an unprecedented 85 percent approval on the November 2008 ballot. The GDMSP involves the redevelopment of the 0.5-acre vacant former gas station site into a mixed-use restaurant, café, retail and office condominium project with underground parking at the south end of downtown Del Mar. It incorporates many smart growth and sustainable principles including urban infill, brown field redevelopment, downtown revitalization and economic development, pedestrian and transit-oriented development, and sustainable architecture.

The project will remediate a contaminated former gas station site, put a blighted vacant property back in to productive use, and establish a new retail anchor and attractive community plaza space at the southern gateway of downtown Del Mar. It will also create an attractive and active streetscape including three new public plazas. The project will be Del Mar's first LEED-certified commercial development. It will feature a green roof, regionally sourced recycled materials and energy-efficient design, among many other features.

Community involvement is an important component of smart growth. The GDMSP reflects the success of a public-private partnership that used many community-based planning tools and techniques. The GDMSP is the product of an intensive collaborative process between the community, the steering committee and the development team over an almost two-year period. The steering committee held more than 50 public meetings between October 2006 and May 2008. The development team established a project Web site to introduce the project and solicit public opinion. The project team conducted two citywide mailings directly to every resident and property owner in the city of Del Mar to initiate public comment. Two open houses at the project site were also held to generate and receive public comment. This input led directly to a complete redesign of the project.

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