One of my revelatory college textbooks (many years ago) was Streets for People, written in 1969 by Bernard Rudofsky. He penned the book to remind planners not to forget pedestrians, bicycles and public spaces in our streetscapes. This was following the nation’s major urban renewal boom which had resulted in wide, single-purpose automobile corridors. It has taken nearly 50 years for his message to become mainstream: streets are not solely for the conveyance of the faceless automobile but a vital, public space. Even though his book is now out of print, legislation and regional policy has helped change the tide, including California’s Complete Streets Act (Assembly Bill 1358) and SANDAG’s Regional Transportation Plan.
So when tasked with writing a Complete Streets Policy for the City of Del Mar, I was re-reading the City’s Community (General) Plan written shortly after Rudofsky’s book. It was a pleasant surprise to find that this little coastal community was so ahead of its time. The majority of Del Mar’s transportation goals, policies and objectives, established over 45 years ago, included accommodating the pedestrian and creating pleasurable streets for walking and biking. The City’s vision was that, while streets did accommodate cars, they had a much richer role in the community than just traversing through the town. In many ways, the Community Plan changed the typical streets viewpoint from the automobile to the pedestrian. Instead of rewriting our Community Plan, we needed to look at how to implement these policies and how to address the impediments to this vision.
Del Mar’s recently adopted Complete Streets Policy reflects the specific needs of the City, its adopted Climate Action Plan and its Community Plan. The Policy first addresses the processes and procedures necessary for implementation, including coordination amongst various departments so all are working towards the same goal regardless of the capital improvement project. It reinforces the need for all types of users, since the community has one of the oldest populations in the County, but also the most visitors per capita. The Complete Streets Policy speaks to the network of streets, alleyways and pathways within the City because all are critical to mobility, and it targets street design processes to reinforce and not hinder the goals. A Green Streets section was especially critical due to the City’s coastal location, watersheds and stormwater management plan. Implementation policies were laid out to ensure the objectives became reality and Performance Measures were established so decision makers can assess the progress and make course corrections. And, knowing that there is always need for exceptions, the policy spells out a procedure for assessing priorities when looking at exceptions.
The first implementation project under this policy, a streetscape revitalization for Del Mar’s village, is in design right now and will be a good test to the policy’s effectiveness. The old Highway 101 corridor will be reinvigorated with sidewalks, pedestrian amenities and improvements to keep traffic moving in a pedestrian and bicycle context rather than the other way around.
Editor’s Note: The Del Mar City Council adopted its Complete Streets Policy on October 16, 2017.