February 2011 home page


DRB Gets it Right
Bud Emerson | Klish Way


View from Keeling property BEFORE the trees were planted. 
Photo from DRB archives.

View from Keeling property AFTER the trees were planted.
Photo from DRB archives.

Del Mar’s Design Review Board (DRB) is often criticized for causing delays in approval of new or remodeled structures. Such criticism usually comes from developer voices, but there are other parties who also have a legitimate stake in these decisions, neighbors whose voices are not often heard. (It is important
for the record to show that well over 90% of DRB cases are approved with no

Nancy Weare says:
“The Design Review Board, under Lee Haydu’s capable leadership, helped save us from a horrible experience with developers building just west of us who seemed to approach their “dream-home” project like it was a war. They appeared convinced that neighborhood values didn’t matter and that they were entitled to everything they wanted. The DRB spent the time listening to both sides and settled on a solution that, although far from perfect for us and the neighborhood, was considerably better than early plans that would have rendered our lifestyles unacceptable (severe losses of privacy, and significant blockages of ocean breezes and views). I can’t imagine how we would have approached the situation without the DRB.

Disbanding the DRB will undo all the work done by residents over the past 40 years to make Del Mar the wonderful unique community it is today. Some people may be upset that they did not get every detail they wanted in constructing/remodeling their home because the DRB process forced them to make some compromises with their neighbors. However, when new development nearby them makes unacceptable demands upon their lifestyle they will be happy the DRB is there.”

Listen to Garry and Cozette Shirts:
“Our neighbor wanted to add a second story to his house that would have totally blocked our ocean view from our front room. We took the issue to the Design Review Board and they kept it from happening. We owe a great deal to the design review board.”

Lou Keeling tells it from her incredible experience:
“This board came to our rescue when a couple from Boston planned a large house blocking an ocean view from our dining room. I remember that the DRB listened very patiently to the couple and their lawyer who used arguments like: ...”The Keeling house is a scraper anyway” and ..”Who gets this view, them or us?” Their application was turned down and withdrawn because it didn’t comply with the city’s View Ordinance, one of our most important guidelines.

On the advice of their Del Mar real estate agent who reminded them that there was no law against planting trees, the same couple summarily brought in 40 pots of 12ft. eucalyptus trees and planted them in two rows along the property line, then re-submitted the same application, now “view blockage” being no issue.

The Design Review Board patiently listened to them again, and on the basis of “circumventing” the view ordinance, they were once more denied a permit.
This case went on for many years, the city defending its position in a higher court.
If you like the look of Del Mar and are concerned about its future, hang on to the Design Review Board, a precious safety-net for keeping our town lovely in the years ahead.


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