April 2012 home page

Opening Our Doors
Bud Emerson | Klish Way


We are all thankful that Del Mar real estate values have escalated so much in the last several decades. However, there is a downside to these values that we need to consider.

Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s there was a broader socio-economic spread of Delmarians. We had a vibrant community of college students who could afford to rent here. Young professors and school teachers were able to buy houses at reasonable prices, although they seemed high at the time. Our population included cops, fire fighters, city employees, retirees, mechanics, small business operators, and young families. When kids grew up, they were able to buy houses (with a little help and an arm and a leg). The mix was rich and the quality of the interaction was enjoyable.

Those days are gone. We have priced ourselves to a thinner upper economic layer of residents. The variety of viewpoints is more limited. Probably not much we can do about it.

There is a modest opportunity underway that could revive some of that rich population mix. Working to meet the requirements of State housing laws, a City Council established committee is designing a strategy to open up a small number of affordable housing opportunities that could target some of those teachers, students, and young city workers.

The committee is constructing a draft five-year housing element to our Community Plan that will soon be presented to the Council for approval. The plan will then be submitted to the state for approval--a process required of every city in California.
The committee’s strategy is to put together a variety of small changes to our zoning laws to promote affordable housing. These changes will not dramatically alter the character of the town with big housing projects but try to integrate small units into the established fabric of the town.

For example, allowing small second units to be added to existing houses, limited to 550 square feet with no view blockage. Or encouraging mixed units in our downtown area that might house local workers or college students, anyone who likes the idea of living in the center of town. Or expanding our rental subsidy program which now helps pay part of the rent for eight families. Or requiring condo developments to include a small affordable unit. The housing units at the race track could be used for transitional housing during the off season.

The committee’s approach is not to see this state requirement as a burden, but an opportunity to bring people back into our community in ways that can help them and enrich our lives.

The draft plan will be available for public input and Council review in April, May, and June. The final plan will then be submitted to the state for certification.
The Sandpiper will monitor the committee’s work and publish specifics as they emerge.


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