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Bigger Better?
Ann Gardner | Via Latina


An abrupt transition in scale? Photo Ann Gardner.
Click on image to enlarge.


The Torrey Pines Community Planning Board representing our neighbors in Del Mar Heights and Del Mar Terrace grappled with property rights versus community character at their last meeting and in the end voted 9-3 in favor of community character. That’s putting it simplistically but the discussion around whether or not to send a Community Plan Focused Update request to Councilmember Sherri Lightner’s office initiated the discussion and the different viewpoints.

Specifically, the word McMansion in the Residential Element of the request caused one Board member to ask: “What does this word mean; I have never heard of it?” It was explained that the term applied to the size of remodeled homes that created “an abrupt transition in scale” and were not coming before the Board for consideration of impact on the surrounding neighborhood. This issue needs to be addressed as a part of a Community Plan Update, Board Chair Dennis Ridz stressed. Several disagreed arguing that remodeled homes upgraded the whole area and besides property owners had a right to build in accordance with the regulations without further restrictions or review. It is simply part of change in an older neighborhood, like updating appliances they suggested. Others wanted to find a way to protect smaller homes from the loss of light, privacy, views and community character and that Board review was one way to do that.

The discussion highlights the difference between Del Mar and other communities, in this case the City of San Diego. In the Heights and Terrace standard residential lots are 5,000 sq. feet with a Floor Area Ratio of 50% or an allowed building space of 2500 feet. In these two communities there is no further review by its Planning Board if it is a remodel with two exterior walls (another 50% rule) left standing. In Del Mar the standard residential lot is 10,000 Sq. feet with a FAR of 25% or the same building space as a lot in the Heights on a lot half the size. In Del Mar there is also Design Review which almost always involves consideration of primary views but also preservation of the natural environment, privacy and light.

The question then is does Del Mar’s zoning restrictions and design review negatively impact property values or, in fact, does consideration of community character and preservation of its aesthetic values add to property values?



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