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Preserving the Preserve
Nancy Fisher | 24th Street

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As preliminary plans go forward for the development of a luxury resort on the bluff property overlooking Del Mar’s North Beach (Dog Beach), the City, at its September 18th council meeting, started a dialogue on how best to utilize the public lands that border the property on three sides. Ideas range from the location of ADA accessibility to public restrooms, and two Councilmembers spoke strongly in favor of honoring the terms upon which the Scripps Bluff property was acquired, which was that it would remain a natural preserve.

Jan McMillan, a Del Mar resident and former mayor, told the Sandpiper that understanding the words used to memorialize land is important. “Preserves are quiet places for reflection. The word ‘parks,’ on the other hand, connotes active recreation such as sports, games, picnics, and other events. The words should not be used interchangeably. The James G. Scripps Bluff Preserve honors the man who donated this bluff to the City as a ‘preserve,’ and the word ‘park’ should be removed from any description of this parcel’s intended use.”

Neither the City nor the developers anticipate problems related to the use of the public lands. Brad Termini, CEO of Zephyr Partners, one of the developers, explained that “overall our goal is to increase accessibility to the entire bluff top so everyone can enjoy the land and views while benefitting from amenities like walking trails and public parking. With respect to the Scripps Preserve, it is Del Mar’s land and it will be the community who decides what they would like to see there.” Kathleen Garcia, Del Mar’s Planning and Community Development Director, confirms that “in discussions, the applicant has indicated that they are interested in working with the City to support the community’s vision for these public lands.”

At the meeting, City Staff suggested a process for public outreach that included the possibility of establishing a Steering Committee composed of members of seven other relevant City committees (Parks and Recreation, the Lagoon Committee, and several others), along with two workshops to elicit and discuss ideas, and to review alternatives for land use only. Finally, recommendations would be taken to the City Council for direction to staff, with the goal of having the City’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) coincide as closely as possible with that of the proposed resort. The Council expressed support for the concept of including the Preserve as part of a Specific Plan that will be created for the resort, so that one plan covers the entire bluff, while emphasizing that this should be done in a way that does not hold up the private development portion of the Plan.

After much discussion, and consideration of the facts that the Specific Plan for the resort has been submitted and that the EIR will be completed in December, Deputy Mayor Dwight Worden suggested, and Council Members agreed, that it would be most efficient to first work with staff, the Planning Commission, and the developers, rather than appoint a Steering Committee, and then seek public engagement. “When we get something conceptually identified, then we’ll vet that through our community.”





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