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Bluff Preserve
Origins and Promises
Claire McGreal, Member, Parks & Recreation Committee

Project elevation seen from Dog Beach looking North.
Highway 101 at the right. Max height 46’ 0” above grade.
Source: City of Del Mar Specific Plan project page.
Click to enlarge.

After receiving a presentation by Del Mar Resort representatives at its August 8 meeting, the Parks & Recreation committee unanimously voted to “strongly urge the City Council to require the developers to create reasonable setbacks from the Preserve, and that such setbacks be commensurate with the height of the abutting structures, such that the higher the building, the deeper (larger) the setback.”

This article explains the origin of Scripps Preserve, a city park at the southern end of north bluff above “dog beach,” and promises made by the City over the years that may impact development and uses of the bluff property. In addition to Scripps Preserve, there are 3 private lots on the bluff: the old Woodward estate, and 2 other lots. The Resort has options to purchase the 3 private lots for development, if it receives the necessary City approvals and permits.

In 1971 the City of Del Mar accepted a $250,000 donation from James Scripps on behalf of the Scripps Foundation to purchase 4.33 acres of the southern-most portion of the bluffs at the north end of town above North Beach. The City’s intent was to use the land as a “park preserve” with access “only from the southerly or southeasterly portion of said park preserve.” No vehicular traffic, playground or picnic equipment or any other installations were to be allowed in the park preserve. (1971 Resolution 624)

At the same time, Helen Woodward purchased the adjoining 4.33 acres to the north of the preserve to build a home. The Woodward property was referred to as the ”Residence Preserve”. In July 1971 the City and Woodward entered into a “Declaration of Restrictions” “to plan for the protection, improvement, and development of the Residence and Park Preserves, and…fix the general restrictions, conditions, covenants and provisions...” (1971 Declaration of Restrictions)

The 1971 Declaration placed restrictions on the Woodward “Residence Reserve” which “… shall be used for no purpose other than the erection and construction thereon and occupancy thereof of single family private residences, together with the customary outbuildings, servants quarters and garages appurtenant thereto.” (Emphasis added). (1971 Declaration, I. A.)

Sometime prior to 2018 Zephyr Partners and The Robert Green Company (together referred to as “developer”) obtained options to purchase the three private lots on the north bluff, including what had been the Woodward property. The developer seeks approval of a Specific Plan from the City of Del Mar to develop the three private lots on the bluff top. (A specific plan allows a developer to make its own zoning rules, including setbacks, height limits, density, etc.). The three lots are to the north of Scripps Preserve, which will remain a park under City control.

The developer’s plans appear to be in conflict with the promises made by the City and Helen Woodward, even though those promises were made to “run with the land” as recorded deed restrictions, and were to last in perpetuity. We must ask: do 76 attached condominiums (“villas”), in three-story buildings meet the definition of “single family private residences”? Further, are 76 or so condos on the Woodward “Residence Preserve” in keeping with the letter and the spirit of the 1971 Declaration of Restrictions? Finally, does the developer’s proposal to create two or three new access points to Scripps Preserve conflict with the 1971 agreement to have access to the Preserve only from the south or southeast?



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