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Our Town
David Doyle | 26th Street

On August 6, Del Mar filed a Petition for Writ of Mandate in the State Superior Court to challenge the California Coastal Commission’s rejection of the City’s short term rental (STR) regulatory ordinance. The purpose is threefold. First, Del Mar seeks to protect its state constitutionally-guaranteed right to control land use zoning within its boundaries. Second, Del Mar seeks a court order requiring that the Coastal Commission certify that Del Mar’s STR ordinance is consistent with its Land Use Plan (LUP) and Local Coastal Plan (LCP). And, third, Del Mar is requesting court-ordered Coastal Commission approval of its STR ordinance.

Following Del Mar’s 2017 adoption of its STR ordinance (7 night minimum stay/28 total days per year in residential zones; unlimited in certain commercial and visitor zones), it submitted an STR amendment to its LCP to the Coastal Commission for approval. According to the Petition, the Coastal Commission’s review of the Amendment should have been limited legally to a routine determination of whether the Amendment was consistent with Del Mar’s LUP. But, rather than evaluate consistency with the LUP, the Coastal Commission arbitrarily applied regulations concerning coastal access that are unrelated to the LUP. The Petition asserts that this legal error by the Coastal Commission violates Del Mar’s constitutionally-protected zoning powers.

Del Mar’s legal position is supported by a recent decision of a federal court in Los Angeles considering an STR ordinance by the city of Santa Monica. Denying preliminary relief pending full trial, the Court supported the Santa Monica STR ordinance, ruling it was unlikely that it would violate the California Coastal Act, and application of the California Coastal Act to the Santa Monica STR ordinance would likely violate Santa Monica’s constitutionally- protected zoning powers.

In its Petition, Del Mar further alleges that the Coastal Commission’s decision should be overturned because it lacks substantial factual support and is arbitrary. The reasoning of the Commission was that STRs are more affordable than hotels and enhance coastal access. The Commission concluded that Del Mar‘s STR ordinance was too restrictive and substituted its own formulation of minimum three nights stays and a total of 100 days per year. The Petition argues that there is no substantial evidence supporting a lack of public access to Del Mar’s beaches: Del Mar provides extensive facilities serving millions of visitors each year and already offers extensive overnight accommodations, in addition to those allowed by the STR ordinance.

When briefing is completed, the Court will conduct a hearing, followed by a decision sometime in 2019.



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