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They’re Not Bluffing!
Bruce Bekkar | Spinnaker Court

The 17-acre water-front parcel at the north end of Del Mar, at the western terminus of Via de la Valle, is going to change in a big way soon. In short, it will either be divided into 16 luxury homesites for the fortunate, deep-deep-pocketed few, or we can choose to participate in opening this unique, expansive blufftop site to public use and enjoyment and create a living symbol of sustainability worthy of Del Mar in the process.

The people at Zephyr Partners in Encinitas are proposing the re-imagined Marisol retreat-style resort. Having served on an alphabet soup of city committees in recent years (SAB, DRB, STAC), I had lots of probing questions when I met with them; I quickly realized they were already well down the road towards environmental responsibility. On the building side, there are numerous commendable steps being planned, including the arduous achievement of LEED Gold status. However, my first concern was the fate of the site itself, the protection of that precious bluff on which this plan will rest.

The bluff at issue is much hardier than that fronting the southern end of Del Mar, by virtue of a tall band of dense Del Mar Formation that functions like a natural seawall- therefore, no armoring would be required. Also, unlike to the south, these bluffs do not suffer the ongoing erosive force of inland, downhill groundwater penetration because the Marisol site ends abruptly at Camino Del Mar. Another favorable comparison to our southern bluffs is that this site has had no daily train traffic on its western edge.

When I visited the actual bluff-top site at Zephyr’s hosted viewing in late August, I was immediately struck by the sheer size and potential of the land. I learned that the buildings would start well back from the bluff front; the nearest one-story villa would be 60-70 feet back, the hotel structures no closer than 88 feet, and the garages are to be located more than 200 feet landward. Asking about construction impacts, their geology consultant told me that the low-density soil on top of the bluff would greatly limit transmission of the vibrations caused by the digging of foundations and garages.

Further active measures will help protect the site. Re-grading and an extensive groundwater collection system will divert over 85% of the rainwater that currently erodes the bluff edge towards the southeast into the San Dieguito Lagoon. Importantly, this type of coordinated drainage system would be unlikely if the site were divided into many separate parcels. In addition, drought-tolerant landscaping, “smart” irrigation metering, reclaimed water and semi-permeable hardscapes are to be used.

For these reasons and others - like a financial commitment to beach nourishment in perpetuity - I offered to work with Zephyr as their sustainability consultant. I want to see them not only achieve their stated goals, but stretch to make Marisol a landmark project in sustainable design and operation. And I’m already looking forward to that first glass of wine in the restaurant, watching the sunset across dog beach looking south to La Jolla, feeling proud that this place exists for guests as well as for all of us who call Del Mar home.



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