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Commentary: NO

John Weare | Ocean View Avenue

In a few short months, Del Mar residents will vote on the Marisol Specific Plan development initiative that would wipe out the protective Bluff, Slope and Canyon Overlay zone that now covers our beloved North Bluff. The initiative calls for 410,970 sq. feet of building where the Overlay allows only 106,940 and 46 foot building heights plus roof top equipment where only 14 feet is now allowed.

Marisol is larger than any previous Del Mar project, including those in the commercial zone. For example, L’Auberge Hotel is 102,892 sq feet with a maximum height of 34 feet above the adjoining grade that is lower than Camino del Mar. Marisol, with a density ratio of floor area to lot size at .57, will dominate the iconic sandstone bluff that uniquely distinguishes Del Mar, while L’Auberge’s density of .46 blends into our commercial district.

The Marisol project is a whopping increase over current zoning in our Community Plan. The North Bluff overlay zone was designed to protect open views of bluff formations from Del Mar’s beaches and river valley. The proposed project, without protection of the Overlay Zone, will take over our views of North Bluff, loom over the Scripps Preserve and North Beach, and worsen already impossible traffic congestion.

Even more alarming is Marisol’s use of the ballot initiative to pursue approval. This almost completely removes the design and planning reviews designed to ensure compliance with the Del Mar Community Plan and California Environmental Protection Act (CEQA) (See NY Times “Builders Pierce California’s Environmental Shield With New Weapon: The Ballot,” http://bit.ly/SP-Weare.) Of huge benefit to the developer, the Initiative replaces current zoning with much more generous criterion.

Before approval of the massive project Voters will have no chance to visualize the 46ft proposed height and the dense lot coverage with the usual story poles because the developer has refused repeated requests to install them. Using the ballot initiative to approve the zoning change means the conclusions of other usual reports -- geological, financial-- are not useful tools as they can no longer be used to control the project design and safety and to ensure its consistency with Del Mar’s community values. To date, Marisol has not undergone any Del Mar Board review as required of all other projects including residential remodels!

The developer claims advantages to adoption of this plan, e.g., “BLUFF ACCESS FOR EVERYONE”. We already have this access and unobstructed views via the subdivision map approval process. This is guaranteed by the current zoning and the General Plan. The initiative process removes these controls. They also claim the initiative prevents mansions on the bluff allowed under current zoning. These “mansions” would be limited to 3500-5500 ft and 14 feet high on mostly one-acre lots. The developers claim 40% reduction from their first submission, but the coverage (footprint) of the Marisol project is 189,401 sq ft vs. 179,700 sq ft for the old project: a 5% increase in density.

The developer advertises the “Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT)” as new city revenue. But Del Mar residents have never chosen to sell out their environment for out of scale development. The city is financially sound. MONEY in exchange for our QUALITY OF LIFE should not be an option.

Finally, Marisol is a poorly structured planning document. For example, height limitations of the 1- and 2-story elements are not even specified. Rather than invest time in a well-vetted plan, the developer has invested in an expensive and unprecedented sales pitch to try and win over our residents. Don’t be fooled. Preserve Del Mar’s long-standing planning process and zones that preserve Del Mar’s unique natural resources. Del Mar is not for sale, Vote NO on this initiative.


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