Ann Gardner | Via Latina
On August 11 the Planning Commission unanimously recommended City Council approve the Environmental Impact Report showing less than significant impacts of a proposal to allow additional housing units in two of Del Mar’s commercial zones and adopt the related amendments. Current language for the North Commercial area near the Jimmy Durante roundabout and the Professional Commercial area at Camino del Mar and 9th street allows only one housing unit. The Council will hear the proposed zoning change on September 8th.
The proposed change is part of the City’s Fifth Cycle (April 2013 – April 2021) state-mandated Housing Element certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HUD) as a way to meet existing and projected housing needs for all income levels. According to staff if the zoning change is not approved, our 5th cycle Housing Element risks decertification and possible state-mandated penalties including administrative review by staff only. As currently proposed any development, whether all commercial, multi use or all residential would be subject to current height limits, floor area ratios and design review.
Four speakers, including City Council candidate Tracy Martinez, expressed their concern over the traffic impact, especially during an evacuation, since the change would allow up to 20 units per acre. However, .”.. the traffic study ...shows that any proportional reduction of allowable commercial/retail uses to accommodate residential development would result in less traffic than the build out of commercial uses under the existing zoning.”
Commissioners felt that “as a practical matter” the existing successful commercial uses would not switch to all residential development because there is no financial incentive. The five Commissioners also emphasized that to deny a 2013 commitment to provide policies that might result in more affordable housing in Del Mar could realistically result in by-right development imposed by the State whereby property owners could develop subject to a ministerial approval process only. Commission Posner said the risk of development without Design Review Board, Planning Commission or City Council review outweighs the possible, but unlikely, development of 20 residential units per acre. The proposed change to allow all commercial, all residential or multi-use keeps the existing height limitation and floor area ratios as well as existing Del Mar discretionary review processes and CEQA analysis.
The Commissioners were also unanimous in their support of the Advisory Housing Element Advisory Task Force advocating for distribution of more affordable housing throughout the community, rather than single locations. And, thanks to the Task Force work, they anticipate that emphasis will be reflected in our Sixth Housing Element slated to come before City Council later this year.