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Local Control at Risk: Where to Now?
Ann Gardner | Via Latina

City staff slides.

Squeezed between two critical deadlines for Del Mar’s Fifth and Sixth Cycle Housing Elements, a key zoning amendment that would allow up to 20 housing units per acre in the North Commercial (NC) zone, in the Jimmy Durante roundabout commercial area, was blocked by Councilmembers Druker and Gaasterland at the September 8 Council meeting. A City news release characterized that action as putting the City “out of compliance” with State law with respect to its Fifth Cycle (current) Housing Element, “for failing to identify ‘adequate sites’ of 20 dwelling units per acre for affordable housing.” One week later, a 5-0 vote of the Planning Commission (Sept. 15) recommended that the Council reconsider that vote. The NC amendments will be back on the Council’s agenda for its October 5 meeting.

The consequences of not approving the NC amendments were spelled out in the staff presentation before the vote as shown on the 2 slides at right, including decertification of the 5th Cycle Housing Element. The Council vote also potentially affects North Bluff and the South Stratford (Staver) properties for the Sixth Cycle Housing Element, also scheduled to be voted on by the Council on October 5. “If the City does not amend the NC zone to allow multiple dwelling units residential up to 20 units per acre, the City will need to shift the planned 20 affordable units to vacant sites as part of an alternative plan... which would include... both the North Bluff and South Stratford,” according to a staff report.

At the same meeting Council unanimously approved allowing up to 20 housing units per acre in the Professional Commercial zone at the intersection of Camino del Mar and Ninth Street.

Del Mar’s current housing commitment in its state-certified Fifth Cycle Housing Element is to provide actions and programs that could allow 22 units of low cost housing between April 2013 and April 2021. The NC zoning change was due by March 2015.

Councilmember Druker offered to vote for the key NC amendment if the Council would agree to a density lower than 20 units per acre. He also introduced the idea of waiting until after the City Council election in November to determine the number of allowed units, saying “I believe it should be ...residential but am dead set against the concept of 20 units per acre...There are alternatives to creating a massive amount of units. If you want to change don’t do it tonight...look at it after the election so that we can at least provide HCD with three out of four of the amendments (tonight) with the possibility of amending to just residential in the NC zone without changing the density.” Those suggestions were deemed insufficient to comply with State law by the three Councilmembers who supported the amendments. The staff report supported that conclusion, noting that a decision to not proceed with all or part of the NC and PC amendments could result in decertification by the State and other potential penalties.

Councilmember Gaasterland cited traffic and emergency evacuation concerns, along with sea level/flooding issues, and suggested the City had time to find alternatives to the NC upzoning. Staff emphasized that residential use is less intense than commercial, with the EIR finding that the zoning amendments would result in reduced traffic under full build-out, compared to current zoning.

In response to the suggestions for more delay to look for alternatives, Mayor Haviland said: “I am a little bit flabbergasted. . . . We have studied this over and over and the best plan we have is before us tonight. It is unconscionable to me to realize that it is not going to happen. There is no credible evidence that the amendment has a negative impact on the environment or why it is bad for city to have affordable housing. Adding housing (instead of more commercial) reduces the impact to our environment and affordable housing is desperately needed in our city. It is the right thing to do; the City will be richer when we are more diverse.”

The key zoning amendments required a 4/5ths vote. The amendment to allow 20 dwelling units per acre in the Professional Commercial zone, which would provide up to 3 affordable units, passed unanimously, but amendment of the North Commercial zone failed by a 3 to 2 vote, resulting in a shortfall in the 5th Cycle Housing Element of 19 affordable units.


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