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Local Control At Risk
Ann Gardner | Via Latina

The North Commercial Zone map includes the Watermark Specific Plan plots on the southeast corner and 16 lots on the other sides of San Dieguito Drive and Jimmy Durante Blvd. that are subject of penalties for lack of implementation to allow more residential units. Source: City’s Sixth Cycle Housing Element draft

City Council is at a stalemate over meeting one of our Fifth Cycle State-certified Housing Element goals, putting Del Mar at risk of financial penalties beginning at $10,000 a month, and additional pressure to build 20 dwelling units per acre on North Bluff that is currently zoned for low density residential. In 2013 the City agreed to change the North Commercial zone located along Jimmy Durante Blvd. and San Dieguito Drive to allow up to 20 residential units per acre as part of our commitment to provide more housing for all income levels. Implementation was promised by 2015. Despite multiple warnings from the State for failure to meet our commitment, on October 5, 2020 Council members Gaasterland and Druker voted against a motion to implement the change in Del Mar’s Municipal Code and Community Plan.

The Municipal Code can be approved by a simple majority (3 out of 5). However, a change in the Community Plan requires a super majority (4 out of 5). As we go to press it is unclear how the State Housing and Community Development (HCD) and the Attorney General will weigh the conflicting decisions in deciding whether or not to pursue an enforcement process against the City that may involve not only financial penalties but additional penalty units added to our next Housing Cycle for failure to implement our 5th Cycle Housing Element.

On September 30th of this year the City received its latest letter from the Department issuing its findings that, despite numerous warnings about delays, Del Mar “has failed to implement a program action (allowing 20 dwelling units in the North Commercial Zone and rezoning the Watermark property for 20-25 residential units, by right) included in its 5th cycle element, and this failure …has brought the City’s housing element out of substantial compliance…with California’s Housing element Law.” According to the letter, the City has 30 days to respond at which time HCD will consider taking any action authorized by Government Code section 65585 which includes fines “in the minimum amount of ten thousand dollars per month.”

Gaasterland, specifically, is arguing with staff’s estimate of 112 units including 14-19 affordable units as a result of the North Commercial zone change. Gaasterland estimates 262, and given that number both she and Druker say they are concerned with associated environmental issues: traffic, sea level rise, preservation of wetland, and emergency access and egress in case of wild fire.

However, the North Commercial Program Environmental Impact Report found there would be less environmental impact in the North Commercial zone compared to the already allowed development under the current commercial zone language.
An even higher threat to Del Mar’s compliance with our fifth cycle housing goal and risk of referral to the Attorney General’s office is the City’s failure to rezone two parcels on the southeast corner of Jimmy Durante and San Dieguito Road known as the Watermark Specific Plan authorized by Council in 2014. At their October 19 meeting Council approved a response to HCD prioritizing the processing of the of the Watermark property rezone by April 2021. “As we anticipate approximately four months to complete the public hearing process, including consideration for the… holidays, the City respectfully requests HCD grant the City a shortened timeframe to cure its non-compliance and refrain from referring this
matter to the Attorney General’s office.”



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